Parental Rights under Attack in the U.S.

Forced to Seek Chemotherapy, 13 year-old Daniel Hauser and his Mother

A recent news story shows how far judges have come in believing that they have the right to dictate family decisions. In Minnesota, when 13 year-old Daniel Hauser’s parents decided to pull him out of conventional treatment for his leukemia in favor of an alternative form of treatment the parents were taken to court. The courts ruled that it was “in the best interest” of Daniel to continue the treatment. This past Monday Daniel and his mother disappeared. Custody of Daniel has been given to the courts and a search is on for the boy and his mother. Can you imagine being so convinced that you are right that you would risk everything—even your freedom in order to save your child?

Daniel’s mother is acting in what she believes is her son’s best interests. Daniel does not want chemotherapy, despite the fact that with it his chances of survival are 80-95%. This is enough to convince a judge that the “best interests” principle applies—a term that riddles the UNCRC treaty. In the judges mind it is in the best interest of the child for him to undergo the treatment despite his or his parents’ wishes. But should choosing an alternative treatment or refusing treatment altogether warrant the interference of the court? Sadly, many people today would say yes. Venomous blogs calling Colleen Hauser a religious nut laud the courts and laugh at the mother. These writers are missing the point. Where does this stop?

I would like to flip the scenario around on those who are puffing up with self-righteousness and calling this mother a “religious-wacko” and “nut-job.” Let’s say that the courts were strictly religious and most of the people in this country believed that chemotherapy and Western medicines were evil and not to be used. What if your child had cancer and you knew that chemotherapy was his best bet, but the culture of the day would not allow you the freedom to choose this course of treatment because they believed it was poison to your child? What if the courts ruled that it was in your child’s best interests to use a medicine man because that was the conventional way of doing things? Don’t you see? Your freedom to choose what is best for your child is just as precious to you as it is to Colleen Hauser. We can’t allow our freedoms to hinge on having freedom only if we agree with conventional wisdom, or on what a judge rules is in the “best interests” of a child. I may not agree with this mother’s decision, but I have my own convictions about how to raise my child, and I don’t want anyone infringing on my family’s right to make the decision that is best for us.

What happens when the courts start taking on other controversial topics among parents and parenting. For instance, immunization is a hotly debated subject today. There are many parents who choose not to have their children inoculated for various reasons. Others are irate about these parents’ choices. How long before this debate ends up in the courts and parents have to inoculate their child or face losing custody? Anytime the court involves itself in the day-to-day course of family life and family decisions we tread on dangerous territory.

In reference to the Hauser case, Arthur Caplan, director of the center for bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania was quoted as saying, “You have a right, but not an open-ended right. You can’t compromise the life of your child.” What Caplan and those who have ruled against the parents in this case don’t understand is that the Hauser’s firmly believe that an alternative form of treatment is best for their child. They are not trying to compromise his life; they are trying to save it, but they have to be allowed to operate within their belief system. In a written statement the parents said, “The injection of chemotherapy into Daniel amounts to an assault on his body, and torture when it occurs over a long period of time.” If this is what they believe, then I don’t see any other way for this child’s parents to respond—if they love him. While I may not hold the same beliefs as this mother, if I believed my child was being tortured needlessly, I wouldn’t sit by and watch without trying to save him.

What has happened to change the thinking of our nation? Where do you stand on this issue? Visit our chat rooms to discuss this latest invasion into the family, and if you haven’t done it yet, check out the Parental Rights website to see how you can help in the fight to create an amendment to our constitution that will guarantee a parent’s right to direct the path of his or her family.