Parent’s Rights

Do we, as American parents, have the right to rear our children according to our personal religious beliefs?

From time to time, this question burns in my mind.  My automatic response is a definite and emphatic “YES;” however, I find my voice growing fainter each time a parent’s rights are infringed upon by the courts.

We’ve all heard and read about this 13 year-old boy, Daniel, from Minnesota with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He and his parents have refused chemotherapy treatment and will be taken to court over their decision.  This family is part of the Nemenhah Band.  Apparently they adhere to American Indian beliefs and use alternate medicinal therapies.

I’m not passing judgement on the Hauser family.  I’m not saying they should or should not have their son treated with conventional medicine. 

I am saying that I believe it is their right as the boy’s parents to decide how their son is treated for his illness.

If that were my child, he would have chemotherapy, NO questions asked!  I know from first-hand experience that it is a treatable disease with a very high success rate.  One of my cousins is a Hodgkin’s disease survivor.  

It is my strongest belief that if my son were sick, I should have the right to seek out any and all possible treatments to cure or at least retard his illness; however, it is my opinion that every mother should have this right no matter her beliefs. 

Last time I sat in a history class, I was taught that America is the land of the free.  America has historically been a place where people can go and practice religious freedom, even if their beliefs clash with modern medicine.  I don’t think it’s up to the court to decide for a perfectly sane, caring, loving parent what is ‘best’ for their child.

I know a child’s life hangs in the balance of these debates and that makes me terribly sad.  I realize the gravity of a decision and the eternal consequences of that one decision. 

I just wonder if this should be the parent’s decision or the courts?

What do you think?

Freedom comes at a great price. 

Many men and women have given their very lives for our freedoms.  Let’s not take our freedoms lightly or use them irresponsibly.


25 thoughts on “Parent’s Rights

  1. KathyB!

    I think it is completely the parent’s decision to be made with the child. I don’t think the enormity of that decision can be taken lightly, but I do not think it is our responsibility to make it for them.

  2. Mom

    Wow, you certainly are giving your readers lots to think about. As you stated, Tricia, I too would seek out all the medical help for my children. However, I don’t think that is the question you raised here.
    The question is, how much more control is the government going to have on us? We have seen the government “take control” of many situations all in the name of “protecting the children” and we have watched the mess and chaos unfold before our eyes on TV. Ultimately, the children have suffered needless emotional pain in the hands of the government. They have been snatched out of the arms of loving and caring parents and placed in foster homes because someone in high places did not agree with the way they were living.
    What next?

  3. Cher

    The state can tell us to send our kid to school. The state can tell us not to hit our children. The state can tell us not to leave children alone in the house. The state can tell us we can’t raise our kids in a dirty, messy house. And you guys are upset because the state WON’T let this kid die unnecessarily? Give me a break!

    Government tells us we can’t have assisted suicide when we’re old and sick and have no hope for health but you think it’s OK for parents to assist this child, healthy in every way except one and who has all the reason to hope and have a bright future, to die by withholding treatment in the name of their religion? Somebody better re-examine the idea of religion!

    Sorry, I don’t believe in abortion no matter what the child’s age or what the religion and this parent is aborting her child’s life as sure as if he was still in her womb!

    The Texas Woman, passionately

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Cher, point certainly taken. I don’t want to see a child die needlessly. It’s just that some people BELIEVE in natural medicine and for some people it works. I still maintain the position that a parent should be able to decide what medical care a child recieves. It’s not abortion to choose alternative therapy or medical care. -FringeGirl

    2. Merryheart


      I understand your passion. But you are assuming that the doctors know everything. They don’t.

      I don’t know if you are old enough to remember when they told us eggs were bad for us? And before that, when they told us eggs were good for us? Now they’re good again…

      Mind you, there is no incentive to do the immense studies on natural remedies as there is for drugs. Natural remedies are not patentable, and will not bring the researchers the big bucks.

      The FDA and the AMA are seriously compromised in their decisions due to their desire to support packaged food manufacturers, food chemists, and the artificial sweetener industry.

      Just because parents don’t believe everything doctors say does not make them neglectful or abusive. Maybe they’re right! What will society say if the chemo doesn’t work, or worse, kills Daniel? I pray it will work; it usually does, but not always.

  4. Mama Belle

    I think we have to take each situation on a case-by-case basis. If a child is going to be harmed and the parents are obviously delusional, then maybe, the courts should step in. Whatever’s best for the child, I guess.

    However, I do believe that a parent should have the right to decide treatment for their child, whether it be natural medicine or drugs.

    A lot to think about.

  5. Erin

    I think there has become a real disconnect between our personal rights and freedoms and what is imposed, whether it is in the form of parents choosing for their children or a dying person choosing for themself. I don’t get it. Why is it that doctors/state get to choose for us? Would I want the best care for my child? Yes! Would I want to be involved in the decision? Yes! We have to hope that parents make the right decision, otherwise we might as well send ’em off at two to live in wards.

  6. Stonefox

    I totally agree. We should have the right to decide whether or not we want certain treatments.

    This case is not a matter of abuse or criminal activity in which rights are forfeited and correctly so; it is a personal decision, regardless of whether it is tied to religious beliefs or not. It frightens me to ponder what kind of country my children will raise their kids in.

  7. Jo@Mylestones

    Wow, you’re diving into some heavy stuff here. Like most of the other commenters, I’d advocate for a parents’ right over the state’s. IAgain, with the caveat that abuse can’t be tolerated–but even the definition of abuse is a grey area. In general, the thought of the gov’t telling me how to care for my child is very disconcerting….

  8. robinaltman

    Yikes! This is such a tough one for me. I’m basically for the parents, but Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is very treatable, and they’re basically choosing not to treat it. The poor kid is going to die. Is he old enough to make that sort of decision? Is it fair to make it for him? I seriously don’t know what’s right, here. But, as a doctor, I know I would fight for the child’s life, and if the parents hated me for it, I could live with that.

  9. David

    Wow! You have been delving into deep subjects lately, FringeGirl! lol While this is a tough one and I can see both sides, I would rather we err on the side of parental sovereignty in the “gray areas.” As a general policy, I believe each person should be allowed to make their own health decisions, even if the rest of us don’t think those decisions are necessarily wise.

    One thing that struck me is that, in Texas at least, when a child reaches the age of fourteen, a judge will (generally) honor his or her desires as to which of his divorced parents they live with. So there is some recognition that, at some point, even children should get some say into what happens to them.

    If the thirteen year old were wanting the chemotherapy and his parents refused, I could maybe understand someone defending the child’s wishes, given his age. But since both child and parent are against the treatment, I don’t think it’s our government’s place to force it on them. That seems like a very dangerous path to me.

  10. Janna Qualman

    I see a lot I agree with. What it comes down to for me is, let the parents decide… WHEN the parents are capable of such decisions. The sticky part is drawing that line, because there can be such gray areas. And what capability for one, isn’t for another. You know? Ack. I’m so blessed not to have to deal with such a decision.

    I don’t think anyone above mentioned this, unless I missed it: Last I saw (a few weeks ago), they determined the boy will have to have chemo. The judge ruled it mandatory.

  11. TCKK

    This is a toughie!! I prefer the idea of the parents making the choice, not the courts. But that said it’s hard to see a child not get treatment that could save his life. I do agree with Evergreen though. The courts want to step in on this type case, but have no problem with abortion. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

  12. Jane George

    I suppose every case is different, but I have to vote on the Parental rights side, if I have not neglected my child or abused him. Have researched what treatments are available, then the final decision should be the Parents.

  13. Kristina

    This is such a tough situation! I think that he has a right to live and to thrive, and on the one hand, his parents are denying that. I worked for DCFS for several years, and medical neglect was a serious problem.

    However, I think these parents truly think what they are doing is right, and I think they have that right.

  14. Lisa from Kentucky

    My husband and I were discussing this just this morning. I feel that the child has a right to voice what he wants. I also feel that the parents have a right to do what they feel is best for their child. If it were my child they would have the chemo for sure. If my child complained about the effects I would encourage them to be strong. If there was no hope that the treatment would work I would opt for them to not have chemo.

    I think the courts step into family decisions way too much. They need to tone things down some and let parents decide what is best for their children.

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      Lisa from Kentucky, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for contributing. -FringeGirl

  15. Debbie York

    First of all, who alerted the “authorities” of their decision to go with their choice rather than chemo? Was it the attending physician and does this cross the dr./patient confidentiality? I really don’t know the laws, but I have to say the parents have the right to decide what is best in their opinion for their child. It seems like everyone wants to keep “big government” out except when it goes against what they deem correct behavior. And what about the child’s rights? Are they being compromised? This is a mess and I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that as a parent, I would hate to think I have no say so over my own child.

  16. Rachel

    Yes, you are correct in that the parents SHOULD have the right to choose any type of medicine they choose for their child. The only time I would see a need for the courts to step in is if a parent blatantly refused to seek treatment – alternative, modern, whatever – for their child. If the child’s life is in danger and the parents are doing nothing to me that is child abuse.

    I like the point your first poster made. The courts will do anything – including overstepping their bounds – to protect a child out of the womb, but push for the destruction of children in the womb. What a double standard.

  17. Mel

    I too am torn on this one…I do believe the parents have the right to raise their children as they sit fit, as long as they are not abusing/neglecting their children. Seeking alternate medical treatment for a child is not in my opinion abuse/neglect, I do believe the court has overstepped here. Now what would I do if it were my child, I tend toward convential medicine and would likely choose the chemo/radiation, but I do not think parents who do not go that route are being neglectful. To me it is no different than the family that refuses a blood transfusion because of a belief, would I do that no but again I am not that parent. Just my $.02 worth

  18. MissCaron

    That’s a toughie … on the one hand I firmly believe that parent’s have the right to parent according to their individual beliefs however on the other hand I understand that if their beliefs impart an unsafe environment, physical or emotional harm, etc. then it is in the best interest of the child for the courts to step in and intervene. For example, it may be your personal or spiritual believe in corporal punishment for your children however when it crosses the line into physical abuse it no longer is an issue of parent’s rights but child’s rights. This is a very sticky subject. I can’t wait to read everyone’s responses. 🙂

    1. thedomesticfringe Post author

      MissCaron, you bring out a good point. The way I understood it, and I certainly may be wrong, the mother wanted to try alternative medicine as her approach. I’m neither for or against alternative medicine. I think it can be beneficial in many instances and I’ve used some wholistic approaches to ‘healing’ myself; however, I also use and believe in modern medicine. My opinion isn’t important. Legally, doesn’t the parent have the right to use whatever form of medicine they choose? The parents don’t seem to be providing an usafe environment, just one that is contrary to popular opinion.

  19. Evergreen

    The courts are stepping in a little too much. These parents were not doing anything maliciously, they were doing what they thought best. It IS THEIR RIGHT!

    Is ironic that the courts will try to prosecute this family for adhering to their beliefs and try to force them to treat their son, yet how many millions of babies are aborted every year and that’s is considered “okay”.

    It is their decision. We may not think it’s right, but it is still their child, their responsibility. Not the government’s.


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