Well, the latest fleeing-parent-and-child saga is over. If you didn’t see it, there was a teenager from Minnesota who fled with his mom to avoid cancer chemotherapy. The mom and child returned voluntarily, charges were dropped, and the parents now say that they agree that their son needs chemo.
Apparently, the mom joined some church that doesn’t believe in any form of medical intervention. Several other denominations (notably Christ Scientist and Jehovah’s Witnesses) are against some or all “normal” medical procedures. Her son has cancer; the doctors say that he would have a 90% survival chance if he got chemo. The son says that he believes what his mom has taught him, and initial reports, at least, indicated that he didn’t want the chemo, either. (This was very similar to a local case, which wound up getting dragged through the courts. The kid started chemo, reacted very badly to it, and wanted to try alternative therapy. Social services actually removed the child from the home to force him into chemo. The kid lived, his parents divorced (presumably accelerated, if not caused, by the stress), the state walked away happy, and all other local parents were properly chastised that going against the state’s wishes would not be tolerated.)
So, the question is: is it “child abuse” to deny him treatment? Does the state have the right to step in?
On the one hand, the argument goes, it is the parents’ duty to keep their child alive. Since society at large has deemed their faith and its rejection of modern medicine “unreasonable” or “abnormal”, well, then, society has a right to override that faith for the sake of the child. Hey, we don’t want weirdo religions declaring it’s their religious belief that a child has to be starved to death or married at eight, right? Therefore, society must step in.
Or does it?
Of course, as a Christian, I would argue that yes, it is part of our duty to keep our kids alive, but our primary duty is to do our best to lead our children to Heaven. While I do not agree with the parents’ rejection of medicine, I don’t agree with where the argument against them is going, either. Do we only have the state’s permission to raise our children as we deem best if our teachings correspond to the state-approved list? They have/had that much “freedom” in China or the Soviet Union. Most of us wouldn’t call that “freedom”.
Let’s recast the argument. Say that your teenaged child was deathly ill. The doctors tell you that they can cure your child, but only by using the remains of aborted fetuses. Do you accept?
If you say, “No, I reject that option on religious grounds,” the doctors and social workers will haul you into court. Even if your teenager testifies that she does not want the treatment because she believes life begins at conception and that it is gravely immoral to use aborted babies as cures for the born, the court may still order her to undergo the treatment.
Now whose rights are at play?
As one talking head on Fox News tonight put it, “Well, he doesn’t have a mature understanding, he hasn’t seen the world and how it works. He only understands what his mother has indoctrinated him into.”
So, faith is an “immature” argument, and whatever science says it can do has to be done, whether or not the patient or those responsible for his care think it should be done.
Where does it end?
Do we really think this will end with life-or-death, relatively clear-cut cases? Or will it be extended to lesser cases? We’ve already swallowed mandatory vaccines, several of which are made using the tissues of aborted children (and it seems to be intentional that it’s very hard to determine which are and which aren’t, because some vary by manufacturer or date). The dangerous (and occasionally lethal) Gardasil vaccine is being heavily pushed; on the logic that cervical cancer can be fatal, will the decision to opt out of the vaccine also be removed from parents’ “legitimate” religious objections? Are we headed for a dictatorship of doctors who can order us onto chemo or off of life support, regardless of religious objections?
Are we already there? It appears that the answer is, “Yes.”
When the government intrudes, it never leaves.
Even worse at overstaying its welcome and pushing its own omniscience is science (in this case, medicine specifically), which seems to have wholly forgotten where health and wisdom come from:
 Honor the physician with the honor due him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him;  for healing comes from the Most High, and he will receive a gift from the king.  The skill of the physician lifts up his head, and in the presence of great men he is admired.  The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them.  Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that his power might be known?  And he gave skill to men that he might be glorified in his marvelous works.  By them he heals and takes away pain;  the pharmacist makes of them a compound. His works will never be finished; and from him health is upon the face of the earth. … There is a time when success lies in the hands of physicians,  for they too will pray to the Lord
that he should grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.
(Sirach is part of what is sometimes referred to as the Deuterocanonical Books, or Apocrypha. Catholics still use the full canon that the early Church did, but the Deuterocanonical Books were removed from Protestant Bibles around the time of the Reformation, although some versions included them separately as the Apocrypha.)
Although I am glad that they finally decided to do chemo, wouldn’t this have been a non-issue if the government had been a little less heavy-handed and more respectful of the parents’ beliefs? They seem to have been somewhat willing to consider the options, but strongly against the state dictating their decision.
I do not believe as this mother and son did; chemo is within what I would consider moral medical treatment. But this is their decision, not mine. And not the state’s, either.