Go to the doctor or go to God?

As a parent who has made her share of mistakes, I’m loath to criticize other parents and yet … one has to question parents who deliberately put their child’s life in danger by refusing medical treatment in the name of God. (Just as one has to question parents who let their children become obese, lose themselves in World of Warcraft, or provide them with recreational drugs.)

Then again, having watched a very small child endure all sorts of traditional cancer-fighting treatments – and die anyway – I wonder if Colleen Hauser is doing what any parent instinctively wants to do: protect his or her child from undue pain.

Hauser has taken her son, Daniel, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and fled their home in southern Minnestoa in violation of a court order to have Daniel treated with chemotherapy. Apparently the 13-year-old (who reportedly has a learning disability and cannot read), has endured one round of traditional medicine and his tumor has returned. Hauser and her husband, Anthony – who is not on the run, but who told his local newspaper (remember local newspapers?) correctly that chemotherapy is not always the cure – are Roman Catholics.

However, they also believe in the “do no harm” philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians. Colleen Hauser testified earlier that she had been treating Daniel’s cancer with herbal supplements, vitamins, ionized water and other natural alternatives. This isn’t Christian Science, where believers tell followers with sick children that a lack of faith or presence of sin is what causes the illness. It is more like integrative medicine, practiced and preached locally in Tucson at the University of Arizona. Mind-body connection, that sort of thing.

But framed as a religion, it makes the Hausers look crazy. The judge says they are medically neglecting their son. Are they? They are surely violating a court order to appear before the judge. (Anthony Hauser said he was disappointed his wife didn’t show up because he apparently thought the plan was to tell the judge about the alternative treatment plan and, if denied, appeal.) But they are seeking treatment, not just allopathic treatment. Is this a religious choice or a parental choice? Discuss among yourselves.

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