A 13 year old boy refusing chemotherapy for his Hodgkin's Lymphoma is facing being forced into treatment by the courts.
The child (one of eight children in his family) stated that one round of chemotherapy was difficult for him and caused feelings of deep depression. His mother has backed him up and said that their religious beliefs ascertain that a healthy diet, ionized water and vitamins and herbs will heal him. Their religious affiliation is both Catholic and with the Native American group Nemenhah (the family are not Native Americans themselves).
The son and mother stated they felt intimidated into continuing with the chemotherapy, that has a 90%- 95% chance of beating the cancer. But the child does not want it, and his mother accepts his wishes. They believe their religious instructions of "do no harm" to the body includes chemotherapy and radiation that are healing tools, but also poisonous. Detractors say these religious instructions mean not doing harm with alcohol, drugs or other kinds of physical harm and not medication.
Brown County in Minnesota ultimately brought charges against his mother. Oncologists have testified in court that the boy has a 95% chance of dying if he does not go back for treatment; his tumor shrank after one round of chemo but since refusal of more, it has already increased in size. Without chemo, one doctor testified, his chances of life are "dismal" and he will die.
Chemo is indeed a difficult process. Nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue are amongst the side effects, as well as possible infertility. The family also believe the boy's aunt died from chemotherapy when the boy was five.
Supporters of the family believe the boy has every right to make these decisions over his own body - especially when he has parental support.
Others believe he is too young to make these decisions and is facing certain death, unless he receives the treatments that have a very high success rate. They believe his parents lack of understanding of the recovery process will ultimately lead to loss of life.
Testimony continues. Doctors have admitted that it will be very difficult to force treatment on the child, but he will die if chemotherapy/radiation is not administered.
To learn more about Hodgkin's Lymphoma, visit our HL page here: https://www.empowher.com/media/reference/hodgkins-lymphoma
Do you believe this child has a right to accept or deny treatment? Does he have a right over his own body? Or do children not fully understand the consequences of these decisions and the courts need to step in when his decisions result in certain death?
The Courts ruled on 05/15/09 that the boy must receive chemotherapy treatments and that he has been "medically neglected" by his parents.
As an aside, it also emerged that the child has learning disabilities, is unable to read and the Judge stated in his decision that the boy has only a "rudimentary understanding at best of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy. ... he does not believe he is ill currently. The fact is that he is very ill currently."
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