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Thread: Aboriginal mother has right to refuse chemotherapy for her daughter

  1. #1

    Default Aboriginal mother has right to refuse chemotherapy for her daughter

    A court decision came down in Canada which upholds an Aboriginal mother's decision to refuse chemotherapy treatment for her 11 year old daughter. The decision ruled that native people have a constitutional right to seek out traditional remedies and forsake modern medicine. The judge rejected the hospital request to have the daughter placed with children's aid so that they could resume the chemotherapy treatment.

    Here's the link to the story:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014...urt_rules.html

    As someone who considers myself to be moderately progressive and supportive of fair treatment to aboriginals and all minority groups, I must say I find this decision troubling, at the very least. Independent doctors testified that the daughter has a 90-95% chance of being cured with the chemotherapy, but she has no chance of survival without it, and withholding it is the equivalent of a death sentence.

    The judge ruled that native health care have been an integral part of the Mohawk family's culture and therefore protected by the constitution. He stated the evidence showed that this was a "truly loving mother deeply committed to her longhouse beliefs and her beliefs that traditional medicines work. That right is not dependent on the treatments being proven to work according to the Western medical paradigm."

    The question for me is : How does the mother's constitutional right to subscribe to traditional medicine override her 11 year old daughter's right to life? Also, what about the daughter's constitutional right to life, liberty and security of the person? It should be noted the decision concluded the daughter herself was not capable of making a decision.

    When the family took her daughter out of chemotherapy, they went to an alternative health centre which is a massage centre run by a nutrition centre which 'promotes attitude, eating a raw plant based organic diet, and ridding your body of contaminants to eliminate cancer.' This does not exactly inspire confidence that this centre is equipped to treat cancer and I'm not even sure it qualifies as traditional native medicine.

    At first I thought the judge's hands may have been tied by the restrictive wording of the constitution, and that perhaps the rights to practice native culture and medicines didn't address such an extraordinary case, but then the judge stated his full support for the mother's actions. In his decision, he wrote the following:

    "This is not an eleventh hour epiphany employed to take her daughter out of the rigours of chemotherapy. Rather it is a decision made by a mother, on behalf of a daughter she truly loves, steeped in a practice that has been rooted in their culture from its beginnings.”

    I also find this decision is inconsistent with similar cases based on religious beliefs. For example, several court cases have upheld a doctor's right to override the wishes of Jehovah's Witness parents who would withhold blood transfusions from their sick children because it is against their religious beliefs.. This case is quite similar yet the decision here allows the parent to withhold the appropriate treatment.

    I imagine that no parent would want to see their child have to undergo chemotherapy with all the brutal, painful and sickness inducing side effects that go with it, but it just seems preferable to tough it out something that would save lives rather than engage in some new age treatment. It seems bizarre to me that the courts would allow it.

    I'd really like to hear the thoughts of other people on this topic. I'm feeling abnormally conservative in my point of view so I'm hoping someone can straighten me out.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 30-Nov-2014 at 01:21.

  2. #2

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    Chemo is a brutal thing for sure, but it is literally the ONLY cancer treatment available proven to actually work in most cases. As such, I do not and can not side with the girl's mother.

    I'm pro-proven methods and anti-junk science in all cases.

  3. #3

    Default

    Junk Science has nothing to do with this one. This is a question of which takes precedence: the daughter's right to live vs the mother's right to practice her religion. It's a hard question, and regardless of what ruling the judge made there were going to be many people deeply upset. I'm not sure I'd rule for religion, but also not a trained barrister, so I can't claim to have all the requisite background.

  4. #4

    Default

    The Jehovah's witnesses cases have had mixed results actually. Ever since they started signing very clear "no transfusions even in emergencies, I've really thought about this" forms before they get medical treatment, they have succeeded occasionally on charging doctors with assault for doing it anyway.

    This case strikes me as an especially extreme version of the issue. The child would have to be taken away from her family to get the medical treatment needed to save her life. There's no good outcome there, just which one you think is less bad.

    I think this might have been the right decision though, just barely. Imagine you had an adult who simply didn't want chemo. I don't think you can force treatment on them. The extra chalkenge here is that its not the child deciding because we don't believe kids can mane those decisions without help, so the parent gets to and the decision. But it's still a question of respecting the choice vs forcing undesired medical treatments.

  5. #5

    Default

    This is not so much a question of religion and science as of politics and ethics. Imagine, you are living in a 'souvereign' society. One day, two other players appear, let's say France and Great Britain, dividing up your soil, raging wars on your territory, enslaving your people and essentially destroying your culture (a process also known as colonialism). After a long period of oppression, you get your territory handed back (some of it) and are allowed to live according to your culture (what's left of it), but you're still within the territory of a foreign ruler (at least you are granted special constitutional rights). However, the oppression never really stops, your society is still dependent on the other system and your cultural identity still seems lost. So, what you try to do is to reestablish your own identity at all means necessary, even violence against your oppressors or yourself (this is generally referred to as post-colonialism).

    Leaves the question of the human rights... which are supposed to be universal, but are in fact highly contingent, both culturally and historically. Michel Foucault concerned himself a lot with the right to live and identifies it as a means for the ruling class to establish and realize power, basically the invention of biopolitics. No thoughts on children dying of cancer in that one, at least not, when it came up the first time. But even beyond that, think of a culture where death is regarded, literally, as the way of things, the most natural thing conceivable. How would you reconcile a right to live with a mode of existence, in which death isn't necessarily a bad thing?

    From that point of view (which is by no means all-encompassing), both, the decision of the judge and decision of the mother are somewhat understandable.

  6. #6

    Default

    To be honest it does bother me to know that there are parents out there who would rather see their child or loved one die because they would rather stick to tradition.

    Honestly it pisses me off and I think refusin tried and true medical treatment for your child should be considered child endangerment.

    That being said I also have to step back and realize that western medicine is not the only medicine and as much as we like to think so, we don't know everything.

    I don't think that in this day in age it is wise to be willfully stupid about such things but each human being has the right to make decisions for themselves and each parent has the right to make choices for their child and whether or not we agree with that, that right should be upheld or we have a bigger problem on our hands.

    The decision may be stupid.....beyond stupid let's be honest but I wouldn't want someone to step in and force my hand when it came to the decisions I make for my child, she deserves the same respect.

  7. #7

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by starrunner View Post
    A court decision came down in Canada which upholds an Aboriginal mother's decision to refuse chemotherapy treatment for her 11 year old daughter. The decision ruled that native people have a constitutional right to seek out traditional remedies and forsake modern medicine. The judge rejected the hospital request to have the daughter placed with children's aid so that they could resume the chemotherapy treatment.

    Here's the link to the story:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014...urt_rules.html

    As someone who considers myself to be moderately progressive and supportive of fair treatment to aboriginals and all minority groups, I must say I find this decision troubling, at the very least. Independent doctors testified that the daughter has a 90-95% chance of being cured with the chemotherapy, but she has no chance of survival without it, and withholding it is the equivalent of a death sentence.

    The judge ruled that native health care have been an integral part of the Mohawk family's culture and therefore protected by the constitution. He stated the evidence showed that this was a "truly loving mother deeply committed to her longhouse beliefs and her beliefs that traditional medicines work. That right is not dependent on the treatments being proven to work according to the Western medical paradigm."

    The question for me is : How does the mother's constitutional right to subscribe to traditional medicine override her 11 year old daughter's right to life? Also, what about the daughter's constitutional right to life, liberty and security of the person? It should be noted the decision concluded the daughter herself was not capable of making a decision.

    When the family took her daughter out of chemotherapy, they went to an alternative health centre which is a massage centre run by a nutrition centre which 'promotes attitude, eating a raw plant based organic diet, and ridding your body of contaminants to eliminate cancer.' This does.t exactly inspire confidence that this centre is equipped to treat cancer and I'm not even sure it qualifies as traditional native medicine.

    At first I thought the judge's hands may have been tied by the restrictive wording of the constitution, and that perhaps the rights to practice native culture and medicines didn't address such an extraordinary case, but then the judge stated his full support for the mother's actions. In his decision, he wrote the following:

    "This is not an eleventh hour epiphany employed to take her daughter out of the rigours of chemotherapy. Rather it is a decision made by a mother, on behalf of a daughter she truly loves, steeped in a practice that has been rooted in their culture from its beginnings.

    I also find this decision is inconsistent with similar cases based on religious beliefs. For example, several court cases have upheld a doctor's right to override the wishes of Jehovah's Witness parents to withhold blood transfusions from their sick children in order to save their lives. This case is quite similar yet the decision here allows the parent to withhold the appropriate treatment.

    I imagine that no parent would want to see their child have to undergo chemotherapy with all the brutal, painful and sickness inducing side effects that go with it, but it just seems preferable to tough it out rather than engage in some new age treatment. It seems bizarre to me that the courts would allow it.

    I'd really like to hear the thoughts of other people on this topic. I'm feeling abnormally conservative in my point of view so I'm hoping someone can straighten me out.
    Well, I may have another angle...

    Precedence: How was it, that the girl was diagnosed with cancer, in the first place?
    I'm not finding the back-story leading up to all of this... My guess, is the mother had in fact brought the child in for treatment, to western Medicine...

    To my eyes, this has set the precedence for the child to receive said care...

    My take on visions, and any sort of apparition, gives me a dubious notion of the mother's vision, of said apparition... Whereby, it appears that the mother had then made the decision to vacate her daughter from Western medical practice...

    And, while I don't actually intend any particular disrespect of beliefs, traditions, and such... I'm not convinced that it was considered in proper context by the Judge's ruling...

    I'm not opposed to alternative health practices... all-together, and I have my reservations (many) with the Western medical...

    I assume, that this girl has had vaccinations, and whatever else from Western medical, for all her life prior to this... I don't think, that the mother should be allowed to abandon, mid-stream, the medical care that she had been utilizing, and then claim Long house, Mohawk, Aboriginal traditions... because, she had what may amount to nothing more than a hallucination...

    When I get gut, instinctual, intuitive notions... it could be interpreted as intangible, ethereal too, I suppose... However, I don't believe that it is all that mysterious... I believe that it is an accumulation of nuance, and subtle gathering, that I may not be especially conscious of, but which makes of a mean total, of my experiences and observations...

    I think, that a concession should have been made in this ruling.... that at least, if the daughter (who should still be observed by western Medicine), should reach a state of condition, just prior to a 50/50 % chance of survivability; that she must be returned for chemotherapy... I don't believe that this is an all-or-nothing situation...

    Another option, could have been a more mild chemo treatment, with the alternative practice, as an adjunctive treatment...

    Now, if you'll please excuse me... I'm going to go sacrifice an evergreen-conifer, to adorn as an alter for a belief, that I don't necessarily prescribe to...

    Oh, but they are so pretty, and smell so good! ...and, it gives my OCD, quite the work-out... must be perfect!


    Thank you,
    -Marka

  8. #8

    Default



    Quote Originally Posted by ArchieRoni View Post
    The Jehovah's witnesses cases have had mixed results actually. Ever since they started signing very clear "no transfusions even in emergencies, I've really thought about this" forms before they get medical treatment, they have succeeded occasionally on charging doctors with assault for doing it anyway.

    This case strikes me as an especially extreme version of the issue. The child would have to be taken away from her family to get the medical treatment needed to save her life. There's no good outcome there, just which one you think is less bad.

    I think this might have been the right decision though, just barely. Imagine you had an adult who simply didn't want chemo. I don't think you can force treatment on them. The extra chalkenge here is that its not the child deciding because we don't believe kids can mane those decisions without help, so the parent gets to and the decision. But it's still a question of respecting the choice vs forcing undesired medical treatments.
    Yeah, my brother is a Jehovah's Witness. He converted when he moved out west. I always thought it must have been something in the air out there. Anyway, we all went out west for his wedding and during that time we had a great debate about the issue of refusing blood transfusions. This was more than thirty years ago and even back then they were carrying those cards refusing transfusions if found in an accident or incapacitated. The courts here in Canada have ruled several times in favour of the doctors proceeding to save their lives. I'm not aware of any losses, at least not in Canada.

    I have to agree with your comment that there is no good outcome here, and perhaps that's why this decision is bothering me. It is sad to see it as being hailed.as a victory for native rights when it condemns the daughter to death.

    I was also going to indicate my belief that any adult in a fit state of mind should have the right to refuse chemotherapy. That would be a personal choice, and although it would be sad to see a person choose to refuse help, they have the right to choice. What bothers me about this case is that the mother has removed her daughter from the only medical help that will save her daughter's life, and whether she realizes it or not, she is condemning her daughter to death. I respect native rights, and I believe the mother loves her daughter, but damn, the courts are allowing an 11 year old girl to die a painful death, one that is unnecessary. Just very sad.

  9. #9
    acorn

    Default

    What seems missing from the debate is what the child says, in Europe this is of paramount importance. Basically if the child is aware of the consequences of their decision, their free right to refuse medical help is still respected - even onto death. My questions are; did the child have any input into the medical or subsequent legal decision making process?

    Don't ask me to defend this stated stance, for it is one I feel - I'd personally fight tooth and nail under the circumstances.

    Love or lump it, what you are in fact seeing here in this legal case is one of the less palatable faces of the right to die issue. Where are the turkeys who voted for the preservation of Thanksgiving and Christmas now? Not that the turkeys are totally to blame, for we should never have given them the vote in the first place!

  10. #10

    Default

    WARNING: This is the first time I have attempted to multi quote. I just started a thread asking for assistance because I still haven't been able to figure it out. This may or may not work, so if my post looks bizarre, well, you were warned!




    Quote Originally Posted by Astatine View Post
    This is not so much a question of religion and science as of politics and ethics. Imagine, you are living in a 'souvereign' society. One day, two other players appear, let's say France and Great Britain, dividing up your soil, raging wars on your territory, enslaving your people and essentially destroying your culture (a process also known as colonialism). After a long period of oppression, you get your territory handed back (some of it) and are allowed to live according to your culture (what's left of it), but you're still within the territory of a foreign ruler (at least you are granted special constitutional rights). However, the oppression never really stops, your society is still dependent on the other system and your cultural identity still seems lost. So, what you try to do is to reestablish your own identity at all means necessary, even violence against your oppressors or yourself (this is generally referred to as post-colonialism).

    Leaves the question of the human rights... which are supposed to be universal, but are in fact highly contingent, both culturally and historically. Michel Foucault concerned himself a lot with the right to live and identifies it as a means for the ruling class to establish and realize power, basically the invention of biopolitics. No thoughts on children dying of cancer in that one, at least not, when it came up the first time. But even beyond that, think of a culture where death is regarded, literally, as the way of things, the most natural thing conceivable. How would you reconcile a right to live with a mode of existence, in which death isn't necessarily a bad thing?

    From that point of view (which is by no means all-encompassing), both, the decision of the judge and decision of the mother are somewhat understandable.
    Good points. Several lawyers for the native community released a statement yesterday acknowledging the sadness of the decision and indicating that the courts can only do so much within the narrow confines of the law. The real challenge, they indicated was for our government and officials to reach out to the native community in constructive ways so that they would trust our assistance and medical expertise. We left them isolated and living in squalor and poverty. What reason do they have trust us?



    Quote Originally Posted by Marka View Post
    Well, I may have another angle...

    Precedence: How was it, that the girl was diagnosed with cancer, in the first place?
    I'm not finding the back-story leading up to all of this... My guess, is the mother had in fact brought the child in for treatment, to western Medicine...

    To my eyes, this has set the precedence for the child to receive said care...

    My take on visions, and any sort of apparition, gives me a dubious notion of the mother's vision, of said apparition... Whereby, it appears that the mother had then made the decision to vacate her daughter from Western medical practice...

    And, while I don't actually intend any particular disrespect of beliefs, traditions, and such... I'm not convinced that it was considered in proper context by the Judge's ruling...

    I'm not opposed to alternative health practices... all-together, and I have my reservations (many) with the Western medical...

    I assume, that this girl has had vaccinations, and whatever else from Western medical, for all her life prior to this... I don't think, that the mother should be allowed to abandon, mid-stream, the medical care that she had been utilizing, and then claim Long house, Mohawk, Aboriginal traditions... because, she had what may amount to nothing more than a hallucination...

    When I get gut, instinctual, intuitive notions... it could be interpreted as intangible, ethereal too, I suppose... However, I don't believe that it is all that mysterious... I believe that it is an accumulation of nuance, and subtle gathering, that I may not be especially conscious of, but which makes of a mean total, of my experiences and observations...

    I think, that a concession should have been made in this ruling.... that at least, if the daughter (who should still be observed by western Medicine), should reach a state of condition, just prior to a 50/50 % chance of survivability; that she must be returned for chemotherapy... I don't believe that this is an all-or-nothing situation...

    Another option, could have been a more mild chemo treatment, with the alternative practice, as an adjunctive treatment...

    Now, if you'll please excuse me... I'm going to go sacrifice an evergreen-conifer, to adorn as an alter for a belief, that I don't necessarily prescribe to...

    Oh, but they are so pretty, and smell so good! ...and, it gives my OCD, quite the work-out... must be perfect!


    Thank you,
    -Marka
    I believe the precedence is based on whether the family actually practiced the native traditions and that those traditions were practiced prior to our arrival. There seems to be a consensus that these laws were meant to apply more to cases around discrimination, employment, and services, and that it was never designed with this sort of case in mind. The mother was practicing traditional methods, but I just feel that preserving an innocent life should be of the most primary importance. I have a friend who goes to a homeopathy because she prefers it to modern medicine. When she was diagnosed with precancerous cells however, she continued getting the proper medical care to deal with the cancer while at the same time seeing her homeopathy. She received treatment from both experts, and of there was any conflict, she chose to go with the cancer specialist doctors. It's unfortunate the court couldn't have come up with a similar arrangement. (my friend's fine now, by the way).



    Quote Originally Posted by acorn View Post
    What seems missing from the debate is what the child says, in Europe this is of paramount importance. Basically if the child is aware of the consequences of their decision, their free right to refuse medical help is still respected - even onto death. My questions are; did the child have any input into the medical or subsequent legal decision making process?

    Don't ask me to defend this stated stance, for it is one I feel - I'd personally fight tooth and nail under the circumstances.

    Love or lump it, what you are in fact seeing here in this legal case is one of the less palatable faces of the right to die issue. Where are the turkeys who voted for the preservation of Thanksgiving and Christmas now? Not that the turkeys are totally to blame, for we should never have given them the vote in the first place!
    I agree the child's wishes should be taken into consideration, but it was noted in the decision that the child didn't have the capacity to understand what's at stake. Also, the child would be most heavily influenced by her mother and would likely abide by her wishes.



    Okay, I'm going to hit the 'Submit Reply' button now and I really hope I multi quoted properly or this is probably going to look pretty stupid. (He looks down at the button, sweat pouring from his brow, and then, hesitantly he hits the button...)
    Last edited by Starrunner; 30-Nov-2014 at 19:49.

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