As the Daniel Hauser saga continues (MPR story today), it raises the question of when is it appropriate for the state to intervene in the treatment of a child’s illness. “… Colleen Hauser favors the natural healing methods of a religious group known as the Nemenhah Band, which is inspired by American Indian traditions.” Jon Tevlin wrote in this Strib column last week (and more here) that the family has likely been duped by an internet sham artist. I think that’s relevant and justifies intervention.
Griff- This whole thing is a real sticky wicket. On the one side, there certainly seems justification for the State to step in and mandate a particular course of action. But this precedent, that the State has authority to do that outside of the specific desires of a family or person is a little scarey. Both my wife and one daughter work directly with cancer patients, albeit from two different directions, and there are definitely adverse side effects of chemotherapy. Depending on the age of the person, there is credence to not put them through more suffering. It is a little like the old addage, the operation was a success but the patient died.
My heart goes out to this family. Cancer is never a pleasant experience, no matter what the age of the patient. I can’t imagine that this decision on treatment was decided on a whim. I hope I will never have to face any decisions like this family has had to face. But if I do, I would hope that I would be able to make a life/death decision without interference from the government.
I think there is a lot of alternative care that does work for various ailments. IT is so hard to tell what works and what doesn’t because sometimes the body just recovers or goes into remission on it’s own. But I think that alternatives should be allowed, and then, if they don’t work, a strong
intervention to consider traditional therapy could be put into place without jail time. I don’t like to see neglect or abuse get the okay, either.
Keep in mind that we have lost over 100,000 people a year in hospitals due to error and pneumonia, etc.
The court ordered test showed that the cancer tumor had grown since they went to all althernative medicine. Certainly a tough choice but the judge interviewed the boy and determined that he was not capable of making this serious decision on his own-I defer to the judge who must know something. I believe the parents are wrong and their decision is the same as neglect–good intentions do not make up for it.
At the same time, mental attitude is very important in any disease treatment, and if Daniel is convinced that chemotherepy is not helping him, it would make the treatment less tolerable.
Griff: Where is the line? Why shouldn’t the decision be between the mother, child, and the child’s doctor? When can, or should, the government step in to force its judgment upon the child?
It’s not as if the mother is acting against the child’s will, or taking the child’s life, as happens in abortion. If the child dies, it will be because cancer, not his mother, killed him.
I don’t want Danny to die. Further, I think that Mom’s duty to her child is to force the child, even against his wishes, to undergo treatment. What she is doing is a sin by omission. But, I can’t make the legal jump to say that the child is neglected or in need of protection.
You lost me in the last sentence. How can a child in the circumstances you describe not need protection? Indeed, Daniel is by no means “neglected” in the sense of being ignored, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that his parents, however deluded, wish him harm. But a 13-year-old—least of all one who’s reported to be illiterate—is simply not capable of making informed medical decisions. So Daniel needs protection against his parents’ apparently well-intentioned but misguided opinions. Whether the Hauser parents’ behavior fits the legal standard of neglect or abuse, I have no informed opinion.
Paul: The cancer, not the mother, is causing the child harm. Even if the mother wanted the child to have chemo, the child might still refuse. In that case, would she commit neglect if she didn’t seek a court order requiring treatment?
Mom could refuse cancer treatment for herself. Why can’t she and the child together refuse treatment? Granted, it is not the decision that I would make, and I don’t think that she and her child are making an informed decision. But, where do we draw the line?
We let mothers decide to terminate the life of her child in utero. Obviously, that decision is never in the child’s best interest, and that child has no ability to make an informed consent on its death.
The county attorney was grandstanding by issuing a child neglect order. Now the mother and child are in Mexico where they will not have family or the option of returning to Mayo. This is the best example of our current government – over reactive & bullying while achieving a poor outcome.
There’s a literal sense in which this is true — more or less the same sense in which a parent who lets a child play in traffic could plead that traffic, not their neglect, is at fault for an accident.
Parents have a moral (and, presumably, legal) obligation to take reasonable and good-faith care for their children’s health. Reasonable people will differ about just what this means in particular cases. If the neighbor kid comes down with sniffles can he stay home from school for the day, or should he be medivac’ed to the Mayo?
I don’t want anybody sued in such a situation, but the Daniel Hauser case just isn’t a hard call. Mom and Dad are nowhere near doing what needs to be done.
I draw it where a vulnerable minor is involved, and where parents appear to act in reckless disregard of the best available medical opinion. Sure, Mom can refuse medical treatment for herself, but she “and the child together” can’t make good (or bad, for that matter) decisions, because a child isn’t competent to participate in this sort of decision-making.
I don’t buy the analogy to abortion. But since you brought it up it seems fair to ask: Doesn’t your opposition to abortion argue for more, not less, governmental involvement in these matters?
David H: you got it right: “over reacting and bullying while achieving a poor outcome”.
Paul got it right , also in saying that the child needs protection…
David L. got it right also when he asks where is the line drawn?
That’s how extremely complicated this situation is, and gov’t (bless its sometimes brutal little heart) is not well suited to deal with this problem.
The court order has only insured that the child is going without treatment.
I’m thinking about how an appropriate, and legal , procedure could be developed to deal with a situation of this nature… Its hard to come up with something…
What , for instance, if the 13 year old had read everything about his condition, spoken with many concerned and helpful doctors, understood he might die with or without chemo, and still refused the treatment.
If we/the courts can declare teenagers, and occasionally even younger children to be tried as adults in serious crimes… should we then allow capable teens and younger children to make life decisions for themselves?
The assumption in the criminal situation is that the child needs to be punished by society for what act it has committed.
The assumption in the health situation is that the child does NOT have the capacity, or even the right, to deal with its own life.
Generally, I am all for extensive laws which protect children from harm inflicted on them by the sometimes what might be termed “thoughtful/good” decisions of adults.
I can’t help but wonder about a society that classifies children as adults for the purposes of criminalizing and jailing them.
Some lines are very difficult to draw, and “laws” won’t effectively do the job.
The law hasn’t worked here; “we” need to think more about where lines are drawn and by whom.
Kiffi’s right that society should not classify children as adults for some purposes and as children for others. The child/adult line may sometimes be difficult to draw, but this is not such a case. Daniel Hauser is clearly a child, and in the legal sense incompetent.
And yes, not every problem is best solved by laws and the police. (I’m especially receptive to this argument today, having just bailed my cat, Fritz, out of police custody for “running loose”. I pray that he didn’t pick up any jailhouse habits from his cellmate, a hardened Siamese.)
Maybe the law hasn’t worked — yet — in the Hauser case. But the bottom line remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, it isn’t clear to me that the county attorney is “grandstanding” here. For better or worse, a county attorney is a legal actor, not a moral advisor. What legal alternative would you propose, David H?
Paul Z. is right: the child in this case is only 13, so comparing this situation to a child being tried as an adult doesn’t wquite fit — that legal line is drawn (at least in Minnesota) at age 16.
I think the child neglect laws are quite clear and unambiguous in this case: not providing necessary and proven treatment when the likely outcome is death — that’s neglect.
The powers of the state are indeed frightening and must be used with care and restraint, but in this case the prosecutor and judge would be derelict if they didn’t try to apply the law for the child’s benefit. It’s not even close.
See specifically Minnesota Statutes 260C.007 Subdivision 6 paragraph 4. This section defines a child in need of protection or services. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see that it clearly applies in the Hauser case.
Thanks much for chiming in here, Jim. (For others who might not know, Jim is Director of Rice County Department of Community Corrections.)
On MPR’s Midday today, a show on this exact issue: Parental rights, ethics and the Hauser case.
Arthur Caplan: Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Teresa Nelson: Legal counsel for ACLU of Minnesota.
So now how many people might not bring their kids to a traditional medical outlet to begin with so they won’t be reported. This is crazy bad judgement by prosecutor and judge. This treatment undoubtedly has risk factors both ways, why bother to explain these factors if the doctors/courts are going to become the parents? The government is abusing and harming the American family and should retract its roll, not expand its roll.
I was a social worker for 5 years, and I can tell you that some parents don’t seek medical help for their kids out of neglect or belief in some other form of treatment. This legal decision is going to have little effect on those parents. Those same children, however, are in school systems, churches and have contact with others (usually, except in extreme child neglect cases) who are either mandated reporters or will contact someone else who can get help to those children.
I agree that this case is tricky as a philosophical issue. The legal strictures, as Jim H. and Paul Z have pointed out, are pretty clear. I believe these laws have been on the books for quite a while; so I hardly think it’s indicative of any recent or nefarious grab for power on the part of the government.
It gets tricky for me because of the “slippery slope” arguments. If the child had an inoperable cancer, for instance, would the State be justified in mandating treatment? If this case were like that, I would be much more concerned about pushing for difficult and painful treatment that isn’t likely to help anyway, and would be more in favor of quality-of-life and hospice care for the child.
However, the fact is this case seems to be that his lymphoma is very treatable and without treatment, he is very likely to die. (The percentages I heard were 90+% chance of survival with treatment, maybe 10% chance without that same treatment.)
How will people react if he dies – which is, again, very likely – after not receiving treatment? Will people be okay with that?
The other thought that keeps jumping into my head was the moral outrage expressed by many conservatives about the Terri Schiavo case in Florida in 2005. That was grandstanding. Apparently, it’s fine for the government – up to and including the President – to drop what they’re doing to intervene directly in the decision to keep someone alive (but in a persistent vegetative state), even though her legal guardian at the time, her husband, made the decision not to do so. But, it’s okay for this kid to die in the name of keeping government out of medical decisions? What that makes me wonder is – if this kid lapses into a coma, and has to be kept alive by machine, is that when State protection will be okay?
Brendon: The law is not clear. The court is not suppose to act in the child’s best interest. It is suppose to act to prevent harm to the child. Both the mother and the child have made knowing decisions to refuse treatment.
The Schiavo case was different in that the husband was the direct agent of death. He was granted permission to remove the feeding tubes; hence, she starved to death. In this case, neither the mother nor the child want the child to die. They think, quite mistakenly it appears, that chemo is more harmful than the treatment that they propose.
Brendon, you are creative and I like your Tiny Plays. But in all honesty I wouldn’t want you making health choices for other people’s children. Don’t be overly offended, as I don’t want me doing it either. Is the child’s welfare better served by losing the farm, having his mom sit time in jail, fleeing to Mexico or the family working through issues on their own? If he dies then he dies, happens every day. The far FAR greater harm is unintended consequences from the government forcing people into cookie cutter choices.
I don’t want Brendon making decisions for my kids either. I’ve long resented being humiliated by Brendon’s skill in the softball outfield, and don’t even mention the women’s clothes.
But does Brendon actually propose to make health choices for others’ kids? If so I missed that part.
More important …
I hope I misunderstand your point, but you seem to be saying that an innocent child’s unnecessary death is almost irrelevant here. Do you really mean this?
David L wrote:
I will certainly defer to your legal knowledge and expertise, David, but I must ask how the court would be acting “to prevent harm to the child” if they allowed a course of action that is very likely to result in his death?
The law Jim Haas cites reads:
What’s a judge to do when faced with that law and the facts in front of him or her? How does the State protect a child if they allow him to die?
Regarding the Terri Schiavo case, you wrote:
The Schiavo case was also about the State interfering in the decision of a legal guardian who, with the consultation of medical professionals, decided that his wife’s care should be terminated. He knew she would die, but that’s a far cry from wanting her to die.
The autopsy results only confirmed the unanimous medical opinion that she was beyond recovery. To the extent that this is a discussion of the State’s authority in such decisions, then the Schiavo case is very directly related.
David H., you wrote,
Yes, children die every day, some at the hands of their parents or other caregivers, but why does that mean that this death should not be prevented? This is not a cookie cutter choice, as you say. It was a legal decision, based on enormous amounts of medical and legal expertise. Legal decisions are based on existing law and precedent, but are also made on a case-by-case basis. That’s the rub. Another case, though similar in nature, may have a slightly different set of variables that might lead to a different decision.
Also, situations like this are rare; so I’m not sure how many parents this will be “forcing” into a certain choice. Very, very few.
No more softball for me. I might break a nail.
Paul Z.: There are two considerations that need to be separated. The first consideration has to be what is best for the child, and the family (morality). The second question is, “Given that what is best for the child is something other than what the mother is doing, where is the line (rule) that allows government to impose its will upon the decision maker?”
For example, under abortion rights law, the innocent fetus’ death is not important enough to override the mother’s decision to abort, even though there is greater than 90% chance of life if the child is carried to term, and exactly 0% chance if there is an abortion. This child’s chances are poor without help, but greater than under an abortion. Perhaps most importantly, the child has had the chance to provide some input.
In my opinion, the correct choice isn’t even close. The mother should do everything in her power to save her child. But, that is only 1/2 of the question. The other half involves the imposition of the government’s will upon people (constitutionality).
The constitutionality of the decision is questionable. When Justice Douglas found the Texas abortion law unconstitutional, he noted that one of the most important rights is the right to be left alone under the penumbra of the First Amendment. The unnecessary death of the fetus is only relevant after the 26th week.
These folks would like nothing more than to be left alone. Without a clear rule on when and why the government can step in, justice becomes a matter of judicial preference, rather than adherence to a set of rights. Presently, the law clearly favors the liberty of the mother (and child) to pick life or death.
Paul, Brendon said he was a social worker for 5 years (not that he was actually making health choices). My point being I would hang with parental decisions over bureaucrats.
I guess I fail to see how the government action is “helping.” It’s like the case of Rivas who committed the biggest single mass murder in MN history right here in Rice County after being badgered endlessly by Rice County social services. His kids are all dead and now we have a woman running to Mexico. The Rivas case is never discussed because it was such a massive failure that no amount of “good” social services might bring about can over come the “bad.”
The irony in Rivas case is he came from communist Bulgaria (the worst of the eastern block) to the land of freedom and found out it (like this woman running around Mexico with her child) that it can be more oppressive here.
The mother and child fleeing to Mexico is her decision. Not the government’s.
I heard only part of the MNPR program this AM, but I did hear the woman who was speaking for the ACLU say that MN law is not clear cut because it turns on the intent, and judges’s interpretation, of the phrase regarding alternative care.
I wish the law had gotten involved only as a means to keep the mother and child here, in a family surrounding and in a supportive mode, emphasizing we will do everything to HELP… I just don’t think that cases like this can be dealt with by a generic law; Each is specific.
That’s a very good point, Kiffi, about the judge’s interpretation regarding the alternate method of care. In that sense, perhaps this case hinges on a reason versus faith argument. (I say that in a very, very broad sense.)
Brendon, the sort of moralism shown in your post #21 assumes we do not actually care if the policy outcomes are good or bad we just want to stick our noses in people’s business.
Kiffi presents a good point – to date, the intervention hasn’t been supportive of the family.
Hmmm, David H., I honestly don’t know what your post #24 means. It doesn’t seem to apply to my post #21, or, at least, I don’t understand the application you’re intending.
Here’s a rephrasing: The mother chose to flee to Mexico with her son. The government didn’t “force” her. She disagreed with a legal ruling handed down in a country of laws of which she is a full citizen; so she chose to defy it in this way. That is her choice, not the choice of the government. The judge, as a representative of the judicial branch, had an obligation to make a ruling on a very difficult question. She didn’t like it. She fled. That doesn’t mean the decision is flawed. That means: she didn’t like it, so she fled.
You want to believe that she had no choice? Okay.
Personally, I see her action as indicative of willful neglect. I’m guessing that, before this matter made it to the courts, many attempts were probably made by medical professionals, attorneys, social workers, relatives and family friends to get her to change her mind. I would go further to guess that a legal ruling was a last-ditch effort to compel treatment and a real attempt to save the boy’s life. If you want to believe this is indicative of some national trend to strip parents of rights, you’re welcome to that belief.
I don’t at all see it that way. I don’t believe it’s reasonable to extrapolate from this very particular case, with its very particular dimensions, to a future nation or state where government inspectors make sure our children are healthy 24-7 under the penalty of swift imprisonment and confiscation of our offspring.
You make a very good distinction in your comment #19. However, the child is 13, and, apparently developmentally delayed as well. For a child at that age, with cognitive impairment, your assertion that:
holds little water here.
At that age and reasoning capacity, it is very possible this child believes his Mom will save him, end of discussion. But you know her course of action is not likely to do so. She’s deluding herself and pulling her son along with her.
In my social work experience, I saw many kids in abusive homes, for instance, who wished to stay in the abusive situation rather than risk out-of-home placements because it was less scary to stick close to the fear they knew than venture off to the unknown. Yet, kids who are ultimately removed from abusive homes and placed in more positive environments, almost always, as they mature, come to realize that getting out of the situation was good for them – no matter the fear they had in the moment.
I think that’s something to keep in mind in this case.
Ahh hmmm Brendon, I look at this as tax dollars collected and spent on a invasive government policy with the design of a specific outcome but that outcome was not achieved. Even if one is 100% in agreement that he should have chemo – that was not the outcome. So heavy handed government involvment served no constructive purpose and in fact has put the child at further risk.
Did anyone from the decision makers take only Danny into a room and talk=visit=with him for a hour or so? Talking with the child by himself without his mother hanging on to him and watching all he said. I have never seen a picture or video of Danny without his mother hanging on. Yes, I know it’s scary to have the cameras, she loves her boy and is protecting him, but the only way to really know what a child is thinking and feeling is to get a one on one. In the course of a “visit”, not a third degree, they should be able to get a better knowledge of the child’s ability to think for himself or his decisions on the treatment. One 13 year old can have the mind of an 18 yr old, they next one a 10 yr old. Their understanding of a sitution can be lightyears apart.
In extreme healthcare issues, even as an adult, listening to the doctors, hearing and understanding everything they are telling you is hard. It’s always a necessity to have at least 2 people in the room to remember everything. You are too emotional when learning about a bad diagnosis to catch everything.
Bottom line, does Danny really understand the situation and what are his and only his thoughts about treatment.
As a side note, having had terminally ill family members myself, I can’t believe for one minute that the Father didn’t know they were leaving and doesn’t know what direction they took!
Brendon makes a really good point in #26, about a child who wishes to remain in a bad situation, rather than face unknown circumstances. Of course this child believes his mom will take care of him.
And that’s why Cindy in #28 is correct in asking whether any professional ever had the chance to speak to the child alone…
If there was ever a case that cried for some extraordinary level of “law” , rather than trying to concoct a one-size- fits- all rule, this is it…
Is there a way to create that higher and more personalized level of law for cases that are so sensitive and specific, or would that deprive those that might fall on the borderline, of their fair access to more understanding?
I believe , as a society, we may come to a point where we understand that all “criminal” behavior is brain chemistry … not for the most part wilful
disobedience … and then have to struggle with how to deal with the effects of body chemistry/ medical causes, which may cause anti-societal/ aberrational behavior.
Maybe very sensitive cases like this create an avenue for that discussion, and its possible method for a resolve.
Cindy: If I recall from the court decision, the judge interviewed Danny in camera (in chambers) to determine his competency. He found that Danny was not of sufficient maturity to make an informed decision. The judge also found that everyone in the case was acting in good faith. A reading of the opinion suggests that there are not factual disputes, just conclusive disputes.
Your post raises another distinction that deserves some attention. The judge issued an opinion that the mother was neglecting the child. The judge’s decision is just that – an opinion. The government had and has action options based upon that opinion.
The action option that the County picked – treating the child and mother as criminals – doesn’t seem to be working. If the government is going to force its will upon the child, which it appears intent upon so doing, it needs to make sure that it makes the situation better, not worse.
In what way is the county treating Daniel as a criminal?
And if you mean by not working that Mom and Daniel are still on the lam, then I guess you’re right. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the County’s action can’t and won’t work. To all appearances Mom is seriously endangering Daniel’s health, however sincerely she may feel otherwise. What would you have “the County” do?
Society has a legitimate interest in seeing that gravely ill children are not martyred by deluded parents — even loving ones. I don’t understand why you describe this so negatively, with language like “forcing”. What alternatives do you see?
As for making situations better, not worse … I think that’s everyone’s goal. What do you suggest?
There are no good alternatives to family, friends, church, etc. Sticking a gun to someones head and saying you have to behave as we see fit creates worse outcomes not better. The government cannot be a good alternative.
Out of curiosity, how do people think if the traditional medical odds were 51% survival with treatment and 49% survival without treatment? Would alternative medicine still be thought neglectful? If not then what do the statistics have to be for charges of neglect? And is the treating physician the ultimate source for statistics or is there some statistics source that will be deemed infallible?
Also, is there a conflict of interest when a medical doctor calls in a charge of neglect because an alternative medicine provider is chosen? This brings up the larger issue that the AMA is effectively a price setting monopoly at war with all forms of alternative medicine. Which is one major reason why health costs are way out of control.
I commented earlier on a situation like you pose in comment #33. This is, to some extent, a “slippery slope” problem. My opinion for this particular case is largely based on the much greater chance of survival with treatment. The decision would be much more of a tricky gray area with odds like 51-49.
In #33, you ask if alternative medicine would be thought neglectful. I think, in that situation, it would be thought pointless, since the odds of survival are very nearly the same with or without treatment.
To the larger issue, when alternative medicine opens itself up to unbiased scientific inquiry and clinical trials, rather than rationalizing its existence as a way to feel good by fighting back against the machine of modern medicine, then I think it will gain some heft in decisions like this.
I realize that doctors doesn’t always get it right, that mistakes are made, that the medical establishment sometimes deludes itself with its own sense of certainty, AND I think most good doctors and researchers also understand their limitations and the dangers inherent in the powerful position they hold.
Human life span has not advanced on the healing power of crystals (to cite an example), it has made humans healthier and increased longevity largely on the scientific process. By asking of the world, what works? What doesn’t? Testing hypothesis. Developing procedures. Exposing ideas to controlled experiments. Modifying treatments.
It’s not perfect. Mistakes are made. Some researchers are corrupt. Some companies get way too big (capitalism, you know) and do unsavory things to make sure people take their drugs and use their products. But it’s hugely better than the alternative of throwing caution to the wind because there are problem with “the system.”
I guarantee you that if healing by crystals had huge scientific support, then Big Crystal, Inc. would find a way to force crystal healing into all our lives.
There was an article in the Strib, I think yesterday, that had an interview with the doctor involved. His comment was something like this- Because of the circumstances with the age of the patient involved, I was constrained to report this course of action to the authorities. He is covering his own tail, here, and rightfully so. If the youth ends up succombing to the disease soon, and it was found out that the attending doctor did not report the course of action chosen by the parents, there would be precedent to charge him with aiding the neglect of a child. It is unfortunate that so many parents have been derelict in their treatment of their children in the past that we have to enact laws to intervene. In a perfect world, there would be no need for these types of laws, but, as someone pointed out, this is not a perfect world. I still side with David H. on this in that I am uncomfortable with the government having this kind of authority to step into a family’s decision. This whole event has been a very unfortunate thing, and one that I’m still not sure can be as cut and dried as it has been presented in the media.
Paul Z.: The more accurate analysis is that the child and mother have liberty (freedom) interests; the government has limited power to invade freedom to maintain order. When there are questions whether or not freedoms should be invaded, government should err on the side of liberty.
Legally, “society” is the government; as such, society’s duty is to exercise its power only when the person whose liberty interest is at stake is exercising freedom in a harmful way.
Under present statutes there isn’t much limitation on governmental power. Courts almost always allow invasions of freedom when the County determines it would prefer a different parenting style.
On the other hand, we have constitutional law which would have permitted the affirmative action of abortion without question, thereby terminating the child’s existence. Upon birth, the child acquired his own rights, and the protection of the law. But the government doesn’t acquire rights upon the child’s birth, only the child does.
Here, the mother and the child are asking for protections from the law, not protections of the law. Neither mother nor child have done anything wrong, nor have either taken affirmative action to end the child’s life.
As sad as it is, I think that the pro-choice advocates should prevail. Given the state of the law, especially with regard to pre-birth choices, I wouldn’t think that most people would have a hard time limiting the government’s involvement. The government’s duty to protect the child after birth is substantially less than its duty was pre-birth.
I understand that the child didn’t have rights pre-birth. However, that factor is irrelevant to the child.
Great discussion here, but I think there’s another twist to this particular situation. This isn’t a family of people who have made a strong, lifelong commitment to an established religion. This appears to be a mother who is in denial about her son’s condition and has grabbed on to a very questionable group run by a person with a history of criminal problems. The father doesn’t seem to be part of this getaway plan and in fact seems very upset and is asking her to bring him home. The boy also is reported to have told his doctor that he was in extreme pain the day before his mother left town with him. He also wasn’t allowed to meet with his court appointed attorney before he left.
Law enforcement officials have made it clear they don’t intend to prosecute the mother, but needed to file the charges to give them the authority to find them and return them home.
There are many doctors who are willing to work with families to end treatment when the odds are against survival. The difference here is that the odds are so strongly in favor of treatment and the mother’s rationale for her position is shaky at best. What happens when the boy dies and the mother comes to her senses? How does she explain this to her husband and her other children? What happens if she gives up this ‘religion’ because it didn’t work? Was this about what was best for the boy, or what made her feel better?
Here and elsewhere you keep treating the child as a competent actor. But a child of 13 is not able to assessing his or her interests. Perhaps you disagree, but if so wouldn’t it follow that you want children treated as adults in criminal matters, too?
Quite right. But this one is not a hard call.
Agreed in principle. But in this case Mom clearly wants to exercise freedom in a harmful way.
Does this really strike you, David, as a dispute over “parenting style”? Doing what one can to keep one’s kids alive strikes me as more than a “style” choice.
I don’t see that abortion is material here.
Here, too, you treat the child as a competent actor. He’s not. And Mom (not the child) is doing wrong by not taking reasonable steps to protect the child’s health.
Yet again, I don’t buy linking this to the abortion issue. Maybe your point is that people who oppose government involvement with abortion but should also oppose it here. Fair enough, but wouldn’t the same logic say that those who want government involved in abortion decisions should also want government involved here?
Of course not. But the premise is far-fetched.
If it were possible (it isn’t) to assign precise probabilities to different courses of treatment then there might indeed be some threshhold of neglect. Since precise probabilities can’t be assigned, a judge would presumably ask for several medical opinions (as I think happened in this case) and rule based on that. What else would you suggest?
The AMA may have its faults (I don’t really know) but IMO they have nothing to do with the question at hand. The Hauser case has all sorts of personal and legal and moral aspects, but the medical question seems pretty clear cut: Should the child receive the best possible medical treatment or not?
Paul Z, if precise statistics on treatment could not be determined then medicine would be in big trouble. The fact is these statistics are generated and underpin medical treatment decision making. “Professional opinion” is something used by lawyers and politicians not science. Professional opinion always sways towards whoever is paying the “professional’s” bill. When a doctor reads you off risk factors for drugs or treatments they generally can give you exact percentages (within an error ratio) of the likelihood of success or side effects. You and I might hear the same information and make very different choices. Two parents might make different choices. Two social workers might access the risk differently.
Then you have the issue of lifestyle itself. One religious group might (and probably does) eschew alcohol, red meat and medical drug treatments resulting in longer lives for their group population at large. Members of this group could accuse society at large of abusing their children. Yet in a particular instance refusing chemo could be seen as abuse. So does one ‘judge’ broad statistics or narrow.
The idea that courts and prosecutors can step into this process and improve outcomes is farfetched and silly. The results in this particular case should prove that out for you.
Paul Z.: From both the mother and child’s perspective, this is a clear pro-choice question. Although the child is not a competent actor, together with the mother (and father) they are the ones that have the choices.
The government is intervening because the child with and through the mother have made a choice with which the government disagrees. The government’s choice is, in my opinion and without a doubt, the right choice. As Jim Haas said, it is not even close.
But, that isn’t the end of the analysis. The difficult question revolves around how to draw the line to make sure that the power of the government is limited sufficiently so that the government doesn’t intervene every time it thinks someone is making a bad choice.
This is a tough issue either way and by no means black and white.
I understand both sides of the story and sympathize with both.
As a parent though I have to wonder, why a mother wouldn’t do everything she can to save her child. The odds are clearly in favor for him to survive, if he goes to take chemo.
Personally I’ll put life first over any doctrine or religion.
Thank you (for comment #37). I was going to point out that aspect of this case. This isn’t a life-long Christian Scientist devotee, for example. This sounds like a parent who panicked and was persuaded into a lame cult-like movement while understandably in a vulnerable and very anxious state about her son’s serious health problem.
And you hint at it, Anne, but I’ll throw it out there more specifically – are the father’s rights to protect his son’s life somehow less than the mother’s? There does appear to be some dissension within the family itself.
Also, suppose the boy dies, does the mother get charged? Involuntary manslaughter? We certainly charge parents who abuse and neglect their children, so I’ll throw a final question out there, which Paul Z. helped me formulate with his comment #38, can a parent hide behind “parenting style” for any such decision they make that obviously brings harm to their child?
It seems to me that we have to look at the line from both sides. Meaning, there have to be some judgments about where protecting parental choice meets protecting the child’s life. Which child-rearing methods or decisions deserve protection as “parenting style” and which methods or decisions can we say amount to abuse / neglect?
Bear with me for a couple fanciful examples here, but how would we feel about a parent who swears by prolonged fasts for their young child as a means of curing them of a dangerous condition? How about a parent who thinks that keeping their child consistently drunk helps “purify” them? These are odd examples, but I hope you see my point.
Here is an interesting article:
The question is not which treatment is better. The question is has social services, the courts and the criminal justice system involvement improved the child’s future. The obvious answer would appear to be “no.” They would probably be at home now deciding, “Should we change our minds and go with chemo?” Instead they are on the run and being put under wild stress levels.
Daniel Hauser returns, taken from parents
I thought this last part of the article Patrick linked to (comment #44) was interesting:
Can a lawyer tell me what that means? My guess would be that the father is being deprived his parental rights by the mother, but wouldn’t he have to bring that charge himself?
It would seem odd, because, earlier in the article, it mentions one attorney representing both parents.
Any help on this point? David L.? Britt?
Also, from another article where Daniel’s doctor (Bostrom) predicts that “within the next few weeks” the tumor in his chest will suffocate him:
I thought it was interesting also that this doctor said that it was the first time in his 25 years of practice that he had to make a call to county child protection workers for a parent that kept their child from getting treatment.
This could be the Harpers Ferry for the fascio-socialist state depending on how it plays out. Imagine if the kid does not make it (I bet if the state keeps him then he gets the best docs on the planet!)
David Henson wrote:
Oh, please. That’s going way beyond the pale, David H. Have you been watching Glenn Beck or something?
Aside to Brendon:
One no longer needs to listen Glenn Beck. One now receives Glenn Beck by direct digital download, via chips implanted at the base of the skull by rogue elements of the CIA.
I don’t even know who Glenn Beck is?
But Harper’s Ferry seemed like a small event when it happened but the repercussions were wide spread.
Okay, David H., a possible, but tenuous, historical linking of the event with Harpers Ferry, but it was really “the fascio-socialist state” bit that smacked of Glenn Beck’s (xref: Limbaugh, G. Gordon Liddy, Michele Bachmann, etc…) paranoid ramblings.
So, to that portion of your statement, I ask a la Seinfeld: Really? As in, do you really see this as a harbinger of a fascistic regime overthrowing our representative democracy? That socialist forces are behind protecting this kid, or, conversely, that a purely capitalist dream-world would leave the parents be and let the kid die? (Despite the fact that Big Capitalist Drug Companies and Big Capitalist Medical Companies are certainly reaping the benefits of his treatment, and the treatment of so many others.)
Play along with me here: Let’s say it’s 1953 again. Commies are bad. Capitalism is universally good. All children listen without question because rock and roll is still a couple of merciful years off. Women are cooking ridiculously large meat- and lard-based suppers and wearing house dresses. But, oh no! The all-American teen down the block comes down with a very terrible but very treatable disease, possibly caused by the lead-based paint he’s strenuously applied to the white picket fence in the springtime of our nostalgic otherworld. Now, the doctor says: “Let’s cure him.” They try it. It’s working, but it’s yucky; so mom and all-American teen don’t come back. In this 1953 world of our collective mythologizing mind, does everyone in town say: “Thank God! Better to allow his folks the right to kill him than to flirt with the Red Menace of government intervention in the health of a minor!”
I’m being silly to make a point; I think envisioning this event as the rocky shoal upon which our ship of state breaches its hull borders on parody.
I’m thinking 1953 teen and parents might have faced the same legal ruling. There have been child protection laws on the books for a long time; this is simply an application of existing law. The judicial branch interprets law. It’s their Constitutional burden. Interpretation is not perfect; there are “tricky gray areas” all over the place. Happening upon a “tricky gray area” like this one, however, does not warrant calls of Big Brother or secret police or martial law.
These are not the jack-booted thugs you’re looking for.
Brendon, my reference to Harper’s Ferry was the opposite of your interpretation. People might get motivated to take back freedom and representative democracy from the fascio-socialist state we have become.
BTW: Your #49 was far more rambling then my posts.
Your post sets up a false dichotomy that things have to be the way they are now or the way they were in your bleak depiction of the past. I think the intrusive socialist state makes things far worse for society. I think the ends you trumpet (that are in fact never delivered) could be brought about better with radically less government not more.
When did you work for social services in Rice County? Do you think enough time has passed on the Rivas case that a true discussion about the government’s role in creating so much stress in his life that he ultimately cracked and murdered 6 people? They never held any public hearings on the matter. As far as I know they use the same techniques today – at least Daniel’s case would suggest they have not learned.
I wasn’t referring to your comments as rambling; I was deriding the style of some conservative commentators as paranoid ramblings. You are very good at keeping things succinct.
Sorry to get your comment’s intentions backwards. It was somewhat ambiguous in its brevity.
Nonetheless, based on your reply in comment #50, I would say my argument holds regardless of your intent with the “fascio-socialist” comment. This decision is no more indicative of any “intrusive socialist state” now than it would have been in 1953. And, again, I think the same decision would have been delivered then. My point is not to set up a false dichotomy, but to postulate that, in regards to this decision, things probably have not changed. There is no dichotomy there. I was satirizing the values of the 1950s to deliberately clarify that even in that most “American” of decades, this kind of “fascio-socialist” ruling probably would have been the same.
I never worked in social services in Rice County. I was in schools in the Twin Cities.
Brendon: You are raising some good hypothetical cases.
It is fair to say that there isn’t much case law on how to rule on these type of cases. Further, in my experience, the “rule of law” is unclear.
Case law is well-developed in the area of pre-birth rights. Essentially, the mother has all of the rights, and can terminate a child’s life at will. However, once the child is born, the rule that has developed permits the County (social workers) to substitute their own judgment for the judgment of the parents. To date, I don’t think that there has been a good line drawn as to how far the government can go in forcing its will on the parents and the child.
Things have changed since the ’50’s. Think about spanking.
Good riddance to spanking.
Thanks, David L., I agree that there isn’t a clear line drawn, and maybe there can’t be. I understand that some things have changed since the 1950s, my point was more that I think this case probably would have been ruled the same way then, given the same set of presenting facts. Therefore, it seems a stretch to label it as Exhibit A of some current socialistic over-reach.
Bottom line for me: Even though I recognize that this decision represents a gray area in legal reasoning, it’s light gray. I think I would be more concerned about the contemporary erosion of parental rights if this child had less chance of recovery, or was 17 years old, or the parents were in complete agreement with each other, or they were life-long adherents to an established religion, or…
Many, many variables.
Brendon: I am leaning toward the pro-choice position for a number of reasons:
Neither the child nor the mother is not taking any affirmative action to put the child in danger. The cancer is the agent of harm, not the mother or child.
The family is (or was) taking some action to get medical treatment. Granted, the treatment is generally ineffective, but they still had a good faith belief in the rightness of the action.
The child, although not of sufficient age to decide by himself, is in agreement with the mother.
The constitution gives broad protection to the right to be left alone.
The last consideration tips the scales for me. If the law were to grant the child constitutional rights pre-birth, I could swallow this government invasion more easily.
Where are all the do-gooders when children are in utero and the chances of survival were 95%, and the chances of survival 0% if his mother wants to abort? I don’t see how we can reconcile the two situations – from the government’s only legitimate interest the child’s perspective.
I realize that the child is not considered a legal entity until birth. But seriously, is that a valid distinction to make from the child’s perspective?
As I said earlier, I don’t think that it is a close moral question; constitutionally, it is much more difficult.
Lastly, when taking away constitutional rights from the mother and the child, it is important to know where we draw the line before we decide. It is said that tough facts make bad law. This is that type of case. If you don’t know where to draw the line, how is it possible to say that the judge’s decision falls on the right side of the line?
David, you wrote:
You’ve answered your own question right there.
Patrick: Does it matter to the child if it is killed in utero or allowed to die by a negligent mother?
From the point of view of the government and the question of what is legal, yes the distinction matters.
Whether it matters from your personal moral perspective, or from my own, is another question which each of us can work out for ourselves.
Patrick: The government has no “point of view”. Governments don’t have rights that need protection. Governments have powers. In this case, it is exercising its power on behalf of the child. My personal, moral view is that the government should have limited power to intervene in this case.
However, I can’t overcome the logical hurdle that permits unfettered discretion of the mother at one stage of the child’s life and an unlimited intervention at another more mature age. The law is decidely pro-choice, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, not by me. If we are going to be consistent in the law, that pro-choice (liberty) perspective needs to carry over into our laws and decisions. Otherwise, all we do is make up new rules every time the result doesn’t suit us.
Again, your confusion regarding the inconsistency of the law is based on the fact that you don’t agree with the legal reality that “the child is not considered a legal entity until birth.”
If you can change that legal principal (and many are trying), then the rest of your argument might make legal sense.
Patrick: I point out the inconsistency in the law to clarify the proper role of the government in this case.
Let's assume that the child/person were 18. In that event, could or should the government intervene for the person's protection? If your answer is, "No.", then by what power can the government intervene in this case? If your answer is, "Yes or maybe", then what are the reasons for intervention, and do they apply in this case?
Well, it seems the authorities have kept their word and backed away now that the mother and son are home. And it turns out the mother was duped by a lawyer from this shady quasi-religious group possibly bent on fraud, who helped them get to California and then abandoned them.
So this was not a case of a family following religious beliefs, but a mother and son afraid of the pain of the first round of chemo and willing to do anything to avoid dealing with the reality of the situation and a father without enough influence on them to stop them.
The boy is back on chemo, but the delay allowed the tumor to grow. The result is that the boy may die because he and his mother had a panic attack. The authorities, from the doctor to the police, weren't trying to thwart family values but trying to save the boy from the consequences of his parents' lapse in judgment. The criminal charges were only filed to aid in the search, given the lack of time for slower methods. Sounds like the system worked.
This post will no longer be timely by the time it is posted, but NPR Talk Of The Nation currently has a neurosurgeon on discussing the right of competent adults to refuse treatment. He's made many good points which might illuminate some of your questions, David. It will eventually be posted as a podcast on NPR.org.
You asked (of Patrick):
>Let's assume that the child/person were 18. In that event, could or should the government intervene for the person's protection? If your answer is, "No.", then by what power can the government intervene in this case? If your answer is, "Yes or maybe", then what are the reasons for intervention, and do they apply in this case?
I'm not Patrick, but FWIW my answer would probably be "No". There might be some borderline cases — e.g., if an 18-year-old were mentally incompetent.then one might reasonably ask whether he or she is capable of consenting to anything. But by and large an 18-year-old could be expected to be competent to make thoughtful person decisions, like any other legal adult. (Whether such decisions would indeed be made wisely is another question, but probably not one the government should meddle in.)
Now that Daniel is home, what's the bottom line call?
We'll never know all the details, but on balance it seems to me the legal system worked about as well as could be expected in thoroughly unpleasant circumstances. A sick kid can now get proper medical treatment. His apparently well-meaning but mistaken mom is home and not facing the pokey.
Some charlatans and grifters are probably still at it, and that's too bad, but for the Hauser family things turned out reasonably well.
Yes, the Hausers' privacy was breached, but privacy doesn't extend to the right to martyr one's child.
paul: for me the bottom line is what I suggested way back in comment 29, i.e., for cases like this one the sometimes “blunt instrument” of the law is not adequate. I totally agree that no one has the right to”martyr one’s child”; I don’t even think being the parent of the child gives a person the right to withhold treatment of that child because of spiritual beliefs; our children are our children, but we don’t ‘own’ them in the life and death sense…
Now I expect that will make David L come back at me about abortion, but I am sorry… I just can’t consider a foetus to be the same as an air-breathing child.
But the problem with the way the law works is this; it DID work OK in this case because they came back, thankfully. But what if they had run , because of the court order , and not come back? If we consider that the ‘law’ must grow in complexity along with the growth of our society’s complexities, then we need something beyond the court system of today for this kind of case.
Ponder that with me, Paul… How could a system be structured to deal with the exceptionally sensitive nature of a case like this?
Paul Z: The mother does not have the right to martyr her child is not a fair conclusion. The real question is who makes decisions for the child if the child is not competent to make the decision. What if the mother feeds her child french fries at every meal? or smokes in the home? or gets drunk every night? or engages in prostitution?
Kiffi: I like your expansive thinking on this topic. Beyond the question of where to draw the line on intervention is where to draw the line on using the government’s power once it has it. I’m not sure how much effort went into creating a cooperative decision-making environment. It certainly doesn’t appear that the court put any obligation on the County to be cooperative.
I’m not sure I follow the “if” part of the last sentence … seems to me a child is never competent to make its own decisions in matters like those at hand. This aside, I agree there are lots of live, hard, and vexed questions about who should decide things. Usually, of course, the child’s parents do and should make these decisions, perhaps but not necessarily in consultation with kids.
The hard cases arise when parents can’t or won’t make decisions sensibly or responsibly. The examples you cite —
would not, if I were czar, automatically bring Big Brother knocking on the door, except in the sense that such behaviors, especially the last two, might well be attended by others that might physically endanger the child or expose it to abuse.
Although very far from a libertarian, even I think that the bar to guv’mint interference in family matters should be quite high. Menu planning, for instance, is right out, until, perhaps, a kid shows up at school with scurvy.
So much said, the Hauser case clears — by a mile — any family privacy bar I’d set. Mom seems to have been, however well-meaning, sufficiently in thrall to a dubious, anti-scientific, theory to have left the child untreated by legitimate medicine. I would indeed call that collusion in martyrdom, had the worst happened.
Mildly off on a tangent …
A harder call in my book as regards family decision-making involves vaccination. Should families who object, for valid or invalid reasons, to vaccination be allowed to decline childhood vaccinations for their kids? (I’d say “sometimes”.) If so, should these kids be admitted to school? (I’d say “sometimes not”.)
See… “sometimes” and “sometimes not”: this is why I feel so conflicted about this issue. How much spiritual healing is OK? When it’s life threatening only does it become NOT OK?
When there is questioning of vaccinations, but the general medical practice is to say we must vaccinate to protect the entire population, why is it OK to object to that medical opinion? Those objecting to vaccinations are angry about the schools insisting…they feel their rights are infringed upon; those of us who generally believe in vaccinations feel our children might be endangered …
It is not simple; but it’s very hard to come up with a ‘fix’. We keep making more and more laws to cover more and more situations, and we behave as if punishment will cure all ills. Maybe some of the thought processes need to change to explore more effective methods of achieving better outcomes than just punishing, and feeling that the offending action has been wrapped up in a neat little package, tied with a neat little one-size-fits-all bow, and now that’s that!
Paul: Sometimes children are competent to make their own decisions. The law has an odd mixture. A child has to have consent of a parent to get a tattoo before the age of 18. Yet, in Minnesota, a child doesn’t have to notify, let alone get the consent of a parent to get an abortion. But she does have to get the consent of the government.
This “legislation by desired result” creates conflicting rules without any underlying principle except that government can do what it wants, when it wants, and how it wants.
The troubling aspect of this case is that the government is telling the mother that she must take affirmative action against her good faith judgment (and the child’s limited judgment) without clearly stating where the line is to be drawn.
Essentially, the judge’s ruling went like this: treatment is best for the child, Mom is not getting it for the child, Mom has not stated a constitutional reason why we can’t force her to make the child take treatment, the child isn’t competent because he doesn’t understand that we know what is best for him, therefore the government wins.
The court skipped over the whole issue of the parents’ and the child’s right to be left alone and to make what most people consider to be a very bad decision. What we are left with is an understanding that the Court can always be the final arbiter of parental decision-making. It hasn’t provided any guidance as to when it wouldn’t get involved.
I’d defer to your legal expertise on the technical quality of the judge’s ruling. But is it really necessary for a judge to offer guidance in every case as to when the court “wouldn’t get involved”? My dim understanding of the law suggests that by and large judges are not in the business of speculating on what the law should be, where guidelines fall, etc. Is there some special reason why this judge in this case should have felt compelled to “provide guidance” on these matters?
Do we really learn from this case that the Court is “always the final arbiter of parental decision-making”? I, for one, don’t take this lesson, because (as I keep saying) this particular matter just doesn’t strike me as a hard case. Hard cases may make bad law, but they can raise interesting questions.
So many good comments…
I think the judge drew A line in this case, but not THE line. I think he ruled on the parameters of THIS specific case, and didn’t have to make a general statement about the merits of ANY potential, future cases involving child welfare and parental rights.
David L., I will also defer to you technical mastery of legal matters, but, since I am a writer, I will resort to metaphor:
The judge is on the beach, looking out over the ocean, the waves lapping the shore, some larger ones sliding closer to him, some smaller ones barely wetting the sand. The judge doesn’t do anything about these waves. He doesn’t have to. They don’t reach him. Then, out of nowhere, a huge wave rises up and douses his robes to the waist. He takes action by walking away from the ocean, preventing the wave’s undertow from pulling him under as it recedes.
We don’t hear about the small or even the average waves. There doesn’t need to be commentary about those disturbances. They are absorbed without problem. But, every once in a while, special circumstances arise that call for action.
Forgive my perhaps overly-scenic rhetoric.
I’m bowing out of this one… somehow it feels really uncomfortable to be discussing these people’s lives as if they were just an anonymous case study…
None of us have any idea of the personal end of this, what happened with the kid and the initial chemo … did he cry and scream and hang on his mom begging her to not let ‘them’ do any more of that? Did she in possible medical ignorance, or disbelief, weigh the child’s emotion too heavily?
It just feels wrong to me to discuss this on a theoretical level, knowing only the ‘facts’ as garnered from various news sources. I am greatly disturbed by the thought of these people’s personal trauma, and possible futures.
Assuming the chemo works and assuming the mother and child would not have ultimately decided on the chemo anyway – the system worked only in the sense that a child riding their bike directly across a busy freeway and can say his system worked because he made it to the other side. One success is bad in that it just perpetuates stupid behavior. Empowered and intrusive government will chip away and every human freedom until we are living a stone age Stalinist society.
Kiffi’s reminder that we know little about the Hausers’ personal situation or family dynamics is well taken. Nor should we want to know more — now that the legal situation is resolved, as far as we know, it’s none of our business.
I still think the legal system worked acceptably in this case. This is not to say that everything is now swell for the family in question, or even that things might not somehow have played out better than they did.
But the public has a legitimate interest in assuring reasonable medical care for vulnerable children, and that outcome seems to have been achieved, or at least be in prospect — even granting that medical outcomes can’t be known for sure in advance.
David H, I’m not sure I follow your posting #72 — least of all the slippery-slope-to-Stalinism part. But I hope you don’t really regret this “success”.
Paul, the only “success” so far is the government’s “success” in forcing their will. This I deeply regret!!!! We cannot presume the outcome or even that the outcome will be different (good or bad). Yes, I think the intrusion into the American family and undermining human freedom is a 1000x worse than the ‘potential’ differences in outcome had society a method other than the police state to accomplish goals.
The fact that a government has the power to force certain treatments on you is indeed a dangerous undertaking.
Although in this case I am still stunned that a person with common sense would deny their child the only logical treatment.
In a way I am happy that he now gets the treatment he needs to ave a chance of survival. I judt don’t like how we got there.
Which brings up a good question. Should government force drug and alcohol addicts in to treatment just because they are addicts?
They do after all do harm to themselves and are on a path to death.
Brendon and Paul: I think what makes this case so interesting from a legal standpoint is the clarity of the facts.
The judge found, and everyone seems to agree, that there are the best of intentions all around. Secondly, the consequences of permitting parental freedom to reign are so drastic that our belief in parental freedom is being tested.
Brendon, your right about the judge drawing a line. I would call it more of a point. The other points on the line have yet to be determined. I would have preferred that the judge not start with the result desired, but have started with the principle of parental freedom and told us when he crossed over the line.
Instead, in your poetic metaphor, the judge got hit by this big wave, and has now posted a sign on the beach, “No swimming, big waves”.
Judges face an analogous situation in criminal cases. In Rice County a number of years ago, a man was accused of murder. The police had gathered evidence illegally. The judge threw the case out. It wasn’t a tough call, even though the (alleged) murderer went free.
Peter- I agree with your comment-
Even though this is all motivated by good intentions, in this case, the care of a minor, I am still uncomfortable with the precedent. We in this country have begun to rely on “experts” in various fields to the point of aquiesing our freedom of choice. It could probably be argued that youngsters do not have this same level of choice that adults enjoy, as Paul Z, aluded to, but the trend in education seems to be more toward the empowering of these youth to make their own life decisions. I would also agree with David L’s. observation that some decisions are sanctioned by our government, but some are not. I suppose this will always be the case in a culture that is in constant state of moral flux.
Peter M and John G:
Peter writes and John agrees:
The government is not “forcing certain treatments” on you. You are an adult and can make your own health decisions, good or bad. The government is acting to protect an innocent and incompetent child by “forcing” his parents to take reasonable steps to protect the child’s health. If this worries you, so be it, but please stick to the facts.
John G, you say you’re worried by the “precedent”, but I doubt very much there’s any precedent here, at least in the legal sense. (David L may know for sure.) Parents have been “forced” to take reasonable care of their kids for a long time.
Are “some decisions are sanctioned by our government, but some … not”, as John G says? Well, yes, but would you have it any other way? Should government sanction all decisions? None? Seems to me that the situation stems simply from life’s irreducible complexity. Not quite sure what “moral flux” is, but I’m not ready to blame it.
Paul Z: The situation is not particularly complex. In facts, it is rather a simple problem. It’s the answer that is difficult.
It is clash between the child’s right to life, and the mother’s decision that will almost certainly result in the child’s death. From the child’s perspective, it is the exact same problem the child has in pre-birth deaths (abortion) – should the government intervene on the child’s behalf?
Excellent point on the abortion question. Society has dodged this issue by simply declaring a fetus as “non life”.
PS. before you pro choicer’s get upset. I do support a womens right to an abortion, but don’t pretend that it isn’t a life.
Paul Z.- I can’t speak for Peter, but by “precedent”, I am refering to the steps taken by the courts, here. Unless these steps are challenged and proven unconstitutional, the decisions stand. These then can be used to support future actions. As more and more decisions are allowed, there becomes a legal foundation to support more infringement, unless we choose to “draw a line.”
In the case of the government forcing me into a particular treatment, that cannot be done because I presently have all my faculties. If someone, usually a relative, decided that, according to their interpretation of sanity, I did not have my faculties, they could, through legal caveate, have me placed under authority of the court. In this case, the government would be able to force me, an adult, to follow a court prescribed couse of treatment. I have seen this happen to perfectly sane people before. This is why I am cautious of the precedents set in this partuicular case.
As far as “moral flux,” our society does not follow a rigid moral code as, say, an Islamic Shiriah (sp?)based country does. It seems that in my lifetime, I have seen some things change. For instance, abortion has changed from an emergency medical procedure to an acceptable choice sanctioned by the courts. Perhaps “moral flux” is not the best term to describe this process, but it is what came to me. The resultant variations in what the government sanctions is just a fact of life.
John explains above what he means by “precedent” in the Hauser case. Thanks.
My question, though, is a bit different: In your (learned) opinion, does this case actually break new legal ground, and hence perhaps set some new precedent that would bind other courts in new ways? Are there genuinely new legal issues here? I’ve thought not, but perhaps I’m wrong.
Paul: No. This isn’t going to set any legal precedence. It’s impact is almost entirely social, i.e. it may change the way people think about these issues. Generally, only higher courts set precedence for the courts below them.
I think the decision has pointed out that the public generally agrees that the parents do not have absolute authority to govern their children’s welfare. How far that reaches or what legislatures may do to address this case remains to be seen.
David L.- Another aspect of this that is interesting to me is the doctor’s comment that this was the first time in 25 years that he has used the court system to try to get treatment to a patient. Perhaps the whole legal side has been driven by the medical profession rather than Human Services, which seems to be the normal path. This goes back to my comment about our trust in professionals’ opinions to direct our lives. It is a mixed bag. There are definitely scientific foundations for treatments. There are also holistic treatments that have been successful where medical science has fallen short. Just as our society has become comfortable with the use of abortion as a means of birth control, it seems there could be a gradual drift toward the use of certain “treatments” to control other social issues. We are not that far removed from the experiments with the Arian Nation. I’m not equating this particular incident with that, by any means, but I feel it is necessary to point out how apathy can sometimes lead to drastic results.
I’m not sure what you’re getting at in parts of #84.
Could you give an example to illustrate what you mean by “holistic treatments” and by “successful”?
Again, could you give an example of such “treatments” and the “social issues” they’d aim to “control”? Sorry, I just don’t get your point.
Re: # 84…. I said I was “out” but this deserves comment…
John: I don’t think “our society has become comfortable with the use of abortion as birth control” as you state.
I think the many and impassioned in-depth discussions about abortion FROM BOTH SIDES of the issue have proven that there is not a “comfort” level there… BUT…
What I think our society has become “comfortable” with is the recognition that this is a PERSONAL decision which you as an opposition-to-abortion- believer cannot be PERSONALLY comfortable with, and that’s OK … BUT… you can’t make PERSONAL decisions for others’ bodies.
I understand from your many comments on this issue that you don’t see the difference; you think YOUR RIGHTS are being impacted by another person’s decision making ability and the law’s support of that personal decision making…BUT what you don’t see is that your preferred criminalizing of abortion only suppresses others’ rights and makes YOU no free-er, and would only support your PERSONAL belief system, while inhibiting other persons beliefs AND rights.
Kiffi: One of the hard parts of the Danny Hauser decision is that we are all less free as result. None of any of our rights are directly affected. We just want to make sure that Danny’s right to life is protected.
What the judge did was protect Danny from the PERSONAL decisions of the mother (and, as Paul points out, the innocent and incompetent child). Nearly everyone agrees that the mother’s decision was likely to cause the child great harm, and probably death.
I find it highly relevant that this mother could have terminated Danny’s life while in utero without any government intervention. Now, when she is making a good faith, personal decision to do what she thinks will keep him alive, the government is permitted to intervene.
The argument that Danny was not a legal person while in utero begs the question of whether the government should intervene for pre-birth Dannys of the world. It is the government, not biology, that determines he isn’t a person in utero. Biologically, Danny had all the same DNA when he had no protection against his mother. The differentiation is entirely legal, not biological. It is an artificial distinction that needs review.
Paul Z, Chemo itself was at one time an alternative treatment. And Mpls Children’s went out of their way to say they offer acupuncture and many other modalities that were at one time considered unsound by the AMA.
I have had extensive experience with an ill child and I can without question state:
1) You can never discount the child and parent’s own perception of the treatment (I repeatedly told MDs that giving my son steroids wasted time and accomplished nothing – after years and much debate they labeled him “steroid resistant” and discontinued standard regimen)
1b) Parents have days, months, years of time with their children and Docs and social workers minutes. Parents, every single day, direct MDs to errors – esp. with very sick children. Adding the pressure of child neglect to the mix is inhumane and stupid.
2) If this chemo does not work out then you just watch the medical establishment blame the patient (bad attitude, didn’t act fast enough, etc.) as this is a favorite tactic of medical failure.
3) Medical statistics are very dubious. Within medicine: a surgeon will favor surgery, a pharmacist drugs, and a chiropractor spinal manipulation. Who is now going to make the choice of care, the parent, a doctor, or a judge? I can guarantee you; on the whole, the parent will weigh the options and make the best choice a higher percentage of the time. They have a much greater investment in the outcome.
Paul- I understand your struggle to understand what I am talking about. I have a tendency to be too verbose in some of my posts, so I sometimes loose my point in trying for brevity.
As far as “holistic”, I am using this term as an umbrella for any treatment that is viewed as outside the medical sciences. I have a personal friend that developed some kind of digestive disorder (it was never actually diagnosed, even after weeks ay Mayo & UM hospitals). After loosing wieght down to about 85 lbs., and with no medical help in sight, she began an organic nutritional regimen. The main supliment she took was dried barley juice. Within a week, her digestive system had returned to normal and she began gaining weight. She still takes the supliment, although in a lower quantity, and she is able to eat pretty much anything, although she adheres more closely to a vegan diet. It is hard to deny this success, although I personally would not counsel shunning normal medical science to treat those maladies that respond. When something does not respond to conventional medical treatment, then having an alternative that works at least provides for hope of recovery.
As far as my reference to “certain ‘treatments’ to control other social issues. ..”, one of my greatest concerns is how we are going to handle the aging baby boom generation (mine) as government resources become more scarce. My wife works in the geriatric care industry, and she has first hand knowledge of approaching trends. With the concern for global population levels and available food resources, I get a little concerned about discussions of how to care for the elderly from the standpoint of “quality of life.” If an individual does not seem to align with community standards of what this “quality” should be, then what is there to prevent euthanasia as an accepted course of “treatment?” Afterall, there are studies that show that 80% of a person’s lifetime medical expenses are incured in the last 20 or so years of their life. Why waste money on these people when they are going to die anyway? My wife knows of families that have considered this in light of the burden of care for an aging family member with failing health. Having a DNR designation in the case of a catastrophic medical event is a little different than just not wanting to continue a slow, natural process. These types of attitudes scare me. Right now, by law, the care givers cannot withold nutrition or hydration. What if these laws are modified to allow families to choose how long a comatose, yet otherwise physically healthy member can be sustained? See what I am talking about?
Kiffi- David L.’s post #88 best expresses my opinons. Take a look at it.
David L- Thank you for answering Kiffi’s questions. You perfectly expressed my opinons.
Major “cop-out”, John … but never mind.
Kiffi- Sorry you think that was a “cop-out”, but David did a better job of expressing the ideas than I could have. We just happen to agree, and I didn’t see the point in rewriting what he posted. I prefer to give credit to where credit is due. If you don’t agree with us, that is your prerrogative. It seems that you just have a problem with me in general, so I take your comments with a grain of salt.
In response to Kiffi’s number 71.
I heard the mother say that after chemo, her son was not good for anything at all, he just laid around and couldn’t do anything…something to that affect…which I assume she took to meant that the drugs were hurting him to the point where he was made totally or almost totally dysfunctional.
Bright, chemo is a poison and many people suffer during treatment. It’s used when doctors feel there are no other options. The delay in treatment probably means the boy has a much higher chance of dying, so critics will say the chemo didn’t work and docs will say the parents delayed too long. There may be no good resolution to this, I fear.
I take great comfort from the fact that doctor has only turned to the courts once in 25 years, despite dealing with a fatal illness on a regular basis.
I read the stories and see a doctor who had parents supporting treatment until it got unpleasant and then acting in a panic, not in a rational approach to the situation. I feel he was trying to avoid having the child die only because he and his parents were afraid of treatment. The boy ended up in pain without the treatment, but at least with treatment he has a chance to recover and live.
Do those who believe in the parents’ right to choose feel OK with a child spending two weeks in pain before dying at home of diabetes? What about the woman now in a wheelchair because here parents wouldn’t let doctors fix her hip dysplasia when she was an infant, or the girl who spent years in agony and isolation at home and now is crippled and disfigured after a horrific burn nearly destroyed her leg and her parents wouldn’t let her be treated?
There are others, from a hemophiliac boy allowed to die of a small cut on his foot to another who screamed as a bowel obstruction slowly killed him while neighbors could do nothing but shut their windows.
These are not cases of choosing a peaceful death but of inflicting pain that would be called torture if done in a military detention center.
It’s fine to blame government, but with only a handful of cases making it into the courts, it seems children will remain captive guinea pigs for their parents’ religious experiments.
Well, I am new here. I jumped on looking for something else and found myself here. Anyways, Kiffi, it looks like your perspective is that abortion is a personal decision for the woman and it is no one else’s business. I think that is true if what is in her body is just a clump of cells. I think the real question is “what exactly is in her body?” If it is a person, then our laws should protect that person. If it is a person even though it is in a woman’s body, no one should be allowed to harm that person.
Anne: Do you have a good place to draw the line? Your statement that children will be guinea pigs for their parents suggests that you think that someone or something other than the parent knows what is best for the child. Is that the government?
Well, David, it is not the “government” but it may ,or may not, be the court acting as an agent of SOCIETY, but NOT as an agent of government, if that difference can be parsed out.
Can it be differentiated?
OOps .. I said I was out of here a few days back; had to come back when the ever-present abortion- as-gov’t-controlling-our-lives issue got inserted again by John in #84; here it comes again in #94.
I think , on the day after a man has been murdered in his church , by a man who thinks he has the right to take life in a way expressly forbidden by law and society… we should all be a lot more careful about differentiations between LAW and BELIEF, and those whose belief systems encourage them to believe they have the right to murder.
Now just wait and see… those who cannot parse the difference between a sentient being and an embryo or even a foetus, will come howling with cries of injustice!
Maybe someday SCIENCE will prove them to be right, but for now … they do NOT have the law, or science, on their side.
And their arrogance, of enforcing their belief by murder, is nothing but a disruption of civil society.
Kiffi: That is not true. There is no such thing as an “agent of society”. The judge is acting as a decision maker deciding the rights of the child and the mother. The judge is a governmental official charged with ensuring that the County does not overstep the mother’s and the child’s right to be left alone.
Hence, in the question of pre-birth decisions, the government’s interest is ensuring that the child’s right (specifically the right to life) is protected.
Does the child have a right to life? Under Roe v. Wade, the answer is, “No.”. But, that only answers the legal question. If you were a fetus, would you want government protection, and would it be for your benefit? Yes, and yes. Would it matter to you that someone has said that you aren’t a sentient being? No. That is the same argument that the Supreme Court used in Dred Scott when it said that the black man has no rights which a white man has to honor.
The fetus is innocent and incompetent, even more so than Danny Hauser. Its chances at life are even better than Danny Hauser’s. It might be time for us, as a society, to rethink why we are so against intervention in the difficult and heart-wrenching decision of abortion, and yet so willing to intervene in this type of case.
From the child’s standpoint, the cases are indistinguishable. It is little consolation to the child that he was killed when he wasn’t a sentient being.
David, I don’t think there’s a line, just a big marsh that we as a society, as a community, have to slog through, one messy step at a time. As I said, I think the fact that the doctor has only resorted to legal help once in 25 years is a sign that the medical community has a high regard for the role of parents and works with them whenever possible. Most larger health systems have added alternative medicine services, palliative care, hospice care and other measures to accommodate those people who either aren’t candidates for or don’t want aggressive care. Most cancer centers have stories of working with families and with children themselves to determine when to give up the fight against a terminal disease.
Government is not some faceless “other” but a group of people from the community acting on the community’s behalf. I’ve covered a lot of government agencies, and I haven’t met any power-tripping idealogues bent on destroying parental authority. If anything most work tirelessly with a lot of really questionable parents to keep family units together. I guess the question is why some people are willing to say a mother should lose custody for leaving a 10-year-old home alone while she works (or sitting in a car for five minutes while she is using a restroom in a gas station), but willing to let a child die because the parents don’t believe in treating diabetes.
I can’t imagine an extended family, which is what a community should be, refusing to hold parents accountable for the best care possible for children when a disease doesn’t have to be terminal.
And again, in this case, there doesn’t seem to be a real, substantive belief in alternative care, just a fear of pain and a leap into some questionable groups.
Should the child die because his mother is practicing voodo or because a psychic told her he would be fine?
I don’t have answers, just way too many questions to put my trust in parents alone.
I promised myself I wouldn’t wade into an abortion discussion, which I knew this topic would transform into, but here’s my distinction between abortion and the Hauser case:
A fetus cannot (generally) survive outside of the mother’s womb before the 22nd week, before that time, I see the fetus as “of” the mother. It is not viable outside the mother. Therefore, I feel it is the mother’s decision – ideally, with the support of the father if he is involved – but, ultimately, the mother’s choice.
Abortions after that point are very, very rare, and should really only be done to protect the mother’s health – as I have read the murdered doctor in Wichita did.
Daniel Hauser’s case is also very, very rare. It doesn’t set precedent, and the circumstances governing the judge’s decision are quite particular to this case. He is viable outside his mother and father.
I think there has been far too much generalizing of this particular case as indicative of some larger scheme by shadowy government agents to strip parents of their rights. These laws have been on the books for a long time. They are not products of some neo-progressive, socialist power grab. I’m sure the judge would laugh if credited with undermining all parental rights simply by reading the law, listening to the facts, and making a decision applicable to this case – alone.
As Anne B. pointed out, and as any social worker can tell you, there are many, many more cases where parents are quite negligent – either unwittingly or willingly so – and don’t take proper measures to care for their children. When those cases end in the child’s death, the public cries out “Why wasn’t anything done!?” Pointing accusatory fingers at social workers, police and medical professionals who did not intervene.
So let’s imagine that happened in this case. The doc never called in social services, Daniel’s mom gets her way, and he dies in a couple months, undergoing excruciating pain, as the tumor in his chest slowly suffocates him. Does “society” stand up and say: “Hooray for parental rights!”
No, it doesn’t.
Eminently sensible, as always. I suspect that others will disagree.
Hopefully, they will only disagree with your 2nd paragraph – which is a difficult distinction, but the one that is ensconced in settled law.
The rest is spot on.
Brendon: I am not suggesting any shadowy government figures taking away parental rights. I am suggesting that well-meaning, and thoughtful people can exercise their powers wrongly, especially in situations where there is no clear rule. When gut instincts or consequences determine the rule, government always wins because they have the power.
We should be clear about one aspect of American jurisprudence – society does not have rights. Period. Only individuals have rights, or more accurately, liberties. Society has powers, which are always exercised in opposition to liberties.
To say that a pre-born child is “of” the mother is a biological fiction. Pre-born and post-born children are a combination of mother and father. The difference in legal standing of children is due a rather arbitrary biological distinction of when it is appropriate for the government to exercise its power, and when it is not.
I wasn’t referring to you in my “shadowy government” argument, more the general tone of other commentators in this thread.
The “of” the mother distinction is far from “a biological fiction”, as you put it. The fetus is simply not capable of survival, even with the best medical technology before 22 weeks gestation. It cannot be anywhere but in utero before that time. That’s a biological fact. Moral and legal reasoning applied to this doesn’t change the simple fact that a human fetus is not viable except as a part of the mother before 22 weeks.
And, to reiterate, very, very few abortions actually occur after that point. The recently-murdered doctor in Wichita only performed late-term abortions in accordance with Kansas law, meaning two doctors had to independently sign off that the mother’s health was endangered.
Godwin’s Law (look it up on Wikipedia) says that it seldom takes long in an e-discussion before Hitler/Nazis/WWII are mentioned. A similar Law seems to hold for abortion.
I’m not here to diss anybody for raising the A-subject in the present context. Both the A-subject and the Hauser case have to do with differing views of what’s private, what’s public, and when society (as represented by government) should step in to try to ameliorate real or perceived problems. Interesting questions!
So much said, IMO there’s no clear connection between the conclusions one draws in these two cases — it’s perfectly possible to be “pro-life” on the A-topic (i.e., government should intervene) and laissez faire (government should stay out) on the Hauser matter. Or vice versa. Indeed, I suspect (but don’t really know) that most of us in this discussion hold either this view or its opposite.
Curious — but not really surprising when you think about it. There’s nothing fundamentally inconsistent about believing that government should intervene in some cases and not in others.
Becky H.- Welcome to the blog. It is good to hear from you. Hopefully, you will have more comments as we go along.
Kiffi- You accused me of inserting the A-bomb in my post #84. If you look a few posts before, you will see where David L. inserted it in #79. It really doesn’t matter who brought it up, though. There are parallels in the philosophies, and I think it is an appropriate subject for review.
Brendon- Your analogy of the fetus not being able to survive outside the mother’s womb demonstrates a basic philosophy that I perceive in the discussion about whom should be protected from whom. In Daniel’s case, it seems evident that he would indeed die at a young age without medical intervention. In this case, the mother chose to withold that treatment, thus endangering his life. The courts stepped in to save his life, and I believe rightfully so. David L’s. and my agrument is that the courts can intervene in this case against the mother’s wishes. In the case of abortion, we have the same human that cannot live without a certain treatment, in this case, natural gestation in the womb. The mother is able to terminate this life without the court intervening, even if the father of this child does not want to terminate the pregnancy. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem logical.
Not the “same” human in the case of Daniel Hauser and a fetus. The fetus is dependent on the body that houses it and it is not a human–yet. When society can incubate the fetus artificially, it may then decide to remove the fetus from the mother–and even then there is the real problem–forcing a medical procedure on a fully formed, emancipated female (to either remove the fetus or force the mother to carry to term.)
All of this discussion about the fetus’ rights ignores or suborns the mother’s rights. I believe the abortion comes down to the same issue–females are not given the same rights or viewed as equal in our society. As long as they are relegated to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th class humans, we will continue to argue these issues. When women finally experience full equality, than there will be no more discussions of forcing them to incubate a FUTURE human being.
Anti-abortionists continually ignore the real problem–that a fully formed human (the mother) which should have certain rights, holds the health and welfare of the fetus in her body, and forcing a woman to carry a fetus to full term is akin to slavery.
I am continually insulted by the analogy that a 13 year old child is the same as a fetus. Surely you all have better cognitive abilities and can employ them in understanding that this issue is not simple. Ignoring the complexities renders your (David L and John G) arguments moot. Instead you continually repeat, ad nauseum, that the principles are the same when discussing a 13 year old child and a 13 week fetus.
Frankly, ignoring the facts–that it takes a uterus to bear a baby–is about aa misogynistic as you can get.
What if a woman is pregnant and finds out that she has a fast growing cancer tumor–if she does not treat the cancer she will die, and it is likely her baby will die with her? If she takes chemotherapy she will certainly terminate the pregnancy–(this is a factual case, not some story.)
What if the woman is raped and becomes pregnant? Due to her type I diabetes, she is likely to have a difficult pregnancy that is certain to overburden her kidneys and will probably do permanent damage.
What if she is poor, with 5 kids under the age of 7, and she just slips up on birth control and gets pregnant again. She cannot afford and does not want another child, and the physical burden of her pregnancy only 10 months after delivering her last baby is wearing her body out and making it difficult to care for her other children?
Without acknowledging the complexities of the abortion issue, we cannot really have a discussion.
Abortion is a difficult and complex issue because of the requirement, as human beings, to acknowledge a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. Roe v. Wade, in a sloppy kind of way, tried to balance society’s interest in the FUTURE citizen with the rights of the CURRENT citizen. I think they are wrong to say that society can place legal restrictions on a woman’s rights at any point–even at 22, 24 or 26 (or 35 or 39) weeks. I think that if a woman wants to terminate a pregnancy after what the court is claiming as viability, they should remove the fetus when the woman says so and place it in an incubator and valiantly try to keep it alive so that all the anti abortionists can adopt these babies.
Pregnancy has its own risks–as a society we should not be telling a woman when she must or must not be pregnant.
How about we just do forced vasectomy’s after any man has caused 2 pregnancies. This will reduce unwanted pregnancies, reduce the likelihood of abortions, and the side affects of vasectomies are less traumatic than the side affects of pregnancy. Let’s argue about that idea for awhile.
Brendon: Legally, your analysis is fairly close to what the Supreme Court said in Roe v. Wade. That same analysis generally favors the “pro-choice” advocates in this case. (Technically, pro-choice is a misnomer given that the abortion question is not really about the woman’s right to abort; but about the government’s power to intervene.)
While the “viability” standard seems to establish a basic threshold for intervention, that standard is not consistent throughout the law. For example, in Minnesota it is a crime for anyone, except the mother, to kill an unborn fetus.
Further, while the fact that Danny Hauser is viable gives him some rights under the law, it doesn’t automatically follow that the government has the power to intervene, especially when the mother’s preference is clearly for his continued life.
Perhaps the best that we can do for the time being is to acknowledge that the judge made the morally right decision in the Hauser case, even if the reasoning was flawed because it proceeded from the premise that the government can always intervene on behalf of a child unless the parents can affirmatively demonstrate otherwise.
At the same time, we can use the occasion to reflect upon where the line should be drawn. And, we can use the occasion to admit that pro-life advocates are not crazies trying to force their will upon others. Rather, the vast majority of pro-lifers want to protect the child. Pro-lifers accept the biological reality that human life starts at the meeting of the sperm and egg, not at some unknown point in time announced by 9 men in black robes 36 years ago. Most pro-lifers simply want stand in the place of the fetus and protect it from the certain fate of death, and give it the same chance of life that Danny Hauser has now been given.
The logic of the Hauser case is more likely to lead to forced abortion when a doctor and judge decide its neglect for a 13 yo to have a baby even if she and her parents believe it is the right choice.
I find this hard to untangle, but let’s focus just on the last phrase. I don’t recall anyone questioning Mom’s “preference” that her child survive. The legal question, I’d have thought, is about Mom’s behavior — whether she doing what’s needed to care reasonably for a child.
I don’t get this.
If we “acknowledge”, as you ask, are we accepting the whole schmear, or just that the judge made the right decision in the Hauser case? But is it equally clear that the reasoning was “flawed”? Or that it proceeded from the “premise” you mention? Come to that, what exactly is the premise you allude to? What does it mean for parents to “affirmatively demonstrate otherwise”?
On Nfld News, a (presumably pseudonymous) Dr. Thomas Stockmann referred to a case that I had mercifully forgotten about…
From the Wausau Daily Herald:
Paul: Some good points. Clearly, the “right” decision is for the child to live. But, courts are not charged with making the right decision; they are charged with making the fair decision.
The general rule is that parents can act on behalf of their children. When the government can or should intervene on behalf of the child has no clear religious, philosophical, nor legal line.
In my opinion, the judge could have laid out the factors that justify intervention. He didn’t do that. Rather, he found that the chances of survival were much greater if intervention occurred. He then asked whether the mother had raised a valid religious objection.
So, we don’t know if the mother’s good faith beliefs are relevant, if harm of a lesser gravity would still justify an intrusion, if there is a difference between mother’s action or inaction, or even if there remains anything that could be called “parental rights”.
One of the real dangers of these types of cases is that the moral and the legal become intertwined and confused, as has happened in the case of government non-intervention in the pre-birth debate.
Government non-intervention in pre-birth decisions may be the correct legal decision although it is hard to see how this can be true when there is no moral ambiguity. Danny Hauser’s right to life takes moral precedence over his mother’s decision that would take it away whether he is in utero, an incompetent child, or an adult. His right to live does not arise from a government proclamation; it arises from its mere existence whether the government so recognizes it or not.
I don’t follow your distinction between “right” and “fair”. Seems to me — and, given your earlier postings, I’d have thought you’d agree — that courts’ main charge is to make correct legal decisions (i.e., ones that conform to existing law), rather than to make decisions that are “fair” in some subjective or ideal-world sense. (One hopes, of course, that “right” decisions are usually also “fair”.) What am I missing?
You’ve said so repeatedly. But I still don’t see why the Hauser case judge should have done so in such a cut-and-dried case, any more than a judge in a parking offense case should feel compelled to muse about the role of parking law in advanced industrial societies.
Does the Hauser decision legally imply, or even informally suggest, that all parental rights are now forfeit? Seems a stretch … I’d worry more if a judge had ordered a parent to, say, use a particular brand of toothpaste.
Jane- All your “exceptions” you enumerate in your post #106 were never illegal before Roe. v. Wade. They were always a justification for this procedure if it was decided upon between a doctor and a woman. Roe. v. Wade moved the decision out of the medical treatment catagory and made it a “right.” That is why the ruling was named “abortion on demand.” There were many back-alley, septic abortions performed leading up to, and used to justify, that decision. Many medical doctors did not feel compelled to perform abortions just for the convenience of the woman involved when there were no extenuating medical conditions to warrant it. I see this as a result of the promiscuity and unprotected sexual laisons that resulted from the rebellion of the “60’s. You can interpret this however you like, but I lived through that period, so I think I have just a little perspective on it. As far as your reference to “forced” vasectomies, you open up a subject that I consider is the actual problem we are facing. See my comment below to Kiffi.
Kiffi- You acused me of wanting to criminalize this procedure in one of your earlier posts, but you are mistaken in your analysis. What I am asking is that the issue be removed from the jurisdiction of the courts and returned to the medical practitioners to decide between themselves and their patient. Your assertion that all the 6000+ abortions performed each day, approx 2.2 million per year, all have the same level of merit. I contend that they do not, and many are performed, not for medical reasons, but for the convenience of the mother involved. Abortion is not the problem we face. It is simply a symptom of the problem. I believe part of the problem lies in the disintigration of the moral fabric of our society. We pressure young people to dress and act way beyond their years without giving them time (the chance or the training) to grow up to handle the emotional and physical consequences of it all. Conception is a natural result of unprotected sex. The old idea of “free sex”, sex without consequences, out of the 70’s has, I think, been disproven. It is very costly, and there are consequences.
I don’t want to get drawn into discussion on the substance of the A-topic.
But here’s a purely informational question, sparked by your reply to Kiffi in #113. You say:
Here’s my question: What do you mean by “remov[al] from the jurisdiction of the courts”? Do you indeed want “the courts” just to keep out of abortion decisions, and permit “medical practitioners [and] their patient[s]” to make these choices among themselves?
Paul Z.- Yes.
John : You are simply not in command of the facts: I did NOT assert that all abortions have the same merit.
I have no idea which comment you’re going back to, but I did assert , not in these words, but in essence, that it is none of YOUR business to control the choices a woman makes concerning her body.
There are many words to describe those who would seek to control the physicality of other persons bodies, or indeed any part of their mind or state of being… they aren’t ‘pretty’.
Not only is it presumptuous in the max to think you might have the right, through exercising your belief system on others, to do so … it is beyond the law.
If you think that women in general, have abortions because it is “convenient”… you have absolutely NO understanding that I can relate to of the awe and responsibility that comes with being pregnant.
I find it hard to believe that you, a person who calls himself a “Christian”, and denies that to those who do not believe exactly as you do, can be so supremely arrogant as to believe that a choice beyond your experiential comprehension is yours to personally make.
I wish you well; I am fervently, thankfully, even prayerfully, pleased that you do not control the law.
Thanks for your admirably succinct reply in #115.
I think we agree that, whatever else might be said on the A-topic, the matter is private, not governmental.
Paul: One could conclude, based upon the judge’s decision, that the only meaningful factor in the decision-making process is the gravity of harm to the child. Although the judge conducted an analysis of the religious beliefs of the mother, his conclusion was that the mother was well-intentioned. That leads me to conclude that the sincerity of her religious beliefs is irrelevant.
Although you claim this is a clear-cut case, I don’t know upon what you base that conclusion. In this case, I think the only factor that could change to make the mother’s (and the child’s) legal chances better is better odds for survival.
Regarding the child’s pre-birth rights, Brendon, I think that you have given the most honest pro-choice answer. I would paraphrase it as such – a pre-birth child does not have any rights because it cannot live outside of the mother’s womb until at least 22 (26 according to Roe v. Wade) weeks.
The Hauser case should give us pause to wonder if perhaps our shift away from the mother’s rights to determinate the child’s fate should include a child’s pre-birth fate. The government is protecting Danny Hauser until he is 18, and can make his own decisions. Perhaps it should consider protecting the Danny Hausers of this world until they are old enough to be viable. It is certainly an admirable goal consistent with protection of human life.
Paul Z.- You and I agree on that point.
Kiffi- No, you did not say that all abortions have the same nerit. That is my terminology to describe how I interpret what you posted in #87. You touched on the “impassioned debate”, and what I hear of this debate is how limiting abortion rights will infringe on all the life dramas that Jane mentioned in her post. I don’t believe the facts are there to support this conclusion. You also stated
According to the last statistics I could find, about 3 yrs. old, 1% of abortions are performed in the instance of rape; 1% are performed because of fetal abnormalities; and 3% are perfomed because of medical difficulties of the mother. Those are all verifiable medical reasons. This leaves 95% hanging out there for reasons other than health. That is why I stated that I think our country has become comfortable with the use of abortion as a means of birth control. And that is why I say that all abortions do not have equal merit.
Kiffi- One more thing. Your comment
seems to infer that I have no right to speak up about it. I disagree on that point. This is evidence of a social ill, and since I am part of the society, I think I have every right to speak up on it. I personally cannot control any choices any person can make about themselves, other than myself. But I can point out where I believe we as a society are poking our heads in the sand. I think David L’s. comment in his post #118 is applicable here
These unborn humans have no voice. I think it is very appropriate that someone speaks up for them. Why could it not be the courts, as is the case with Daniel Hauser? I appreciate a comment Peter made in one of his posts (and if I go back to copy it, I will lose everthing I’ve started here) in that we need to be honest about what abortion does- it extenguishes a human life (emphasis mine). This “embryo”, or however you want to desensitize it, is not destined to be a cat or a dog. It is destined to be a human. We need to take responsibility for the behaviors that create this person before he/she is created, not after.
You are absolutely correct. Abortion is mostly use as another form of birth control.
It is another way of giving those “a last chance” who are acting irresponsible.
We don’t live in the middle ages anymore where it was taboo to speak about birth control.
Anyone that cares to can pick up birth control without any hassles.
The legal argument of when live begins is a self comforting excuse from having to face facts.
As any parent, who has ever seen an ultrasound, knows this fetus is not dead.
I have seen all three ultrasounds of my children and they looked very much like human beings to me.
Giving a free uncontrolled access to abortions has evolved in to the last procedure of convinience and irresponsibility.
Most people are responsible, but there is a good part that isn’t, and we told them not to worry…there is always abortion.
John, I don’t grasp what the religious right actually wants from the legal system? How would you like laws structured regarding sex, marriage and abortion? I am not trying to be coy but I really only know what they are against but not the vision of how they want laws structured (ie. jail for abortionists, jail for women who have had abortions, dress codes, laws against sex acts)?
I tend to agree the courts should not make laws. But I wonder what laws you would want to see enforced?
David H.- I can’t possibly speak for the whole of the “religious right”, if there is in fact such an organization or segment of society. I can only express my opinion. I would prefer, regarding abortion, that the status of abortion as a “right”, defined by the courts and laws, be returned to the the status of a medical procedure, and thus allow the doctor and patient to determine a direction of treatment in the privacy of the doctor’s office. Also, I would prefer that our laws could be written in such a way that the courts could make a decision to protect the unborn, if so petitioned. Right now, the mother has the final say. This would be ok if our society did not have a greater focus on leisure and self fulfillment than it did on the value of life. It does not, and I’m not sure these characteristics can be changed by legislation.
That is still quite a large logical leap from “95% hanging out there for reasons other than health” to “our society has become comfortable with the use of abortion as birth control.”
Just off the top of my head, the large category of ‘birth control failure’ is there, as is ‘fear of ostracization’ for the social stigma still attached (yes, it is still there) to unwed/teenage pregnancy.
Inasmuch as anyone would like to avoid/reduce the number of abortions, there are really only two paths available:
1) reduce the number of pregnancies, and
2) increase the number of pregnancies that are carried to term.
As long as the law remains unchanged, the only effective way to achieve #2 is with a carrot, not a stick. On way to achieve #2 is to reduce the stigma associated with ‘unintended’ pregnancy. Another would be to support pregnant mothers in carrying their children to term. A third would be to make adoption a much more easy/feasible process.
As President Obama has so rightly pointed out, people who want to reduce abortions should work together to improve easy access to adoption – both for birth parents, as well as adoptive parents.
Felicity and I are very happy to be in the process of adopting a not-yet-born baby girl from Florida. I can tell you that it has not been an easy process. The paperwork was, and continues to be, quite astounding. More importantly, even with our relatively affluent income, it has taken us quite some time, as well as deferring home ownership and savings for retirement, in order to accumulate the $30,000 to pay for this adoption.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it can, in fact, take a rocket scientist’s salary to pay for an adoption under the current system.
That’s why I’m particularly glad to see that President Obama is willing to cross traditional political battle lines to work towards solutions on this subject:
[SORRY: 2 DIFFERENT LINKS NOT MAKING IT PAST THE FILTER]
If anyone would like to reduce abortions in this country, I’d say: get on board!
John re:#121… you just can’t continue to be credible if you turn around and accuse me of implying something from what you state unequivocally, and then you state something as fact, and challenge me if I challenge your ‘fact’.
I never said you had no right to voice an opinion: I said your opinion does not make something a fact.
Regard this statement of yours in #121: “This is evidence of a social ill,…”
I assume the “this” you are speaking of is abortion, although there is no grammatically constructed antecedent.
OK … abortion is only , in itself, “evidence of a social ill” in your OPINION.
For many others, abortion is a medical option allowable by a society that offers rights over her body to a woman.
Your thinking, in my opinion, is neither clear nor logical, as it has changing perspectives and a lack of linear structure which is required for this type of positioning discussion.
I’m sorry, I do not mean to be intentionally rude, but you can’t have things ‘both ways’, just based on your personal opinion.
The case seems clear-cut to me for reasons you articulated in another posting:
I just can’t see that as a close call.
I certainly don’t assert that every issue connected to or suggested by the Hauser case is simple or clear-cut.
The general question of how and where parental rights and family privacy properly balance against the larger society’s interests is by no means simple.
Paul: Perhaps we could clarify. This case is about the mother and child’s right to determine the child’s future balanced against the child’s right to life.
The larger society has no rights. You and I have no interest in the outcome of this particular case. Our only interest is ensuring that the rule which is developed does not unduly interfere with whatever our future interests are.
Ok I am on board. Let’s keep abortion legal and available for rape victims, when the childs (or mothers) life is in danger or in cases of incest.
For any other reasons keep the baby and if you don’t want it put it up for adoption.
Once a child is adopted the birth mother and child forfeits any biological rights, meaning the files are sealed or destroyed.
Allow inter racial adoptions. Make the process of adoptions easier and cheaper.
I’m proposing options and opportunities, not restrictions. That is, I’m in favor of reducing abortions through the ‘carrot’ method, not the stick. As such, I would not favor some of the rules that you suggest.
I’m most definitely NOT in favor of requiring a return to traditional/closed adoptions. They’re fine for those who choose them, but open and semi-open adoptions are also potentially excellent options. Again, options, not restrictions are what I’m seeking.
I am however happy to report that interracial adoptions are already allowed. (Heck, any baby that Felicity and I adopt will necessarily be part of an interracial adoption.) But I do agree that the process could be, in particular, made much cheaper. I’m not begrudging the money that we have spent, but it was quite a hurdle, and we could’ve adopted a year or even years earlier if money hadn’t been such an issue. Again, I’m sure money is even more of an issue for many other willing and capable parents.
Pat- I’m not sure i’m following your evaluation of my comment in this statement
It would appear to me that those statistics would support my evaluation, and I am not aware of large protests to the contrary. There is a fairly large contingency out of the Catholic church that has consistently stood against abortion on demand pretty much from its inception. I admire their tenacity, but it seems they are in the minority. Perhaps it is just because I frequent this blog, it seems there is a general trend to accept it as the staus quo.
I am with you 100% on making the process for adoption easier. My wife’s neice has been through this about 6 times, just to be disheartened at the last minute, and has been able to only adopt 2 children. If there was as much effort put into screening those people who engage in unprotected sex as there is in screening those people who really want to adopt these offspring, I think we would be at an entirely different point.
Kiffi- Your comment
just doesn’t come across to me that way. Perhaps I am misinterpreting what you say, but when you accuse me of trying to impose my beliefs on someone when I am clearly stating something as my opinion, I interpret that to mean that you don’t like my opinion and prefer that I would not post it. It is my understanding this is not a news site here where facts are disseminated. This is a community dicussion forum where people can supposedly express their opinions and perspectives. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me and I don’t expect to agree with everyone else. I’m not trying to be a reporter for some news organization. As far as my abilitiy to use the English language, I’m sure you can shoot that full of holes all day. I claim that English was the only foreign language I took in school.
Patrick- Here is an idea that I would back as a use for my tax money. How about subsidising those couples that really want to adopt but do not have the means? I think there are many very able couples out there who could be fantastic parents for these children, but they do not have the resources to do so. I think that could be a better use of our money than bailing out AIG and GM.
Patrick: Perhaps one way to have less abortions is for the State to take a more active role, like the State did in the Hauser case.
For example, if a mother becomes pregnant, the State could intervene on the child’s behalf to be certain that the mother is not feeling pressured by circumstance or finances to have an abortion. The State could offer to pay all medical expenses, and find a suitable adoptive home, so that all the mother has to be concerned about is the pregnancy itself.
John: here is another of your IMO irrational ‘leaps of NON-logic’: “… I interpret that to mean that you don’t like my opinion, and prefer I would not post it.” (#131)
I would never say you should not post your opinion, and did NOT say that.
If you continually state/interpret opinion as fact, and also say that differing opinions are either ‘controlling’ you, or ‘controlling’ your life, or inhibiting your personal process or life, it makes it very difficult to deal with the core issue of content.
the only way to have less abortions is to have less unwanted pregnancies. which means better and more available birth control.
you can keep fighting now, but that is the only solution.
Athony- Amen to that!
Kiffi- Thanks for the input. I will take a closer look at my verbage before I hit the submit box. I don’t remember saying that various decisions around this subject “controled” me, but perhaps I did. I think I did say something like these things negatively “affect” me or could in the future. One thing I have perceived in your posts is that you think my positions would negatively affect society. Am I perceiving this correctly?
David L: I think you are correct that if the state (government) would provide financial support for pregnancy and early childhood, there would be way fewer abortions. I think that many practical women realize that a pregnancy and child will push them over the line into poverty, and they would be hard put to provide for a child for 18 years. Also, a pregnancy may not be life-threatening for a woman, but it can cause permanant physical damage. Women are aware of this, and fear the burden of caring for themselves AND a child in a responsible way. If there were a financial safety-net, they may be more comfortable risking a continued pregnancy.
However, our society has long-branded “welfare moms” as foes of the state, labeling them as sluts and worse. I do not think in our current economic climate you would find much support for a stronger welfare system for pregnant women. In addition, we are told in Minnesota that we cannot afford early-childhood education or health insurance for uninsured children and their parents.
Amen to the idea that medical procedures, including abortion, should be private decisions between a woman, her family should she wish to include them, and her doctor.
You suggest (italics added):
I’m all in favor of “the State” doing what it can to promote healthy children, and to support prospective mothers who want and need such support through pregnancy. So I’d probably support a policy something like this, particularly if it were part of a broader program of support for moms and “post-born” kids.
But the italicized phrase ( intervene on the child’s behalf ) bothers me. First, the verb “intervene” has a Big Brother-ish ring, as though pregnant women, as a class, require “intervention” from on high to do the right thing. Second, the idea that the “intervention” should be on the child’s behalf seems to me to presuppose that the fetus is, more or less from the moment of conception, a “child” in the same sense as, say, a 13-year old.
I understand that this question is at the heart of a lot of the A-debate, and I don’t want to argue its substance here. But — unless I over-interpret your words, which is possible — let’s acknowledge this presupposition.
Paul: The State intervened in the Hauser case. It did so to protect the child, and his life. When the State substitutes its judgment for the mother’s judgment, then we have Big Brother.
You are right about the claim of “child”. A 13 year old is not a child in the same sense as a fetus is a child. But, Danny Hauser is still a human being in the same sense that he was when he was in utero.
At the heart of the abortion debate is the issue of human rights, specifically the rights of a unborn human. As a legal issue, the line was drawn in Roe v. Wade.
But, as a moral issue, the case isn’t even close. A human is formed when the sperm and egg meet. To suggest otherwise is to engage in moral creationism. The child’s right to life doesn’t fall from the sky, given by the mother, or by the government. Its right to life exists by reason of its existence. Period. The fact that the legal system has chosen viability as the time to allow government intervention is of no consequence. Rights to life don’t come from the government; the right to life is inalienable.
I agree. Such “intervention” is appropriate, IMO, in the (very) unusual case that a mother, whatever her mix of motives, refuses to take reasonable care for a child’s survival.
That’s not Big Brother-ism in the blameworthy sense in which I’d use the phrase. If your definition includes every intrusion of government into private life, then so be it. Do you mean something negative by the BB phrase?
In a general way I agree with your summary of what the A-debate is about, though not necessarily with your assumptions or your conclusions. But, just to be clear, what do you mean by “moral creationism”? I’ve no idea.
Paul: I was using term “moral creationism” to describe the process of creating the morality (the right to life) out of nothing (creationism). Our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are revealed, not created, by the Constitution.
I have no (logical)problem with the argument that acknowledges the humanity of a fetus, and claims that a government should not interfere with the termination of that humanity. But, it strikes me as disingenuous, and scientifically incorrect, to suggest that humanity is created at the moment of viability.
That a fertilized egg is human is a scientific certainty; it is more certain than evolution. Moral creationists want people to believe that humanity suddenly appears (out of nothing) at the moment of viability, just as creationists would have us believe that creation suddenly appeared out of nothing. Neither of the creationist theories are credible.
David L. wrote:
I would maintain that a fetus is both human and not viable. My support for abortion rights has never been based on denial of the fetus being human. With just as much scientific certainty, even as medical technology continues to improve, humans can’t survive in any other environment except their mother’s uterus before 22 weeks gestation. We can say, with absolute certainty, that such a fetus is not viable and wholly of the mother until that point.
No one else can care for it in any manner. To try to force women to do so seems to me to be a civil liberty issue, akin to a sort of biological imprisonment or slavery.
Is this a way to award teenager for being irresponsible?
Why should our hard earned money go to support irresponsible behavior?
When do we start to hold people accountable for their actions?
I don’t believe that single motherhood should be something we should support or glorify. It should always be the exception to the rule.
I have all the respect in the world for single parents, but some people’s romatic notion doesn’t match reality.
Brendon- Your comment
is the basis for the moral debate on abortion. Your use of “survive” implies that during the 22 weeks, there is something definitely alive that will cease to be alive if removed form its environment. If we are dealing with a living organism, why does that organism not have the same rights as the organism providing the environment? It seems to me, and I think David L., that this is the point that science ceases to provide sufficient amoral information to make an objective decision. The courts have stepped in to make a decision based upon a subjective evaluation of importance of a human but not based upon scientific data. The subject of viability at 22 weeks does not mean that the fetus can survive on its own. It must still have pretty concentrated care. I have a hard time differentiating between the two as to which one has a right to be protected and which one does not, as this approach seems to put a lesser value on the nonviable infant.
I think I’ve already addressed each of the points you raise in comment #144. I know that survival out of the uterus is very unlikely even at 22 weeks; pretty dicey in the immediate three or four weeks after that. My point is only that it is possible after that time. Before that point, the fetus is essentially a part of the mother’s body that cannot function, or be made to function by existing medical means, outside of her body. Therefore, I believe the courts, contrary to your thinking on this, made a decision based on the medical and scientific distinction of viability and the mother’s right to privacy.
My opinion, again: The fetus is obviously human. But, as a non-viable human, wholly dependent on living in utero, of being only inasmuch as it is being “of” the mother, it should not be granted the same legal standing as a viable human.
Jane and Paul Z why is it that getting pregnant pushes a woman into poverty? Has this always been the case? Or is the problem increased by the tax burden put on her, her family and the father to support a socialist state? And why would the government have to offer “assistance” and not just “money?” This is why our society does not work because every problem becomes a reason to employ a bunch of government workers (overhead for everyone else) – and their altruistic goals are never realized or realized at an overwhelming cost. “Assistance” costs way more than just handing out some money and is vastly less effective – why can’t liberals understand this?
Brendon #142: Your summary is an excellent and honest analysis. In both the Hauser case and abortion, the issue is not so much about the right thing to do, it is more about the government interfering with civil liberties.
I think a solid argument can be made that even though the mother’s civil liberties are being violated, and even though the child cannot live without the mother, that her liberty interests can be overridden by the child’s interests, although not yet viable. Just being human should give it some interest, even if such interest is insufficient to override the mother’s interest.
Not only does the non-viable human has an interest in attaining viability, the father may have an interest in seeing the child reach viability, and if the Hauser case is good law, the State has an interest in making sure that the mother’s choice is well-informed, and not the product of misguided thought.
Aside from the dictionary definition , which is based on being a ‘homo sapiens’…
what defines a “human”?
Brain size/ratio to total body mass?
Compassion/’humanistic’ feelings ?
The ability to speak?
The ability to communicate as opposed to ‘speak’?
the list could go on… I think you’ll get the idea.
Brendon- Yes, this is where you and I would disagree about how to place value on a life. Both sides of the agument seem to have some validity, so it seems to me that there is some subjectivity in how a person decides on when to place value on a life. I’m just saying that in my opinion, those who cannot protect themselves have a greater need for protection under the law than those who can protect themselves.
I just want to say, that if our national leaders or even our political pundits could discuss abortion this respectfully, it would greatly de-escalate the issue.
We’ll probably never “agree” about abortion – whatever that might mean – but it feels infinitely better to be understood than either ignored or demonized. I hope, were the operative legal ruling not on my side as Roe v. Wade is, that I would be as understanding.
Entering a discussion on abortion, or the death penalty, or any similarly charged topic often feels like stepping into a burning building. Chaotic. Dangerous. Brutishly aggressive fire eating up anything. So, thank you to both David L. and John G. for your considerable tact, honesty and empathy which keeps this tiny corner of the building free of flames.
Brendon- Thanks for the kind words. I always appreciate your opinions. They are well researched, well written and laced with your sense of huumor. Keep up the good work.
Brendon: You are welcome, and thank you for keeping the discussion respectful.
And your Logrono moderator definitely appreciates the civil tone here and elsewhere. Thanks for drawing attention to it, Brendon.
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