The law should intervene during health decisions only if the parent is neglectful or if it will better the welfare of the minor.
The laws imposed on the United States’ society are meant to establish order with the goal of promoting justice. However, where is the line drawn when the law tries to establish order by protecting us from ourselves?
Mazerrati Mitchell, 16, of Chichester High School in Chichester, Pa., suffered a spinal injury during wrestling practice. As a result, doctors told him he would face paralyzation for the rest of his life if he did not receive surgery. Surprisingly, Mitchell, along with the support of his family, refused the option of surgery and wanted to heal his spinal injury naturally.
His mother, Vernell Mitchell, practices naturopathic medicine and believed herbs and physical therapy were the best options for her son. Their decision to refuse surgery prompted the intervention of the Delaware County Office of Children and Youth Services.
On Feb. 11, the Philadelphia Daily News reported that the Delaware County judge ruled Mitchell must receive surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, despite his parents’ objections – a problematic situation because it emphasizes the U.S. law’s ability to have final say on how we treat ourselves medically, in addition to its focus on Western views of treatment.
As a minor, parents are obligated to make the majority of decisions about their child’s health, which are ideally in your best interest. If parents have been proven to act logically and rationally concerning the welfare of their child, they should have the right to make decisions concerning their child’s medical treatment.
I immediately thought the court should have no right to enforce a surgery against the wishes of the patient. At such a needy time for the boy, his parents should have been able to stay by his side.
However, the boy is a minor, and his parents may have acted irresponsibly by refusing a surgery, with minimum risks, that would guarantee his quality of life.
In extreme cases when parents act irrationally, child protective services should get involved and do what is deemed best for the child.
“I do believe that courts should intervene to save children from death or very serious harm,” said Theresa Glennon, a Temple law professor who studies family law. “They do it for other reasons, such as abuse or other kinds of neglect, and I do not believe that medical neglect should be treated that differently.”
“However, they should intervene in as limited a manner as possible to preserve the child’s health with as little disruption to the parent/child relationship as possible,” Glennon added.
In the future, when I become a mother, I want free reign to medically treat my child. Obviously, I would act in a way where I would not keep my child from necessary surgery or treatment.
Under no circumstances do I want to be told by the law that my child must receive a surgery or treatment, if I have in place a proven alternative treatment that works.
A hospital is where people go to seek medical advice and, if wanted, accept treatment. Because our law is specific to Western culture it sometimes seems bizarre to accept alternative medicine as a treatment. Nonetheless, it is not fair to judge alternative medical treatments as unfit.
We should have the right to govern our own bodies and at no point should the law intervene unless it is absolutely necessary to better the child’s health. It is a problem when the law can take away our right to independently make our own health decisions, but the health decisions of those for whom we are legally responsible may require legal aid.
If we lose the right to make our own health decisions, we lose our autonomy. The furthest the law should intervene is by giving citizens an unbiased education on traditional and alternative medical treatments.
Kierra Bussey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.