Monday, July 24, 2006

Right of Teens to Refuse Cancer Treatments

ABC News explores teens who refuse cancer treatments:
While traditional medicine says that chemotherapy, radiation, and stem cell transplants are the only options available to treat cancer, there are a number of alternative treatments that some say are successful, too.

Some of these methods include diet management, electrode therapy, herbal and plant extracts, supplements, and oxygen treatments.

If an adult were to choose one of these, a physician would acknowledge that decision and uphold it, even if it meant his or her patient could die.

When a teenager wants to do the same, it can quickly become a legal battle between the teen and his doctors.

Is that fair?
And while an adult can refuse medical treatment on his or her own behalf, parents who refuse treatment on behalf of their child can be investigated for medical neglect, or worse:
A month later, Billy returned home with his parents' promise that he would not have to continue the chemo.

Instead, the family came together and chose to turn to alternative therapies. This family decision prompted Billy's physicians to report his parents as unfit to the authorities.
Some medical ethicists, however, believe that some older teens are capable of making informed, life-or-death decisions for themselves. But their parents, who are legally able to make those decisions for themselves, are not able to make those decisions for their children. Sorry if I seem to be repeating myself; I am trying to wrap my brain around this. Instead, it is better for doctors, judges, hospital ethics boards - strangers, essentially - to make these decisions for them.

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