(The following was published in the Newsleader on May 29, 2009)
There are many forms of child abuse. Certainly the most familiar come to mind. Is it possible that denial of medical care could also be a form of abuse? As we examine the matter here in Minnesota with the thirteen year old boy and his mother, I ask whether she should be considered an abuser of her son. If an adult with their wits about them refuses medical care for whatever reason, that is their choice, but when they participate in the denial of care for a minor with limited understanding of reality, that becomes something else entirely.
Quite correctly in this case, the state stepped in and attempted to legally force the mother to seek conventional care for her minor child. Medical experts say that with chemo therapy the boy has about a 90% chance of a cure. Without this therapy he has something less that a 5% chance of survival. Under the law the state has a compelling interest in protecting minor children from abusive or inattentive parents. The court correctly found that the child must be treated conventionally and as you know the mother then took her son and tried to run away. On Sunday they returned home and we will watch what happens next.
There are among us many people who choose alternative forms of treatment. Some believe in so-called faith healing. I am sure you have heard the stories of group prayers asking for miracles for sick people. I have no problem with asking for Divine help in these matters. I even advocate it as long as it also includes conventional medical care. If adults take this route, that is their choice. Children don’t have a choice however. They are the subjects of their parent’s beliefs. It is when prayer takes the place of conventional medical treatment that I have a problem.
Consider this. Perhaps chemo therapy is a miracle. Maybe blood transfusions, x-rays, surgery, organ transplantation, and all modern medicine are today’s miracles. If one believes in Divine intervention, is it not possible that these modern discoveries are divinely inspired? Don’t you suppose that Native American tribes would have preferred conventional medical care rather than peyote buds and witchcraft? Today medical people travel to poor countries throughout the world to provide medical care for those who would otherwise not be treated at all. I am sure that within those desperately poor countries herbal medicine is used when possible, but I am also sure that most would much prefer modern techniques.
I don’t criticize those adults who choose alternative forms of treatment. I have no quarrel with faith and its role in healing. My problem comes when adults deny medical care for their underage children who have no choice. Perhaps, when they are mature and able to make their own decisions, assuming they survive to adulthood, they may also choose alternate medical treatment. That would be their informed adult choice. While they are yet minors however, the state must continue to step in and protect them.
I have high hopes for the young boy who has returned to Minnesota. I believe his best chance for life rests with the medical people who will be treating him now. I further hope that his chemo therapy will be tolerable. I hope we all see a miracle of healing for this youngster.
Ron Scarbro May 26, 2009
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