Sunday, July 23, 2006

Judge orders consent.

Starchild Abraham Cherrix is not a lucky 16-year-old. He has an aggressive case of Hodgkin's disease. A year ago he had chemotherapy and things improved but now the disease is back and worse. He decided to ignore the best medical advice offered and seek out some "alternative" therapy in Mexico based on herbal remedies and organic food.

There is zero evidence that the alternative treatment has any validity. As far as I am concerned Mr. Cherrix has basically choosen a death sentence. But he replies: "This is my body that I'm supposed to take care of. I should have the right to tell someone what I want to do with this body. I studied. I did research. I came to this conclusion that the chemotherapy was not the route I wanted to take."

Fair enough. It was not a good study. It was not accurate research but it is his body and it is his decision. The courts ruled otherwise. They deemed that the boy is not capable to make the decision nd his parents are negligent in not seeking the best treatment. Now it is hard to face that logic. I do believe that the boy has indicated he is not capable of reaching an informed decision based on the fact that he clearly made a wrong decision. But I think he is capable of making a right decision. That is he has the mental faculties to make the decision and if he is wrong he must live (or in this case, die) with it.

Precisely what Judge Jesse Demps ruled is not out yet as the judge sealed most of it. When the boy sought out alternative therphy a social worker got involved and took the case to court in order to force the boy into treatment.

I have real problems with Cherrix's decision but not with his right to make a decision especially since his parents support his decision. Personally I don't put much stock in their ability to think rationally --- after all they named the boy Starchild. But I should note he has the sense to prefer to be called Abraham.

When a child is young and clearly incapable of weighing options rationally, and the parents refuse proper medical treatment, I don't have a major problem with the state taking temporary custody in order to save a child's life. And if the treatment offered has an established record of helping I consider it an open and shut case.

Normally the treatment Cherrix is undergoing works well. But in this case it didn't work well for him the first time and thus has a reduced likelihood of working this time. So the outcome is a bit more up in the air. And Cherrix is not so young as to be unable to think rationally even if he failed to do so here. Nor is this simply the parents imposing something on a child. It is his decision and his parents support it.

So I conclude the court was in error here. Do I think it a dangerous precident which puts the custodial rights of all parents at risk? No. This ruling does not break any new ground. The law still stands as it has for a very long time. I do think it was a borderline case but I still think the law should have sided with Cherrix as I believe the evidence lies more in his favor to make this decision.

I hope the chemo works this time. I fear that if it does the so-called alternative theraphy will receive all the credit and if it doesn't work the chemo will sustain all the blame. Whatever the outcome I think Mr. Cherrix should have been given the right to make his own decision.

I find the courts baffling and inconsistent. Certainly if Cherrix were a pregnant 16 year old girl the right to choose an abotion would be assumed. If the 6'1" Cherrix killed someone in a vicious way I have no doubt he would be tried as an adult. In much of the US he is deemed capable of dropping out of school, capable of operating a motor vehicle endangering the lives of others, and able to consent to sex. In a few months time he could join the Marines and get sent to Iraq to fight and perhaps die. So given the realities I think he should think he ought to have this right to decide for himself.

One of the really strange concepts from the case comes from a news story that reported: "On, Friday, Judge Jesse E. Demps of Accomack County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court agreed with Social Services and said Abraham's parents were to deliver him to [the hospital] by 1 p.m. Tuesday and give there consent to whatever treatment the hospital deems necessry."

It would seem impossible to order consent. Consent by definition requires free choice and the Judge in this case has denied the parents free choice. If a man ordered a woman to consent to sex or face a punishment it would still be deemed rape. Any judge who thinks he can order consent really ought not sit on the bench.