Monday, May 19, 2003

To operate or not to operate?

I've been following the case of the Michigan parents whose treatment of their daughter's brain tumor was challenged by the state with a great deal of dread. The parents had chosen homeopathic remedies for the child's condition, but doctors argued she would die without surgery; of course, there was a pretty good chance she would die from the surgery, or be severely impaired. The parents were charged with neglect for not subjecting their child to the surgery, and for a while it looked as though the girl would be seized and operated upon against their will. But according to recent reports, the brain tumor is now considered to be inoperable, and so the prosecutor is backing off and just insisting on conventional medical care and keeping the child comfortable.

Now, I have to confess, I have my doubts about homeopathic treatments. And I'm not sure I wouldn't go to any medical lengths to save my child's life if it came to that. But in this case, the parents appeared to have gathered medical opinions and decided that surgery was too risky, and to have turned to something that might not save their daughter's life, but wouldn't put a prompt end to it, either. And the thought of disagreeing with professionals, or making decisions based on their opinion that may be seen as less than traditional, bringing on a charge of negligent parenting is sure something that strikes a little fear in me. I second-guess my decisions all the time, but wouldn't want prosecutors and child-welfare workers doing it for me. Especially if it involved something as serious as potentially fatal surgery.

So I'm glad that, for now, this case has been resolved. But you can sure 'nough look for it to be argued again on "ER" and "Law and Order" for seasons to come.

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