Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XXXIX: The Controlling Cancer Edition

I sat down to write this article with ire.  As is common with parents like me, I don't want my doctor or my government dictating to me how I must medically treat my child.  I am the mother.  God entrusted my children to my care.  The doctors work for me, not the other way around.

Allow me to explain what fueled my mood.  When this breaking news bulletin first alerted my phone, I was furious:  "Conneticut top court rejects teen's plea to end cancer treatment."  My mind instantly shot back to a different outcome where the government intervened in a child's medical situation we wrote about in April of 2014, that of Justina Pelletier.  In that case, a teenager with mitochondrial disease who was taken to an emergency room other than where she was typically treated.  At the recommendation of that hospital, Justina was taken away from her parents for 9 months by the state, despite a confirmed diagnosis and letters from her regular medical team.  As this case was fought in the courts, the girl's condition worsened under state custody.  The father's violation of the gag order on the case finally brought national attention, and ultimately, her return home.

Are you SERIOUS?!

When I learned that the child involved in this Connecticut case was 17, I was concerned that a child so close to legal adulthood would be forced to undergo treatment against her will.  What other treatment had been used?  Was there a religious component to this case?  If she could be forced into chemotherapy, I ruminated, how soon could we parents raising kids with a chronic illness or disability be forced into certain therapy or treatments for our children at the order of our government?  It makes my blood run cold to think of doctors or government getting between my child and I, acting as if they know better than I how best to care for my family.  While I don't discount the input and wisdom of doctors, I have more than one whom I have had to "fire" for inappropriate care over the years.

Nevertheless, when I began doing my research for this article, I found my concerns challenged.  Coming across an interview of attorney, Peter Johnson, Jr, a seasoned legal expert esteemed by leaders on both sides of the political aisle, I was interested by what I learned.  Mr. Johnson revealed in his discussion of this issue that he too had faced a similar cancer in his teen years.  He further stated that with chemotherapy, the type of cancer the teenage girl in this story faces has an 80% rate of cure.  Evidently, this girl's mother has a deep mistrust of the medical profession that she has transferred to her daughter.  Johnson did agree that if this were a case of religious liberty, such as a Christian Scientist or Jehovah's Witness denying treatment, this would be a completely different case.

Now, hear me when I say that I have no trouble pushing back against medical opinions with which I disagree.  I also have no trouble with changing doctors if I am displeased with the way the doctor is treating  (or mistreating) my child.  However, I find it much more fruitful to teach my children to advocate for themselves medically, asking questions, weighing options, and acting prudently upon the best available information.  When our children face illness or disability, we must find some way to peaceably work with the medical profession.

All of that being said, what do YOU think of this story?  Did the Connecticut State Supreme Court get this decision right?  Are we merely being emotional if we think they are correct?  Does this decision put us on a slippery slope where the government can force treatment on our children despite our objection?  How do we hold our ground as the main caregivers of our family while assuring there are safeguards for negligence or mistreatment?

We want to hear from YOU!
Please share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.

~ Barb Dittrich

*Do YOU have a nominee for a future "Are You SERIOUS?" Award?  E-mail us a link to the story with any of your own personal insights to  

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