Teen must undergo chemotherapy against religious beliefs, judge rules


A Brown County District Court judge ruled today that a 13-year-old Minnesota teen must undergo chemotherapy treatment for cancer despite his family's refusal due to their religious beliefs.

The family opted out of chemotherapy treatment for their son's Hodgkin's lymphoma because of religious beliefs, but a Brown County attorney asked the judge to force the treatment to save him. The case has brought out a slew of alternative medicine advocates who support the family's decision. Doctors say Daniel Hauser, 13, would have a 90 percent chance of survival with chemo treatment and a 95 percent chance of dying without it.

The family is part of the Nemenhah, an American Indian religious organization. The family does not claim to be Indian.

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Judge John Rodenberg said in a 60-page ruling that there is overwhelming medical evidence that the boy, Daniel Hauser, will most likely live if he receives the treatment and die if he doesn't.

The county proved "a compelling state interest in the life and welfare of Daniel sufficient to override the fundamental constitutional rights of both the parents and Daniel to the free exercise of religion and the due process right of the parents to direct the religious and other upbringing of their child," the judge ruled.

Daniel stated in an initial court filing that he was a "medicine man" in the Nemenhah and that he was being a living example to others by refusing the chemotherapy. A key question -- both in court and in the public debate that enveloped the case -- was whether Daniel was making his own decision or was being influenced by his parents' beliefs.

A turn in the trial came Saturday when an attorney appointed by the court to represent Daniel's interests told the judge that he doubted the "genuineness" of Daniel's spiritual beliefs. The attorney, Thomas Sinas, said this doubt followed Daniel's closed-door testimony to the judge earlier that day.