Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Business of Saving Lives

It's the age old ethical question of whether the end justifies the means. Should a person or family be forced to do something that is in their "best interests" even against their will? The story of 13-year old Daniel Hauser has definitely stirred up controversy and some important discussions.

Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg found Daniel Hauser has been "medically neglected" by his parents, Colleen and Anthony Hauser, who belong to a religious group that believes in using only natural healing methods practiced by some American Indians.

"The state has successfully shown by clear and convincing evidence that continued chemotherapy is medically necessary," he wrote, adding he would not order chemotherapy if doctors find the cancer has advanced to a point where it is "too late."

If chemotherapy is ordered and the family refuses, the judge said, Daniel will be placed in temporary custody.

A court-appointed attorney for Daniel, Philip Elbert, called the judge's decision unfortunate.

"I feel it's a blow to families," he said Friday. "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."

Admittedly, this is a very complicated moral dilemma. Do individuals and families really know what is best for them? Does freedom of choice and freedom of religion or a person's "best interests" take higher precedence? Who can objectively determine what is in a person's "best interest"? These are all difficult questions to wrestle with.

What is in a person's best interest? This question has seemingly opposing answers depending on the context of the situation. Usually a person's death is not in their best interests, however there are certainly many cases when it is. If a solider chooses to value his companion's life over his own by choosing to take a bullet for him, can we really say that he acted against his best interests? Is one life worth more than another? Is it unreasonable to choose love over life? As Christians, we have the example of Jesus Christ, who willing chose to die for the joy that was set before Him. Though certainly not true in all cases, it seems that a strong case can be made that sometimes death for the right reason is more valuable than life itself.

Does a person really know what is in their own best interest? Do to the broad nature of this question, there is not really one universal answer. Some people may have a clearer idea of what is in their best interest than others. Children are definitely not as well-informed and capable as older people may be. However, in the case of Daniel Hauser, both him and his parents were in agreement that chemotherapy was not the best option. This cannot be considered simply ignorance or neglect, since they had already tried a round of chemotherapy treatment before determining that this did not seem to be the best treatment plan. Daniel suffered a lot of side effects from the treatment and along with his parents decided that it would be better to pursue alternative natural remedies, in accordance with their religious beliefs. Perhaps a person does not know what is in their best interest, but can there be another person or entity who knows better? As Philip Ebert lamented in response to the judge's decision, "It really affirms the role that big government is better at making our decisions for us."

In this case, the government decided that it knows better than Daniel Hauser and his parents what is best for him, and also decided that it had the right to enforce chemotherapy treatment. From the final court order the ruling states:

"The Court is today determining that the Petition alleging Daniel Hauser to be a child in need of protection or services has been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The Court is also concluding that the State of Minnesota, through the Brown County Family Services ("BCFS"), has demonstrated a compelling state interest in the life and welfare of Daniel sufficient to override the fundamental constitutional rights of both the parents and Daniel to the free exercise of religion and the due process right of the parents to direct the religious and other upbringing of their child."

It saddens me to see that individual freedom is being eroded more and more by our government. As much as I desire people to live and receive adequate medical treatment, I believe that such private decisions should ultimately be left to individuals. A person should be free to choose which medical treatments to accept and which to decline. Having said that, I am very happy that Daniel is recovering as a result of the chemotherapy:

X-rays show the tumor in the chest of a 13-year-old boy who resisted treatment has shrunk significantly after two courses of court-ordered chemotherapy, a family spokesman said Monday.

However, family friend and spokesman Daniel Zwakman said the side effects of the treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma have left Danny Hauser weak and miserable.

Of course, the forced treatment is leaving Daniel feeling weak and miserable...

1 comment:

  1. Operation Mafia is a massive multiplayer online mafia text based game. You are a mafia who starts with nothing your goal are to become a ruthless mafia. To achieve this you will have to complete difficult mafia operations as you go up.