2006-07-28

Evangelicals fighting to allow death by stupidity

It's hard being an evangelical. Every time I read the news and see what my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are doing, it makes me weep.

The latest issue? The fact that Evangelicals are now fighting to allow a Christian teenager the chance to die by parental stupidity.

The individual in question is Starchild Abraham Cherrix, a 16-year old kid from Virginia. Yes, you read that right, his first name is Starchild. That in itself should indicate a problem. Personally I think it would have been better to name him Adolf or Elvis... but these are not people who can be reasoned with.

Starchild Abe has Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After being diagnosed in 2005, he was put onto a regime of chemotherapy. According to the Wikipedia article, Hodgkin's has an 85% cure rate if treated in this way.

But after his first round of treatment, Starchild Abe and his parents decided that they would ditch the chemo. Instead, they would go for alternative treatment - the discredited Hoxsey Therapy that is only available in Mexico.

Hoxsey Therapy is about as useless and as superstitous as you can get in the modern world of alternative medicine. The reason why it is not approved as an alternative therapy in the USA is because no extensive medical testing has shown it to be effective. Indeed, many tests have proved that it has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon cancer sufferers. The American Cancer Society has publically repudiated the treatment:

After study of the literature and other available information, the American Cancer Society has found no evidence that the Hoxsey Method results in objective benefit in the treatment of cancer in human beings. Lacking such evidence, the American Cancer Society strongly urges individuals with cancer not to seek treatment with the Hoxsey Method.


Nevertheless, a clinic in Tijuana, Mexico offers the Hoxsey therapy to rich and stupid Americans who wish to spend money in the last few years of life believing that drinking a mixture of "licorice, red clover, burdock root, Stillingia root, barberry, Cascara, prickly ash bark, buckthorn bark, and potassium iodide" and having a paste of "antimony, zinc and bloodroot, arsenic, sulfur, and talc" covered over their skin (quotes from Wikipedia).

Now I may be wrong at this point, but one of the rights that patients have in America is the choice to refuse treament. Doctors cannot force treatment onto unwilling patients, who can opt to refuse treatment and instead die horrible deaths from preventable diseases if they so desire.

But Starchild Abe is a different case altogether. Being 16 years old he does not yet have the legal right to refuse treatment. Starchild Abe's parents, who obviously don't trust modern medicine, decided for their child to stop having Chemo and to start the Hoxsey therapy. They obviously told their doctor. Wrong move.

After the first round of treatment, their doctor prescibed another round of chemo. He did so probably because he believed that chemotherapy was the best chance that Starchild Abe had to live. When presented with the parents arguing that they would prefer to smear arsenic paste on his skin and get him to munch on cactus, he decided that enough was enough. He approached a social worker with the case, who was then able to get a court order to prevent Starchild Abe from crossing the Virginia border - the idea being that they were being prevented to cross into Mexico. The court also ordered that Starchild Abe undergo a second round of Chemotherapy.

In a case like this, the state has essentially determined that the parents of Starchild Abe were being grossly negligent in refusing their child medical care. If Starchild Abe was not a minor, his choice to eat cactus and smear aresenic on himself in the mistaken hope that it would cure his cancer would not be acted upon by the court. Since he is still only 16, and because the doctor obviously thought the parents were unreasonable and negligent, the court acted.

The result? Evangelical leaders are falling over themselves in fighting for the right to allow death by stupidity.

Al Mohler has even weighed in on this issue. Comparing the situation with "totalitarian regimes like China and the former Soviet Union", Mohler sees this issue as being one in which the rights of parents to choose the right medical treatment are being eroded by the evil of state interference.

Mind you, this is from a guy who thinks that drinking alcohol is sinful and that torture under strictly defined guidelines is good intelligence practice.

Mohler and others are angry at the idea that the state could interfere with the rights of parents in the way they bring up their children, and that this is an ominous sign of things to come. In other words, communism and Democrats and bogeymen.

Yet, if Starchild Abe's parents decided that the best solution to his condition was to hit him over the head with a specially blessed hammer until the demons of cancer were belted out of the kid, what would Mohler and the others think? Would they defend the right of parents to choose a treatment that would kill him?

And that's the real issue here. There is a reason God gave us brains, and over the years medical researchers have been able to verify through extensive testing that the Hoxsey therapy is a load of hooey. It's snake oil. Putting garlic around Starchild Abe's neck would be a better therapy. By forgetting basic facts and instead running with their political ideology, evangelical leaders who are supporting Starchild Abe's cactus diet are essentially supporting the right to allow a person to die by stupidity.

Of course, there are many contradictions here amongst evangelicals. On the one hand, they don't want the state to interfere with a parent's right to kill their son through stupidity, but they are more than willing to use the apparatus of the state to stop abortion on the basis that it results in the death of human life.

When we look at the bible - especially the Old Testament - we see that society needs to be ordered, and that laws are put into place to prevent people from gross sin. Parents are given responsibility over their children - but society also has a responsibility to ensure that parents don't abuse this situation.

In this case, with chemotherapy offering an 85% success rate, the choice of Starchild Abe's parents to cover him with arsenic paste and have him eat cactus is clearly and unambigiously WRONG. It's high time that courts of law put a stop to deadbeat parents abusing their kids, and this is one of those times.

But by taking the parent's side, Mohler and other evangelicals are arguing for death. Is the right of parents to ultimately determine their child's treatment more important than preventing the unnecessary and painful death of a teenager?


© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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3 comments:

Greg said...

I agree that their choice of treatment sounds ridiculaous. And I can see why the doctor and the state would WANT to act.

But do they have the RIGHT to act?

What if the family wanted to simply pray to God for healing? Should the state rob them of that right?

Who has the right and responsibility to make these decisions? The parents? The state?

It's a legitimate and very serious question.

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