Monday, July 24, 2006

Abraham Cherrix Forced Treatment Says Judge

Tomorrow, unless AbrahamCherrix runs away, goes into hiding, or somehow, otherwise escapes, the Government will seize a young man, take him him to the hospital and force a treatment. I've talked about this before, these treatments are not so clear as doctors would like to portray them.

Currently, another 16-year-old boy, Abraham Cherrix, is drawing public attention to this issue.

Like Billy, Abraham also has Hodgkin's lymphoma. He completed chemotherapy and went into remission.

Though, the cancer has returned, Abraham has made it clear he doesn't want to go that route again.

"The first round of chemo almost killed me in itself. There were some nights I didn't know if I would make it," Abraham said. To go through it again "would kill me, literally. No joke about it."

He and his family researched and discussed the other cancer treatment options available.

Part of the argument is that teenagers don't really have the ability to see the long-term ramifications of life and death decisions. And yet, abortion without informing parents is fine for a twelve year-old? No doubt she, and her boyfriend/molestor/rapist, can make an informed decision all on her own.

"Teenagers don't really have the full capacity to understand the broader picture, " said Kara Kelly, a pediatric oncologist at Columbia University.

She worries that teens don't realize the consequences of their decision and if alternative therapy doesn't work, they could be putting their lives at risk.

A number of studies show "adolescents have some difficulty understanding the finality of death," said University of Florida professor of psychology Jay Reeve. This could, in turn, "impact the ability to make well-balanced life or death decisions."

The problem, in this case, is the parents, who are trying to act on their son's behalf back up his decision. They have heard the arguments. They have seen the evidence. It is not like the child is all alone in the wilderness here.

Raymond De Vries, a member of the bioethics program at the University of Michigan, has a different view.

In his opinion, some young people do have the ability to make responsible decisions about their bodies.

What should be done in Abraham's situation, according to De Vries, is instead of only considering the boy's age, authorities should assess how well he understands his decision and whether he understands the consequences.

Cases like this sometimes boil down to power and authority, De Vries said.

It is a "challenge to [the doctor's] authority when you go away from their suggestion. Their immediate response is, 'No,'" De Vries said.

Kelly agrees.

"Some doctors alienate patients in their beliefs, say there is no data, no science and dismiss it [alternative medicine.]"

Not all cancer treatments are clear-cut. Many "cure" the cancer and kill the patient. Some treatments make life such hell, the patient is barely living and wants to die.

Will there be civil liberties outrage? Will the ACLU take up the cause of this boy's right to self-determination? You know, it's funny, the same people who will scream about rights, seem to have no problem signing them away to a doctor. It is disturbing.


Dorothy said...

I am a friend of the family and I'm finding this whole mess appalling. I no longer support our county's judicial system that supports forcing a young man to do something that he knows will kill him. I applaud him for not showing up today. I applaud his parents who are fighting for the life of their son. My heart goes to them.

Dr. Melissa said...

Hi Dorothy,
I wasn't sure if you were a friend of my family or the Cherrix family. Now, I get it!

Well, they certainly aren't alone. It is a difficult choice--one the family has to live with. The doctors and judges and social workers will not have to live with the consequences.

The medical system is heirarchical and the doctors in the system are often condescending to those "under" their care. Once on medical turf, you're theirs. People often are surprised how their own opinion actually matters very little once a zealous doctor/nurse/administrator gets their paws on you.

The trend towards involving the judicial system is disturbing. All free-thinking people should be concerned about this case.

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