The case of Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old boy from Minnesota whose family refused to put him in chemotherapy to treat his cancer, is the latest episode in the controversy between parents’ rights and child care.
A Brown County judge ruled that Hauser would remain in the custody of his parents as long as they agree to begin his chemotherapy, highlighting the conflict between parents’ rights to make decisions for their children and the need to provide minors with medical attention.
The court’s decision to grant Hauser’s parents custody was the right one. It’s important to maintain a strong parent-child relationship when looking out for the well-being of a child. However, the judge’s recommendation that the parents treat Hauser with chemotherapy should be strongly enforced.
According to the Houston Health Examiner, after Hauser was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma his parents refused chemotherapy because of their religious beliefs.
After a judge recommended that Hauser be treated with chemotherapy, he and his mother flew to Los Angeles. Authorities suspected the two might be fleeing to Mexico, but they returned to Minnesota on Monday via private jet for Tuesday’s court hearing.
At the pre-trial hearing Friday, the Hauser’s family lawyer said that by attempting to force treatment, the state was violating the family’s religious beliefs. However, when a minor needs medical attention, parents do not have the right to deny treatment — even for religious reasons.
Even if Hauser’s parents believed they had their child’s best interest in mind, they made the wrong decision and put their child’s life in great danger. Doctors treating Hauser told the Mankato Free Press that chemotherapy has a 90-percent success rate when treating this form of cancer, but left untreated, the cancer has a 95-percent fatality rate.
For Hauser’s parents, this is just another example of child neglect in America. According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) approximately 1,530 children died in 2006 because of abuse or negligence from their primary caregivers. The NCANDS report also stated that the actual number of such deaths is likely even higher.
Hauser’s case made Americans think about the rights and responsibilities of parents. Parents have the right to educate their children based on their cultural and religious beliefs. However, if those beliefs put the health and life of a child at risk, it is the responsibility of society (i.e., the courts) to ensure that child is receiving the proper care.
People learn to become parents when they start taking care of their children. When they fail to place the well-being of a child first in the performance of their parental duties, they forfeit their right to make decisions for that child. All members of a society are responsible for its youngest and most vulnerable members, and the court’s decision regarding Hauser, however controversial, demonstrates that the rights of children in the United States are being well protected.
Blerta Abdi is a junior majoring in biomedical science.