Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Daniel Hauser and Mother Fleeing Chemo

You may have heard of Daniel Hauser. He's a Minnesota boy who has cancer: Hodgkin's lymphoma, specifically. At this point, he and his mother, Colleen Hauser, are on the run. A judge issued an arrest warrant for her, and the hunt is on.

His parents - his mother, at any rate - apparently have religious objections to letting him get chemotherapy. That's too bad, because he's got a shot at living another five years (at least) with chemo - and maybe radiation - therapy. Court documents show that some doctors put his chances with "...chemotherapy and possibly radiation at 80 percent to 95 percent...." (CNN)

From everything I've read and heard, chemotherapy is no bed of roses. But, if I were in Daniel Hauser's shoes, I'd want a shot at living another five-years-plus. Particularly with his odds.

Faith, Medicine, Law, and Cultural Norms

The dominant culture in America having the values it does, I'm not entirely comfortable with a state judge overruling a parent's religious beliefs 'for the good of the child.' Particularly when the child is a teenager who agrees with the parent.

I do think that, in a case like this, avoiding a treatment that could buy at least several more years makes good sense.

What bothers me is the general situation of the state deciding what's an acceptable religious belief, and what isn't. Particularly when it's a judge doing the deciding. At this point in America's history, they're virtually immune from the sort of checks and balances we're taught about in civics class.
I Know - 'It Can't Happen Here'
Let's take a somewhat far-fetched example: say, not too many years from now, doctors report that a youngster will probably have trouble with acne, late in his teens. This could lead to great emotional trauma, since he'll probably have a zit the size of Massachusetts when it's prom time.

Obviously, the only humane thing to do is to put this child out of his misery.

Now, let's say that this boy's parents are religious people, and have some sort of religious objection over having a post-natal abortion performed.

'Obviously,' in this hypothetical society, the courts must override the parent's superstitious objections. For the good of the child.

Sound crazy? I think so: but I never did buy into that 'quality lifestyle' argument for abortion.

About seventy years ago, following another set of values, a group of very determined people tried to clean out Europe's gene pool. Killing people for the 'good of the race' isn't at all popular now, as a rule, in Western culture. Killing people 'for their own good,' on the other hand, is considered a virtue in some circles.

Maybe that hypothetical example isn't so crazy, after all.

What the Catholic Church Says About Health, Drugs, and Today's Medicine

There are some 'medical' treatments which the Catholic Church forbids. Even if someone isn't able to live a 'quality lifestyle,' doesn't measure up to our notion of what a normal person ought to be, or is in the way, we're not allowed to kill people. In other words, euthanasia is out. On the other hand, painkillers are quite all right to use: provided that they aren't used to kill the patient. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2276-2279) The Catholic Church also teaches that "the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine" is wrong. (Catechism, 2290)

That doesn't mean 'trusting God' and turning off our good sense. We're specifically required to be concerned about our own health, and the health of others. Society is supposed to be concerned with the availability of
  • Food and clothing
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Basic education
  • Employment
  • Social assistance
    (Catechism, 2288)
Organ transplants are okay, too. "...Organ donation after death is a noble and meritorous act and is to be encouraged as an expression of generous solidarity...." (Catechism, 2296)

Chemotherapy? Radiation treatments? That's not a problem for practicing Catholics: providing that the benefit/risk ratio is right. The Catholic Church does not expect the faithful to turn off their brains. We're taught that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are:
  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Counsel
  • Fortitude
  • Knowledge
  • Piety
  • Fear of the Lord
    (Catechism, 1831)
There's a bit about these gifts in Isaiah 11.

As for Daniel Hauser, I hope - and pray - that he gets the medical treatment he needs, and lives a full, good life. What you do is strictly up to you, of course: but I think that you doing the same couldn't hurt.

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.