Sunday, May 17, 2009

Whose Kids Are They?

Here is a strange case of a 13 year old teenager, Daniel Hauser, from Minnesota who has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. His parents have opted not to treat him with chemotherapy, but rather with "alternative" medicines and nutritional supplements. Child protection workers accused Daniel's parents of medical neglect and a judge in Minnesota has ruled that the parents MUST seek conventional treatment for their ailing son.

The story ought to stop here, if only to protest the intrusive nature of this government action. Since when does the government have the right to direct parents of children to take a particular course of medical action? Especially if it's expensive, painful, and with serious side effects? What if that course is morally objectionable? Are children wards of the State and parents only incidental caretakers, whose wishes, conscience, or religion may be discarded at the State's whim?
[Washington Times] "I feel it's a blow to families," [the lawyer] said. "It marginalizes the decisions that parents face every day in regard to their children's medical care. It really affirms the role that big government is better at making our decisions for us."
Now, the story ought to stop here, but it doesn't -- and it only gets weirder. So what about the parents' rights to raise their children as they see fit? What about religious rights -- aren't these worth protecting as well?
Daniel's parents have been supporting what they say is their son's decision to treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments favored by the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians. She also testified that Daniel is a medicine man and elder in the Nemenhah Band.
I don't agree with his parents' decision to seek to cure lymphoma this way, but I do support their right to be wrong. Morally, I think this is disastrous; somebody who is not the State needs to smack some sense into them. Legally, I think they are within their rights.

Now here is the fly in the ointment and the point where I get off the train:
The Hausers have eight children. Mrs. Hauser told the New Ulm Journal newspaper that the family's Catholicism and adherence to the Nemenhah Band are not in conflict, and that she has used natural remedies to treat illnesses.
Ok, in one fell swoop the Hausers just made Catholics, people with large families, and seekers of natural remedies look like crazy whack jobs all lumped together. Oh, and the part where Mrs. Hauser said her son is not in any medical danger -- yeah, that part does make you crazy.

Seeking natural remedies to treat illnesses isn't a bad thing by itself. Even using traditional American Indian remedies isn't a bad thing by itself. Endangering your children IS a bad thing at all times. Saying that belonging to another religion, say, by being a medicine man and elder in the Nemenhah Band is, in fact, in conflict with the Catholic religion. The Nemenhah Band is "an Educational Auxiliary of The Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete" and membership is by spiritual adoption only.
"Membership is only by Spiritual Adoption. It is also the only way the Nemenhah Seminary can accept you into the program and designate you a Medicine Man or Medicine Woman."
The effort to blend Catholicism and the Nemenhah Band is called syncretism and it is a type of heresy.
The effort to unite different doctrines and practices, especially in religion. Syncretism is also applied to [...] the attempts made of combining the best elements of different theological schools.
It's syncretism when Tony Blair does it, it's syncretism when Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo does it, and it's syncretism when Colleen Hauser does it along with her impressionable 13 year old son Daniel.

6 comments:

Rachael said...

yikes!

Patrick said...

fascinating issues raised here. Government has overstepped it's bounds in this area more than once, as I recall.

Kardinal said...

While I understand the issue of parental sovereignty here, the state has a legitimate and compelling interest in securi g the inalienable right of children to life. If a parent drives recklessly with their kids in the car they do not get away with it because they are the patents. Recklessly endangering the life of a child is illegal no matter who it is.

Nod said...

K, I appreciate your point that the state "has a legitimate and compelling interest in securing the inalienable right of children to life". I even agree with you (but the driving analogy doesn't apply in this case). My concern is that the government is directing a particular medical remedy. It's a fine line.

AFAIK, we don't arrest Christian Scientists, Scientologists,or Jehovah's Witnesses for the same thing. They all have medical prohibitions of one sort or another.

The Hausers may believe that they are treating the disease with "natural remedies" and invoking religion for the right to do it. So where does the line between parental rights / religious rights and the interests of the state fall? The state would say at "endangerment"; I'm not saying that's wrong, but the interpretation thereof is worrisome.

Now, after defending the principle, I'll throw rocks at the particulars. The Hausers have thrown away all credibility to the parental rights/religious rights argument by saying that their son is in no medical danger. He is; that is the point at which they are wrong. That, and they have chosen the remedy least likely to work.

Kardinal said...

You're right that we do not arrest them. However I am not sure that we should not.

Do the pariculars in this case trump the principle perhaps?

Nod said...

Well, you're fond of pointing out that every rule has its exception. ;-)

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