James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

An unnecessarily hard question

Daniel Hauser, 13, clearly expresses that he does not want chemotherapy to cure his curable tumor. His parents, who would prefer alternative medicine anyway, abide by their son's wishes.

So the State Authorities demand custody to force him into chemo. Now, mother and son are on the run.

My position is based on this AP story and only on this AP story (i.e., not knowing all the facts) and the "I would" is premised on having the sufficient courage. That said, if the fugitives came to my house, I would take them in, and I would lie to the police.

But wait! The judge believes the boy "who has a learning disability and cannot read, did not understand the risks and benefits of chemotherapy and didn't believe he was ill."

How smart does he have to be to be granted the right to control his own life? Does a mentally-ill or retarded adult, who harms no one else, have no rights in a similar situation?

But wait! He's just a child!

But rights are rights! If the boy does no harm to anyone else, he has the right to control his own body.

But wait! He's under the excessive influence of his parents!

I agree with Murray Rothbard that children have the right to run away from their parents at any time, and if they choose to let someone else take care of them, fine. If they want to be on their own, fine.

If this boy wanted chemotherapy and his parents didn't want him to have it, no state law should ever protect the phony "rights" of the parents to prevent chemo. On the other hand, the parents should not be compelled to pay for it either, because that would violate their rights. The child, rather, would have the right to put himself up for adoption to someone who would provide for his needs better than his parents have.

As it is, it appears that the deep-felt desire of the child and the values of his parents coincide. They might not be your values, but that's the way it goes in a religiously and culturally diverse society. The fact that the child's wishes accords to his parent's wishes is evidence that they're good parents. Are we to have a religious test before anyone is allowed to become a parent?

But the child will die if he doesn't undergo chemo!

The placebo effect, healing by the mere belief that the medicine will work, works just as often as "real" drugs and surgery. But let's say you are correct and the young man dies.

To be blunt: unless you know this particular person, what's it to you?

People die every day. Children die every day. We can't stop it.

It's the principle. The State can't protect every life, but it should protect it when it can.

But here's what's really happening when the State goes to great lengths to capture these fugitives and impose chemo:
  • resources that could have gone to protecting communities from murderers are squandered;
  • resources that could have gone to care for poor pregnant mothers, and poor sick children who want treatment, are squandered
In other words, more lives could be lost in the effort to save this one. And for what "principle," really?
  • that the State can grab and torture a young man against his will, so long as it's for his "own good."
  • that children have no rights.
  • that parents who have the nerve to protect the rights of their children are the real criminals.
Those are not principles I'd go to great lengths to defend.

That said, I'm not faulting the judge in this case, except to the extent he chose to be part of the system. Judges who are not compliant bureaucrats are activists who place themselves above the law. This one appears to be a compliant bureaucrat doing what state law requires.

But the state law is unacceptable. It is ironic that cases like these seem like "hard ethical questions." What makes them hard is that we don't recognize that equal rights mean children have the same rights as everyone else. The State is going to great lengths to save Daniel Hauser's life, but at the same time, it is denying his very humanity.

1 comment:

  1. As I understand it, chemo is more of a hit and miss proposition than most people realize. Why the state's insistence on something so uncertain? Now if the state would only force me to get that haircut my wife wants...