What Happened to the Right of the Patient to Choose?

The parents of a 13 year old Minnesota boy, Daniel Hauser, who with their support refused chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, have now told Judge John Rodenberg that they will agree to the treatment. Previously, they had missed a court date and fled the state in order to avoid judicially imposed chemotherapy. Their recent reversal came after they were given a choice; agree to chemotherapy for their son or lose custody of him.

This immediately brought to my mind the movie Sophie's Choice, in which the main character, a Nazi era Jewish mother of two played by Meryl Streep, revealed her terrible choice.  When she arrived at Auschwitz with her children, a Nazi officer sadistically forced her to choose which one of her two children would live and which one would die. Faced with an irresolvable conflict, she made a choice that by its very nature could never be morally reconciled.

Many would disagree with the comparison. However, we are faced in both instances with a parent or parents forced to choose between two courses of action, neither of which is morally acceptable to them and in fact both of which are reprehensible to them. Daniel's parents had no choice but to acquiesce or lose their son. As a pro-life physician and a father I would of course hope that Daniel, with the good counsel of his parents and his doctors, would freely agree to undergo chemotherapy. I believe that conventional medical treatment is the only medically correct decision.   If Daniel does not undergo chemotherapy, barring a miracle, he will surely die. Further, as a physician I take strong issue with his parents' beliefs regarding medicine.

However, there is a bigger issue here that cries out for resolution in a society obsessed with choice. People from all over the United States believe that Daniel should be forced to have chemotherapy. Many of those people are from states where 13 year old girls can choose to have an abortion or can make other medical decisions, usually reproductive in nature, with no input from their parents, let alone a judge, despite ample proof of the adverse affects on post-abortive teens. Where is Daniel's right to choose and why don't these same people support that right?  

Obviously, the right to choose is only defensible if you make choices that are politically correct. The case of Terri Schiavo saw the courts impose a sentence of death on an innocent woman who required the administration of food and water via a feeding tube, but was not terminally ill. She was, indeed, severely dysfunctional and was likely[1] in a persistent vegetative state, but she was certainly not dying from her disability. Her parents were willing to care for her and all they needed was to be left alone.

But, according to the currently popular view, she did not have sufficient "quality of life" and therefore could be killed. As a result of a lawsuit brought by her husband, a man who had some very dubious motives, fluids were withdrawn and she died a slow, agonizing death from dehydration. If you challenge that assertion, try going without anything to drink for a few days and then get back to me.

Now the court has imposed a particular form of therapy in order to force an individual to live!  Chemotherapy is no walk in the park. It has significant uncomfortable effects and in some cases can be lethal. There is an increased risk of developing other cancers in the future as a result of chemotherapy.  There are significant risks of life threatening infection, liver failure, kidney disease, heart disease, and sterility, to name but a few. The discomfort from undergoing cancer treatment can at times be worse than that caused by waterboarding and the decision of whether or not to be subjected to this should be left to the individual and his or her family, not to activist lawyers and paternalistic judges. Should the courts impose penalties on parents for not taking their children in for physical exams, neglecting dental care, or feeding their children sugar? Should parents who smoke have their children taken away? Where will it end?

In fact, it will not end.

The assault on our freedom is escalating. The words "choice" and "choose" have become the most abused, misused and weaponized words in the English language, held aloft by the left to promote their agenda. President Obama has proceeded to reverse conscience protection for doctors who choose not to perform or refer for medical procedures they find morally wrong, such as abortion. The Democratic leadership has promoted the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, which will strip the freedom of choice from doctors, nurses and religiously affiliated hospitals. President Obama supports the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (an interesting title in light of Daniel's case) which would seriously undermine parental choice and could have a tragic effect on American families. Several states have passed reprehensible laws supporting the right of terminally ill people to choose doctor assisted suicide, yet Daniel is being prevented from deciding against chemotherapy because people do not agree with his choice. Ironically, if he lived in a state with legally sanctioned assisted suicide he could probably find a doctor who would help him in killing himself, if that were his intention.

This intellectually indefensible discordance between the support for legally assisted suicide on one hand and usurping a patient's right to refuse intensive therapy on the other is almost schizophrenic. Decisions are being made for people according to the fashion of the day, not by people for themselves. The right to freedom of religion and the right to act in accordance with one's conscience are being negated by the state, eerily reminiscent of past mistakes by other societies throughout history. 

However strongly we may disagree with the decision by Daniel and his parents, and I do disagree with it, he is not actively attempting to commit suicide but is making an unpopular (and admittedly unwise) choice.

I want Daniel to undergo chemotherapy. I want him to have the chance for a long and healthy life. But, the decision must be made by Daniel and his parents, not by Big Brother. There is a fundamental difference between child neglect and abuse versus an informed decision by a young patient, supported by his parents, not to undergo chemotherapy and to take a different course. Daniel and his family must have the freedom to make that choice, and supposedly "pro-choice" advocates show their hypocrisy when they deny them that freedom.

Frank S. Rosenbloom, M.D. is president of Oregon Right to Life.

[1] I have met her parents and they feel she was conscious and was not in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). I very much respect them but to be fair I do not have access to her medical records and having never examined her I cannot definitively determine this.
The parents of a 13 year old Minnesota boy, Daniel Hauser, who with their support refused chemotherapy for Hodgkin's Lymphoma, have now told Judge John Rodenberg that they will agree to the treatment. Previously, they had missed a court date and fled the state in order to avoid judicially imposed chemotherapy. Their recent reversal came after they were given a choice; agree to chemotherapy for their son or lose custody of him.

This immediately brought to my mind the movie Sophie's Choice, in which the main character, a Nazi era Jewish mother of two played by Meryl Streep, revealed her terrible choice.  When she arrived at Auschwitz with her children, a Nazi officer sadistically forced her to choose which one of her two children would live and which one would die. Faced with an irresolvable conflict, she made a choice that by its very nature could never be morally reconciled.

Many would disagree with the comparison. However, we are faced in both instances with a parent or parents forced to choose between two courses of action, neither of which is morally acceptable to them and in fact both of which are reprehensible to them. Daniel's parents had no choice but to acquiesce or lose their son. As a pro-life physician and a father I would of course hope that Daniel, with the good counsel of his parents and his doctors, would freely agree to undergo chemotherapy. I believe that conventional medical treatment is the only medically correct decision.   If Daniel does not undergo chemotherapy, barring a miracle, he will surely die. Further, as a physician I take strong issue with his parents' beliefs regarding medicine.

However, there is a bigger issue here that cries out for resolution in a society obsessed with choice. People from all over the United States believe that Daniel should be forced to have chemotherapy. Many of those people are from states where 13 year old girls can choose to have an abortion or can make other medical decisions, usually reproductive in nature, with no input from their parents, let alone a judge, despite ample proof of the adverse affects on post-abortive teens. Where is Daniel's right to choose and why don't these same people support that right?  

Obviously, the right to choose is only defensible if you make choices that are politically correct. The case of Terri Schiavo saw the courts impose a sentence of death on an innocent woman who required the administration of food and water via a feeding tube, but was not terminally ill. She was, indeed, severely dysfunctional and was likely[1] in a persistent vegetative state, but she was certainly not dying from her disability. Her parents were willing to care for her and all they needed was to be left alone.

But, according to the currently popular view, she did not have sufficient "quality of life" and therefore could be killed. As a result of a lawsuit brought by her husband, a man who had some very dubious motives, fluids were withdrawn and she died a slow, agonizing death from dehydration. If you challenge that assertion, try going without anything to drink for a few days and then get back to me.

Now the court has imposed a particular form of therapy in order to force an individual to live!  Chemotherapy is no walk in the park. It has significant uncomfortable effects and in some cases can be lethal. There is an increased risk of developing other cancers in the future as a result of chemotherapy.  There are significant risks of life threatening infection, liver failure, kidney disease, heart disease, and sterility, to name but a few. The discomfort from undergoing cancer treatment can at times be worse than that caused by waterboarding and the decision of whether or not to be subjected to this should be left to the individual and his or her family, not to activist lawyers and paternalistic judges. Should the courts impose penalties on parents for not taking their children in for physical exams, neglecting dental care, or feeding their children sugar? Should parents who smoke have their children taken away? Where will it end?

In fact, it will not end.

The assault on our freedom is escalating. The words "choice" and "choose" have become the most abused, misused and weaponized words in the English language, held aloft by the left to promote their agenda. President Obama has proceeded to reverse conscience protection for doctors who choose not to perform or refer for medical procedures they find morally wrong, such as abortion. The Democratic leadership has promoted the passage of the Freedom of Choice Act, which will strip the freedom of choice from doctors, nurses and religiously affiliated hospitals. President Obama supports the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, (an interesting title in light of Daniel's case) which would seriously undermine parental choice and could have a tragic effect on American families. Several states have passed reprehensible laws supporting the right of terminally ill people to choose doctor assisted suicide, yet Daniel is being prevented from deciding against chemotherapy because people do not agree with his choice. Ironically, if he lived in a state with legally sanctioned assisted suicide he could probably find a doctor who would help him in killing himself, if that were his intention.

This intellectually indefensible discordance between the support for legally assisted suicide on one hand and usurping a patient's right to refuse intensive therapy on the other is almost schizophrenic. Decisions are being made for people according to the fashion of the day, not by people for themselves. The right to freedom of religion and the right to act in accordance with one's conscience are being negated by the state, eerily reminiscent of past mistakes by other societies throughout history. 

However strongly we may disagree with the decision by Daniel and his parents, and I do disagree with it, he is not actively attempting to commit suicide but is making an unpopular (and admittedly unwise) choice.

I want Daniel to undergo chemotherapy. I want him to have the chance for a long and healthy life. But, the decision must be made by Daniel and his parents, not by Big Brother. There is a fundamental difference between child neglect and abuse versus an informed decision by a young patient, supported by his parents, not to undergo chemotherapy and to take a different course. Daniel and his family must have the freedom to make that choice, and supposedly "pro-choice" advocates show their hypocrisy when they deny them that freedom.

Frank S. Rosenbloom, M.D. is president of Oregon Right to Life.

[1] I have met her parents and they feel she was conscious and was not in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). I very much respect them but to be fair I do not have access to her medical records and having never examined her I cannot definitively determine this.