When a child is very sick, most parents never hesitate to take the child to a doctor for treatment. But what if your 13-year-old Daniel Hauser, who is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and your mother decides, based on her religious beliefs, that alternative medicines would be better than chemotherapy for treating your life threatening condition?
Fortunately for Daniel Hauser, a Minnesota judge saw the issue differently. He ruled that Daniel was "medically neglected" and consequently was in need of child protective services and chemotherapy. The judge found that, under the specific circumstances, the state had shown a compelling interest in "the life and welfare of Daniel" sufficient to overcome all of the strong religious and familial constitutional rights of both Daniel and his parents.
Unfortunately, Daniel’s mother fled with him, and is believed to be seeking a “natural cure” for her son’s disease in Mexico. Doctors in Minnesota give Daniel less than a 10% chance of surviving without chemotherapy.
As many as 40 states now carry an explicit exemption from prosecution for child abuse or neglect for parents who forgo medical treatment for their children on religious grounds and instead seek "treatment...through prayer”. Those championing “parental rights” argue that Colleen Hauser can do whatever she wants with her son.
But that attitude can lead to tragic consequences, as in the case of Madeline Neumann. The 11-year-old Wisconsin girl died of diabetic ketoacidosis — an illness authorities contend could have been readily treated —because her parents insisted her body was a battleground in a spiritual war between Jesus Christ and the forces of Hell. Only by resisting worldly medicine, they believed, could she be saved. Even after her death, her parents insisted that Madeline would come back to life. Today, a Marathon County jury found Madeline’s 41-year-old mother guilty of second-degree reckless homicide.
A similar case occurred in Oregon where 15-month-old Ava Worthington died of bronchial pneumonia and a blood infection that went untreated. The state medical examiner's office contended that she could have been treated with antibiotics. Her parents, who attempted to treat their helpless daughter with prayer, were subsequently indicted on charges of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment.
We live in the 21st century and not the Dark Ages. Parents cannot be allowed to rely on religious extremism when it comes to their children’s health and welfare. They should not be able to starve their children, abuse them, or kill them, which is essentially what Colleen Hauser is doing. Yes, there are anecdotal instances of “natural cures” and “miracles”. But those are the exceptions, not the norm. Not seeking sound medical treatment when your child’s life is at stake should never be an option. It should be a crime.