Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Are kids capable of making their own medical decisions?

13-year-old Danny Hauser is angry. Though the court-ordered chemotherapy has shrunk his tumor "considerably" after just two rounds, the teen does not want to continue treatment. His parents -- who, in order to avoid chemotherapy, had gone so far as to run away with their teenager when the courts first handed down their ruling -- won't say whether they think chemo is helping, but admit that "something is working."

What struck me in this case is that the parents weren't withholding medical treatment for their teenager, per se -- they were rejecting conventional therapies. They weren't sitting by and letting their son suffer -- they wanted to avoid causing him additional misery. And who wouldn't want "a better treatment plan" for their child? That doesn't sound like neglect to me.

So, I'm wondering: Should authorities take over when a child needs medical intervention and the parents disagree with the methods the doctors recommend? If the child himself doesn't want the treatment, is it still considered neglectful for the parents to avoid it?

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