With apologies to a fellow blogger and regular reader of mine, I tell yet another story about the wonders of the cult that is alive and well here in 21st century America …
The story starts with an unnamed teenager in New South Wales diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a couple of years ago. Last year he went through several rounds of chemotherapy, all unsuccessful because they were administered at a lower dose than what was prescribed by his doctor.
Why, you may ask? Because he and his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they knew that a higher dose of chemotherapy would have eventually required him to receive a blood transfusion. Now, that’s not a problem for most people, but these good folks have managed to conclude on the basis of a handful of sketchy and ambiguous bible verses that God frowns upon the receiving of intravenous blood. Odd, it seems, since that concept would have been completely foreign to anyone in the ancient world. Stranger still is the fact that the parents believe God has no problem whatsoever with doctors pumping all sorts of random shit into this kid’s veins with names that can’t be pronounced without an advanced degree in linguistics, but frowns righteously on topping him off after the ordeal.
Long story short, the last dose of chemo had to be stopped because the kid developed anemia. The doctor wanted to administer a transfusion to save the boy’s life, the parents refused, and the courts eventually got involved and found in favor of the hospital. The decision was recently upheld after an appeal from the family.
A 17 year-old Jehovah’s Witness who was fighting a court order to have a life-saving blood transfusion has lost an appeal just four months shy of his 18th birthday.
The religious teenager, who is being treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at The Sydney Children’s Hospital, had threatened to rip the IV needle from his arm and said it would be akin to rape if he was given a blood transfusion while under anaesthetic.
A Supreme Court judge ruled in April that the boy, known as X for legal reasons, had to have the transfusion but his family appealed it, arguing that he was “highly intelligent” and his maturity and competency should be enough to override the court’s power.
Interesting choice of words, considering how he reacted to the prospect of being given the transfusion against his will. Besides, it’s not as if this is going to make a damned bit of difference anyway. This kid (only referred to as “X” in the article because of his age) is going to be 18 in a few months, at which point he will have the legal authority to decide whether to continue or refuse treatment as he sees fit …
… all while armed with the razor sharp and well-informed decision making capabilities bestowed upon him by his parents. In other words, he has an 80% chance of dying of anemia within a year, and he’ll be convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s what God wants him to do. How anyone can consider someone like this competent, at least in this particular context, I have no idea … but it shouldn’t matter how old he is if that’s the reason he’s going to refuse treatment. “Because my God / religion says so” should be used for little more than random dietary restrictions, the wearing of the occasional odd piece of clothing, and the kind of prayers you say in your closet at home.
It should not be used to refuse to have your child vaccinated against perfectly preventable diseases. Nor, in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses, should it be used to prevent their child from receiving a life saving blood transfusion. It’s my position that any refusal of medical services for children should simply be ignored if the basis for it invokes either a God or a set of “strongly held beliefs”. Anything short is tantamount to complicity to child abuse.
In the case of “X”, it’s not only this, but the formative years he’s spent under their influence has made him more than willing to make the same decision without their guidance. It’s little wonder why Richard Dawkins and others sometimes call religion “child abuse”. I wouldn’t say it’s universally true, but in cases like this I can see why the argument can be made.