I've been loosely following this story for a while and though I personally believe in taking advantage of modern medicine at every opportunity, certainly I have to recognize the rights of a family to take responsibility for their own health care. That being said, there must be limits set by the State concerning treatment and parental neglect issues where minors are involved, but where are they?
ACCOMAC, Va. - A 16-year-old cancer patient's legal fight ended in victory Wednesday when his family's attorneys and social services officials reached an agreement that would allow him to forgo chemotherapy.
Under the decree, Starchild Abraham Cherrix, who is battling Hodgkin's disease, will be treated by an oncologist of his choice who is board-certified in radiation therapy and interested in alternative treatments. The family must provide the court updates on Abraham's treatment and condition every three months until he's cured or turns 18.
Last summer, the teen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system considered very treatable in its early stages. He was so debilitated by three months of chemotherapy that he declined a second, more intensive round that doctors recommended early this year.
He since has been using the Hoxsey method, the sale of which was banned in the United States in 1960.
After Abraham chose to go on the sugar-free, organic diet and take liquid herbal supplements under the supervision of a Mexican clinic, a social worker asked a juvenile court judge to intervene to protect the teen's health.
Last month, the judge found Abraham's parents neglectful and ordered Abraham to report to a hospital for treatment as doctors deem necessary.
Lawyers for the family appealed, and an Accomack County Circuit Court judge suspended that order and scheduled a new trial to settle the dispute.
Abraham is still on the Hoxsey method, but Stepanovich stressed that the family hasn't ruled out other possible treatments, such as immunotherapy or radiation treatment in small doses.
All right, after reading this story, one hugely important question stands above all else in my mind.....what in the name of Englebert Humperdink kind of idiotic name is Starchild? Seriously, is it a surprise to anybody that this family of flower children chose homeopathic therapy from Mexico for their gravely sick kid?
"But Ed", you whine, "how can you so heartlessly ridicule a child struggling for his life?"
Unbunch your shorts, my ridicule is directed at his nutty parents. It is still a ridiculous name whether he's sick or not. That being the case...the other issue this story presents is how much latitude and creativity does a family have when deciding on the proper treatment for their minor child's disease, and when should the State step in and treat the child with modern medicine over the objections of the parents?
Here's my take; obviously if the kid were 18, this point would be moot. An adult may stupidly decline treatment for himself as he wishes. If the parents were going to allow Starchild to be treated with peyote by a native-American shaman for instance, or incantation therapy made popular by the local Wicken sisters club, then absolutely the State should take responsibility for the minor. But that's not the case here. The kid and his family are open to immunotherapy, which is promising, and radiation is as modern a treatment for cancer as there is. I think the judge ruled correctly here in that the parents are pursuing alternative and unconventional cancer treatment options but have not ruled out more traditional therapies. If they were withholding treatment altogether in the hopes of faith-healing or because they didn't believe in medical intervention in disease processes as a stupid point of their religious beliefs, then the State has a responsibility to supersede the wishes of the parent and minor child to do what's in the best interest of the patient.