M. McGregor (m_mcgregor) wrote,
M. McGregor

Fluff piece followups / When it's okay for the government to tell parents how to raise their kids

Those of you who've been sucked into my little corner of the internet may remember me bringing up Isabelle Prichard before. Back in 2007, Isabelle Prichard, a thirteen year old girl with brain cancer whose parents decided to forego her doctor's recommendations and put their trust in a faith healer.

Well now it's 2009, and if there's a hint of a follow-up story anywhere on the internet, I sure as heck can't find it. That's not surprising, of course, but it is a little depressing. One would assume that if Isabelle was doing just fine and dandy it would have been the feel-good story of the century, and fans of faith healing would be shouting it from the rooftops.

Or not. Maybe she's fine. I have no way of knowing. And that's what is so damned disappointing with so many news outlets these days. They're so happy to report on the desperate actions of terribly misinformed and deluded parents, but they will so rarely bother to follow up on the story.

draconin pointed out that a couple that allowed their eczema-stricken child to die due to lack of care (they were treating her homeopathically, which is to say: not at all) were recently sentenced to prison as a result. A few years ago a vegan couple was convicted of criminal negligence for allowing their 6-month-old baby to die of malnourishment.

But what about situations Isabelle Prichard? What about a child who dies because of the desperate desire of those involved to find any other solution besides the harsh reality the doctors prescribe? Would we really hear about that? I tend not to think so. Not unless there were criminal charges brought against such a family.

A few months ago there was the case of Daniel Hauser, a teenaged boy who, along with his parents, refused to be subjected to chemotherapy to treat his Hodgkin's Lymphoma. That case eventually did get the courts involved, and since Hauser was a minor, he and his parents were ordered to make him submit to what was very likely a life-saving procedure.

Now I understand the slippery slope fears in a situation like that, and if Daniel or Isabelle were adults, then I would be sad for them that they were willing to throw their lives away, but I wouldn't say they should be stopped. Yes, nistelle, the question does then become: when is someone an adult? Let's pretend that's not a question we have to deal with for the time being.

For right now, legally speaking, a child does not (in most cases) have the right to decide their own medical treatment. That is up to their parents. And when their parents refuse to allow life-saving treatments to their children, that fast becomes a case of neglect, not principle.

Sure, nobody wants the government stepping in to tell people how to raise their children, but the question is where do you draw the line? If the government can say "You MUST feed your children" then the government should also be able to say "You MUST provide your child with medicine that has been proven to be capable of saving their lives."

So then the question might be: how come the Prichards weren't prosecuted? How come the Hausers were forced by the courts to provide treatment for their son, but the Prichards have apparently not been forced to do the same for their daughter?

Religious and philosophical exemption laws. Almost every state has them, and while there has been some headway towards loosening the wide net they cast towards protecting neglect when couched in religious terms, these laws still exist. In fact, they're a favorite tool of anti-vaccination propagandists who urge people to refuse vaccinations on religious or philosophical grounds: usually religious, but that's only because "I'm irrationally scared of them" isn't generally an accepted philosophy.

Maybe that's why the original (and only) story about Isabelle was reported on like a fluff piece. It was meant to be a happy tale of triumph. Look at these brave people who told the doctors to stuff their mundane diagnoses and instead embraced the magic of a faith healer! Hooray for them! Their total lack of understanding that correlation does not equal causation has allowed them to live in a deluded fantasy world where some Russian guy has magic powers and can cure you of a disease over the phone! Huzzah!

I'd just love to see a real follow up on this story. Did Isabelle get cured within ten days of Nicolai Levashov waggling his fingers at her? Has she had any more surgery? Is she okay?

Unless I manage to get myself to Ashland, Oregon, I doubt I'll ever find out, but I'm pretty sure I can make an educated guess about her being cured by Levashov. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say: probably not. But hey, assuming she is cured and living a wonderful life now, good for her. She got very lucky, and I hope she's having a wonderful life.

Nicolai Levashov is still a colossal piece of shit, of course. But good for her. I hope.
Tags: science and/or skepticism

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