Court rules teen must take chemotherapy

Monday, May 18, 2009

A judge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States ruled that a boy, Daniel Hauser, has been medically neglected by his parents and must take chemotherapy and radiation therapy for his cancer against his will.

Medical professionals testifying at the proceedings said that Daniel's cancer, Hodgkin's lymphoma, has a 90% survival rate with modern treatment, but only a 10% chance of survival without it.

The judge declared that the ruling was because there was 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." as noted in his 60 page verdict.

Histopathologic image of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The boy lives in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota and his mother is a member of the Nemenhah, a Native American style group that opposes medical practices that it believes to "harm the body."

His parents first brought him for one out of six chemotherapy treatments and then refused to have the rest. In an initial filing, Daniel said that he was a medicine man and he himself made the decision to refuse the chemotherapy. An important question in the case was whether Daniel truly made the decision to refuse treatment, or whether he was pressured by his parents.

A vital piece of evidence was presented by a Thomas Sinas, an attorney for the boy's court appointed guardian who doubted Daniel's religious beliefs. Daniel also gave closed door testimony to the judge. The statement was released, and stated that Daniel's faith wasn't genuine, that he was shaken by the effects of his aunt's chemotherapy.

"This matter ... involves a 13-year-old child who has only a rudimentary understanding at best of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy," said Judge John Rodenberg, "He genuinely opposes the imposition of chemotherapy. However, he does not believe he is ill currently. The fact is that he is very ill currently."

Daniel's court-appointed defense attorney, Philip Elbert, said, "I feel it's a blow to families, 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."

Daniel's parents will be required to give him a chest X-ray and proceed to give him chemotherapy and radiation therapy if a doctor says that they would still be effective. If they refuse to comply, Daniel will be taken into custody.

Daniel's mother, Colleen Hauser, said, "If Daniel resists, it is a great question of how he will be treated. He may have to be sedated and that brings up the issue of forced treatment."

The judge said that the court has a right to force treatment because Daniel does not understand his illness and the risks and benefits of therapy enough to create an informed consent.