Mankato Free Press, Dan Linehan/AP
Colleen Hauser comforts her 13-year-old
son Daniel during a press conference in
New Ulm, Minnesota.

Minnesota Mom Makes Headlines for Vowing to Prevent Son’s Chemotherapy

May 12, 2009 07:30 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
Colleen Hauser says a careful “traditional treatment” has greatly helped her son’s cancer, and that she will decline further chemotherapy treatment for him.

Refusing Medical Treatment

Doctors say 13-year-old Daniel Hauser’s chances of surviving Hodgkin’s disease without chemotherapy are very slim, but his mother insists “that she and her son would refuse to comply with any court order” mandating that he follow the treatment, according to the Star Tribune.

Daniel’s mother says conventional treatments conflict with their beliefs as members of the Nemenhah American Indian religious group, and that they would rather he use natural remedies instead.

Hauser’s case is currently in court as officials determine whether they can force Daniel to undergo chemotherapy.

The Star Tribune quoted Dr. Bruce Bostrom of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minneapolis as saying Daniel “doesn’t understand that the Hodgkin’s is what’s making him sick, and he was led to believe that the chemotherapy was making him sick, when the exact opposite was true.”

Bostrom, Daniel’s first oncologist, turned his case over to authorities when he quit chemotherapy after one treatment when physicians had recommended six.

X-rays show that Daniel’s tumor has grown, The Mankato Free Press reported, but his family believes the results are inaccurate.

Doctors have said they aren’t certain how they could force the boy to receive chemotherapy if he doesn’t want it.

Presently, Daniel’s family is treating his Hodgkin’s disease with a diet his mother researched on the Internet and talked about with experts. She said he is growing “better and better every day” as a result.
The Mankato Free Press noted that “Hodgkin’s disease has one of the highest survival rates with modern treatment, but only 5 percent without it.”

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Related Topic: Other parents and children who refused care

Other cases of youngsters and parents asserting their rights to refuse medical care have cropped up around the country and internationally in recent months.

In 2008, a British Court permitted Hannah Jones, a terminally ill teenager, to refuse a heart transplant. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, the girl spent much of her life undergoing medical treatments; her heart was weakened by medication she took to fight an infection.

Hannah’s parents were told at one point that their daughter could be removed from their home if they didn’t bring her in for the transplant.

“I’ve been in hospital too much. I’ve had too much trauma,” Hannah stated. “There’s not a month or year that goes by where I have not had medical treatment. I didn’t want to go through any more operations. I didn’t want this and it’s not my choice to have it.”

In Oregon, another teen died of a treatable urinary tract condition after he refused medical help. Neil Beagley and his family, members of the Oregon City Followers of Christ, believed that prayer, not medical treatment, would be the best way to cure his illness.

A few months prior, Beagley’s niece, 15-month-old Ava Worthington, died of an untreated bronchial infection, and her parents were charged with manslaughter. At the time, Oregon law stated that children over age 14 could make their own decisions about medical care. Beagley was 16, so his parents did not face charges.

Opinions: Faith and medical care

Faith healings have become a point of contention in the medical world. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Critics in the medical community have long considered faith healing a fraud that takes advantage of vulnerable people.”

However, others contend that regardless of what physical benefit a person may or may not experience, faith healing could at least provide the moral boost a patient needs during a tough situation.

In fact, some studies have shown that including religious practices in a medical situation may help a person avoid becoming depressed and heal more rapidly.

But Arthur Caplan, an contributor, says the application of faith to a medical situation involving children “must have limits.”

Writing about the Ava Worthington case, Caplan said that while an adult should be permitted to turn down medical assistance, the same principle should not apply to children.

“Parents do not have the right to watch a child wither away while they pray,” he stated.  “Parents do not have the right to watch a child convulse in pain while they pray. Parents should understand that if a child is in agony, if a child is slowly dying before their eyes, that they have an absolute duty, the same as any other parent—religious or not—to call the police, an ambulance or emergency services.”

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