Last week, a judge ruled that a 13-year-old Sleepy Eye boy must undergo chemotherapy treatment for cancer despite his family's refusal due to their religious beliefs. But how do you force a 13-year-old to undergo such a treatment? The judge ruled that the parent's refusal of chemo was medical neglect.
Doctors discussed the complexity of forcing chemo on a boy who insists he will punch and kick anyone who tries to administer the treatments. This is no easy task.
Daniel Hauser has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Doctors say he is likely to beat the cancer with chemotherapy, but has a low chance of survival without it. The family tried chemo, but stopped Daniel's treatment to treat alternative medicines that correlated better with their religious beliefs.
The judge asked Daniel to have a chest X-ray Monday and the family must pick an oncologist. The judge wanted a more detailed prognosis for Daniel. If his cancer can still be easily treatment with chemo, the order will go forward, but if the cancer has advanced too far, they wouldn't require treatment.
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"It can be very difficult to treat a 13-year-old boy who doesn't want to be treated," said Arthur Caplan, chair of the medical ethics department at the University of Pennsylvania. "I don't want to say it's impossible, but it makes it very tough on the doctors." If chemotherapy was ordered and the family refused, Daniel would be placed in temporary custody. It wasn't immediately known where the boy might be treated or how medicine would be administered if he fights it. Caplan said the medical community recognized a person's right to refuse treatments -- but those rights didn't extend to incompetent people or children. Still, he said: "It is hard to treat someone who won't cooperate." Restraints could be used. But doctors may not have to follow the court order "if they feel it can't be carried out -- if it's literally impossible to get a needle into this kid," Caplan said.