May 27, 2009

Parents, doctors and civil rights attorneys around the United States are closely following the case of 13 year old Daniel Hauser.  According to the Star Tribune, Daniel has been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Doctors predict his survival rate to be around 90% with chemotherapy and standard medical treatments.  However, Daniel’s parents have refused treatment for their son.  Without treatment, he may have only weeks to live.

Accordingly, the state notified child protection services to remove Daniel from the home and get him medical treatment.  In response, Daniel and his mother ran away and spent days on the run before returning home to face a court hearing regarding Daniel’s custody.

Is a parent’s right to decide medical care for his or her child a civil right?  Should the law protect parents who are refusing medical care on behalf of their child for religious reasons or should the state intervene and require minors to get medical care?  If a court determines that a parent’s actions are putting a child at significant risk or serious harm then the state can step in and make medical decisions on behalf of the child.  The argument is that the child is not old enough to have staunch religious views of his own and therefore, the parents religious views which endanger the life of the child should not be imposed upon a the child and it is the state’s obligation to protect the child.

Clearly, these cases are complicated and civil rights attorneys and state prosecutors must proceed carefully and weigh all of the benefits and risks of medical treatments before imposing on a parent’s religious beliefs and parents are well advised to seek the counsel of an Illinois civil rights attorney if they are refusing standard medical care for their child.

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