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Children are not their parents’ property

Yesterday’s post about Sarah Hershberger, the Amish girl from northeast Ohio with lymphoblastic lymphoma who refused chemotherapy, prompting a court battle that led to the appointment of a medical guardian for her to make sure she receives treatment, got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing). Actually, I had to think back over the years about all the similar cases of unfortunate children with cancer whose misfortune was compounded by having been born to woo-loving parents, such as Daniel Hauser.

These stories are depressingly similar, as are the arguments that go on over them. First, a child develops cancer. That child starts chemotherapy and does well initially. Then, the child develops side effects. The parents react quite understandably, becoming alarmed at their child’s suffering. However, because of a tendency towards magical thinking they can’t seem to see the big picture. So they stop the chemotherapy and pursue quackery. Sometimes, thinking that their child’s tumor is gone because it is no longer detectable after a cycle or two (or three) of chemotherapy, they think their child doesn’t need any more chemotherapy. They don’t understand (or accept) the rationale for consolidation and maintenance chemotherapy that lead most chemotherapy regimens for childhood malignancies to be at least two years long. They don’t understand that by stopping therapy so early they are greatly increasing the chances that their child’s cancer will return.

Other aspects of these stories are maddeningly similar. Usually what happens next is that either the hospital or the state’s child protective services go to court to make sure that the child receives proper cancer care. What follows is then usually a court battle in which the parents and their allies (and, yes, they always find allies) portray the hospital and child protective services as fascistic tools of big government doing the will of big pharma to torture an innocent child. I only exaggerate a little. Actually, no, I am not exaggerating at all. In the uncommon case in which the court actually rules that the child must undergo treatment, it is not uncommon for the parents to flee with the child. We’ve seen it with Daniel Hauser; we’ve seen it with Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke; and we now see it with Sarah Hershberger, whose father is said to have taken her out of the country to avoid her receiving chemotherapy.

It is this demonization of medical professionals and case workers trying to do the right thing that reveals a very disturbing aspect of the American psyche, and that’s the attitude that children are property and parents’ rights trump the well-being of the child. For example, take a look at this comment from a commenter by the ‘nym of H323:

All of this is caused by the general rejection of Judeo-Christian values. The Bible if very clear that children are a gift from God our Creator to the parents. They are God’s and God has given them to parents as stewards. The Bible leaves no room for the state to have custody of children! I am Mennonite and of the same Anabaptist faith as the Amish. The Amish and Mennonites will simply not accept a socialistic government that takes custody of it’s children and hands them over to a medical system that has little regard for human life (abortion services are considered a medical service.) If we have too, we will leave this country before we accept this type of horror. When the mother wants to kill, the state grants the choice to the mother. When the mother wants to make cancer treatment choices, the state takes the choice from the mother! The cause for this is a society that has no regard for the Word of the Lord.

Then if you go to the Akron Children’s Hospital Facebook page, you’ll find comments like this one by a man named John Strangis (whose YouTube channel is chock full of HIV/AIDS denialism and videos on chemtrails), who writes on the ACH Facebook page:

Looks like the family won and the girl recovered with NATURAL TREATMENTS regardless of your efforts to force her into something which went against the wishes of her parents.

Then someone by the name of Elect Sys writes:

The Lord has given parents custody of children–not the state or worse yet someone who has a conflict of interest with the parents such as Akron Hospital. Flee the place at all cost!

Here’s someone named Madison Treiber:

THIS HOSPITAL IS VIOLATING HUMAN RIGHTS!!!! They are forcefully administering chemotherapy to a child who does not wish to be treated with such a method. Her parents are being legally required to allow this treatment that they, nor their daughter support.

This hospital, in conjunction with the Ohio court, are violating human rights. They are legally mandating what this girl do her body! It is not their choice. What sort of a country do we live in if the courts can decide how we treat our ailments?? They are robbing this child and her family of their freedoms. There are so many other options in treating cancer, and everyone should be able to pursue the treatments THEY prefer, not be legally required to do what the state thinks is best.

Do not support this appalling institution.

Funny how Ms. Treiber doesn’t seem to consider endangering the life of a child by withholding potentially life-saving treatment to be a violation of human rights. If you scroll back to the early part of October on the posts on the ACH Facebook page, which is around the time the ruling that Sarah Hershberger should undergo chemotherapy was handed down, you’ll find screed after screed after screed castigating ACH using similar arguments. They all boil down to outrage that any entity, be it the hospital, the courts, child protective services, or any other agency of the government, would dare to interfere with the parents’ absolute right (in their view) to care for their children the way that they see fit. It doesn’t matter that the parents are endangering Sarah Hershberger’s life by withholding the only treatment that can save her in favor of “natural healing” that can’t. While many commenters try to argue that this “natural healing” will work better than chemotherapy, more than a few of them seem to realize deep down that it won’t. They’ll qualify their statement by saying that the parent has the “right to choose” what is “best” for their child even if it’s clearly not, even as they express outrage that the state would try to intervene in the best interests of the child.

This belief that parental rights over their children are absolute and inviolate is not only common, but it takes some insidious forms, particularly when the abuse of children is based on religion. Given the strong tradition of religious freedom in this country that is inscribed in our very Constitution, it is understandable that people don’t want the government telling them how to practice their religion or interfering with their religion. However, as with all rights, the parents’ right to raise their children as they see fit has to be balanced with the rights of the child to life. When the exercise of a parents’ religion endangers the life of a child, the life of the child takes precedence—or should. It doesn’t always. It’s rare that parents who deny their children medical care suffer any penalty. (It does happen occasionally, but cases like this are rare.) Indeed, so much do government authorities bend over backward to respect parental rights that it is possible for parents who let one child die of pneumonia untreated because they believed Jesus would heal him retain custody of the rest of their children so that they could do it again and let a second child die.

We see this particular attitude among antivaccinationists as well. For instance, just the other day, the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism published a little screed by someone named Dr. Karol Osborne entitled Concerns: UN Convention on Rights of Persons With Disabilities. Noting that the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified this treaty, Osborne is disturbed by reports that there is going to be another push to ratify this treaty, and that supporters of the treaty will try to “push it through very quickly.” Here’s the bug that’s up her posterior about this treaty:

This document is concerning on many fronts, but I believe it should be particularly concerning to any parent of a vaccine injured child, or really to anyone concerned about the skyrocketing incidence of autism (as well as a plethora of other serious chronic diseases) in our youth, and a potential link to vaccinations. The fundamental concern with this document is its adoption of the “best interests of the child” standard. With this change in language, courts and government agencies (rather than parents) would be given the authority to decide what is best for children with disabilities. This would come into play with choices about future vaccinations for autistic (and all disabled) children, decisions about medical treatments for autistic (and all disabled) children and school/educational choices.

Yes, you read that correctly. Osborne is upset because this treaty would adopt a standard that is based on the “best interests of the child,” and she fears that such a standard might interfere with the ability of antivaccine parents not to vaccinate. She also fears (with far more justification) that such a standard would make it far more difficult for antivaccine parents to subject their children to “autism biomed” quackery such as when Kent Heckenlively subjected his daughter to bogus “stem cell” treatments in Costa Rica or when parents risk the lives of their children by subjecting them to quackery like the Lupron protocol or chelation therapy.

According to Osborne, this is just the beginning:

The CRPD is just the first arm of the “1-2 punch” that is being planned. The second arm will then be ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Once the language is changed to the “best interests of the child” in the CRPD, this will grease the way to ratify the UN CRC, which, of course, is grounded in the same fundamental shift in language and approach to all of the children in the U.S., not just the disabled. Political leaders are leading with the CRPD, I believe, because they feel it stands a better chance at ratification, because parents of the disabled (busy caring for their disabled children) will not have the time to stand up against these plans.

What bothers Osborne so much is this:

What is at the crux of this is who determines what is in the “best interests of the child”? Historically, unless proven to be negligent or abusive, this authority has always rested with U.S. parents. With ratification of these two documents above, this authority will be transferred to the U.S. Government, and its health institutions (when it involves medical and health matters).

If you read the actual text of the convention, it’s nowhere near as ominous as people like Osborne try to paint it. Article 5, for instance, states that “States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.” I will say that parts of the document strike me as a bit utopian, but not any horrific threat to parental authority.

I actually do understand to some extent how parents might take a dim view of too much government interference in how they raise their children, particularly if government views conflict with cultural views. I also recognize that there are gray areas, where it’s not clear whose vision of the best interests of the child should prevail. I am not talking about such gray areas. I’m referring to how an utter insistence the inviolability of parental rights leads to children being harmed, even dying. It’s an insistence that has led to a Proposed Parental Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would essentially neuter the government with respect to protecting children from parental medical neglect or mistreatment. No wonder antivaccinationists like it.

It’s about more than just antivaccinationists, though. This deference to parental rights over the health of the child plays out again and again and again in these chemotherapy “refusenik” stories. Abraham Cherrix and Katie Wernecke? Their parents ran away with them. Daniel Hauser? Same thing. Now it’s Sarah Hershberger. The fact is that no one wants to take a child away from her parents, and no hospital wants to, either, the rants about big pharma profiteering as a motive for crushing parental prerogatives notwithstanding. In the case of ACH, the easiest course of action would have been for the doctors there to shrug their shoulders and mourn the lost of another child to superstition. It didn’t. It tried to stand up to defend the best interests of the child, the best interests of Sarah Hershberger.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

259 replies on “Children are not their parents’ property”

Children are not property of the parents, but they most certainly not are property of the State.

Orac you might find this interesting and I hope you read it.

http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics/fourteen.asp

Rothbard lays it out in a way in which neglect and mistreatment are distinguished. It’s difficult to summarize, but basically he argues, more eloquently than here, that parents have the right (though it is still morally wrong) to neglect but not to mistreat so long as they don’t infringe on the child’s absolute right to leave home or run away at any time.

15 years ago in New Zealand we had the Liam Williams-Holloway case, where the parents of a 3-year-old with neuroblastoma did not want him to undergo the rigours of chemotherapy and the possibility of survival, preferring Quantum Vibrational Therapy from a Rife Machine. There was a messy court case, and the parents — facing the prospect of court-ordered treatment — eventually absconded to some quack clinic in Mexico, where young Liam predictably died.

Newspaper pundits generally took the side of the parents. Meddling government! Destroying family autonomy! One reckoned he would have used a shotgun to protect his child from the law, if court-appointed doctors had come to his door.

There was another case about the same time, where a teenager from Tonga developed some manner of bone tumour in his leg. His family decided to opt out of the Western medical system and keep him at home, treating the tumour with traditional herbal poultices while it metastatised, ulcerated, turned gangrenous and eventually killed him. The reactions from newspaper pundits could not have been more different. The *very same* columnists this time worked themselves into a frenzy about the stupidity and backwardness of the Pacific Island community, and why wasn’t government doing more to intrude on their lives and force them to follow enlightened Western ways?

I am loath to generalise, but in NZ at least there is a strong racial component in whether parents are deemed worthy to maintain control over their children’s lives.

I hesitated to voice my opinion about statements attributed to the the parents of young Sarah Hershberger, for some very valid reasons.

Being a parent myself who experienced the death of my beloved son at age 28, I really do have great empathy for parents who are at first hit with the heartbreaking news of their child’s cancer diagnosis. The second heartbreaking news for Sarah’s parents is that there will be no quick cure and easy recovery. The facts of the unrelenting and progressive lymphoblastic lymphoma and the only methods of treatment, as well as the extensiveness of the treatment that offer her the only chance of survival, have got to be the most painful experience that parents of such a child will ever have to face.

Just observing a little child undergo painful multiple invasive blood tests and other procedures to enable physicians to make an accurate diagnosis and to determine the stage of the cancer, then to observe the induction of chemotherapeutic medications, on a youngster who is not your own child, is extraordinarily difficult. Yet, doctors and nurses who work in pediatric oncology care, have the knowledge base to know that these treatments give a child the only chance to survive.

Imagine then, observing the testing and induction of treatment on your own child, when parents do not have that knowledge and are having great difficulty understanding that their child who appears healthy, will succumb shortly and die a painful death. The heartache must be unbearable.

That being said, I will not be kind to this absolute stranger, this odious flim flamming ignorant man, John Strangis. For him and others of his ilk, Sarah’s illness and her parents unrelenting grief, is just another opportunity for him to promote himself and his ill-informed ignorant opinion about her Sarah’s cancer care.

I feel dirty just listening to Stangis’ disjointed, conspiracy-filled rants. He is an uneducated vile pathetic excuse for a human being who is totally devoid of basic compassion…just a slick snake oil salesman who feasts on the bodies of little children who are critcally ill and who will die, if their cancer goes untreated.

Rothbard lays it out in a way in which neglect and mistreatment are distinguished. It’s difficult to summarize, but basically he argues, more eloquently than here, that parents have the right (though it is still morally wrong) to neglect but not to mistreat so long as they don’t infringe on the child’s absolute right to leave home or run away at any time.

I read Rothbard’s article. Much of it is horrifying.

I hesitated to voice my opinion about statements attributed to the the parents of young Sarah Hershberger, for some very valid reasons.

Which I understand, at least as much as possible as it is for someone who’s never gone through it but who does know fairly closely what chemotherapy can do in terms of side effects. I actually do have some empathy for the Hershbergers and every other child with cancer whose parents refused chemotherapy that I’ve written about. Indeed, I’ve pointed out multiple times in the past how horrible it is to watch a child suffer and not understand that the reward for all the suffering is getting to live. It’s why I mention and explain the concept of of induction, consolidation, and maintenance chemotherapy so many times.

That being said, these parents, as I have said with so many other parents before, are making a horrible mistake. They also have exhibited some of the attitude that I wrote about here in that they have railed against the state interfering with their parental rights and have in essence in another article shrugged their shoulders and said that it’s “God’s will” if Sarah dies. Come to think of it, it’s usually religion that drives this attitude.

I am loath to generalise, but in NZ at least there is a strong racial component in whether parents are deemed worthy to maintain control over their children’s lives.

Oh, there’s definitely some of that here in the US. You’ll note that these stories of parents running away to avoid chemotherapy for their children in which the coverage is almost universally anti-government and anti-hospital are all white and Christian. Your comment makes me think that if such a case occurred and the family were African-American or Muslim, the coverage might be different, but I don’t have any examples that I know about to look at. Maybe those cases don’t get as much news coverage.

As you all know, I despise parents, who, whether through sheer ignorance or by hiding behind religion…or a combination of both of those factors (which IMO, are in play here), who deny their children proven treatments for cancer and other serious diseases, and who listen to the likes of snake oil salesmen.

I have never differentiated between parents who actually subject their children to horrific bogus treatments and/or parents who brutalize their children emotionally or physically…or who neglect their basic needs that include a safe loving environment…or who medically neglect their seriously ill children. The innocent children are just as harmed and just as dead, no matter which practice(s) parents inflict on their children.

Sarah’s parents are incredibly ignorant. I’ve listened to the video of the father describing the “alternative treatment” they want:

“Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as what that does, if it is G-d’s will”

And…

“If we do chemotherapy and she would happen to die, she would probably suffer more than if we do it that way and she would happen to die.”

I also provided the link to the CBS Good Morning TV show on yesterday post and one person’s comment stating that “children are chattel”. During all the years I have posted on blogs, I have never heard anyone refer to a child as “chattel”.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ohio-hospital-force-chemo-amish-girl-court/story?id=20513841

” StevenNewsom jrzwrld
• 20 days ago

Sorry but under our laws, children are chattel of their parents, until they become adults, or are made wards of the state.”

I wrongly assumed that other RI posters read my comment directly beneath Steven Newson’s:

” lilady R.N. StevenNewsom
• 17 days ago

Care to pony up some laws that children are chattel StevenNewsom?

We protect children in our society and the courts can and should intervene when parents are unable or unwilling to provide appropriate medical care for their minor children.”

eSteven Newson never ponyed up those laws…which exist only in his vivid imagination.

Sarah’s parents will be dealt with by the courts, once Sarah is located. I want the courts to mete out justice for Sarah, to those who aided and abetted the parents to remove Sarah from the jurisdiction of the court.

This bleeding heart lefty is not a bleeding heart lefty, when it comes to those who harm innocent children.

To be fair, there ARE legitimate concerns about the wording of the Convention- David Smolin suggested that the United States ratify but with reservations.

parents have the right (though it is still morally wrong) to neglect but not to mistreat so long as they don’t infringe on the child’s absolute right to leave home or run away at any time.

It is reassuring to know that the parents’ “larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die” is tempered by the legal requirement that they do not prevent that infant from crawling out of the house in search of more hospitable accommodation with passers-by, or wolves.

This sounds disconcertingly similar to Turnbull’s depiction of Ik culture. That might be the ideal libertarian society but it is not for me.
——————
This from Rothbart is also reassuring:

Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)

I have to wonder, what the reaction would have been had Sarah was not Amish (I say that because while the Amish are insular, they are not wholly anti-modern medicine, so that gives an advantage to being publicly discovered) been found in her home, emaciated, tumor-riddled, and dead (or close), the public fight having never had occurred because her parents quietly decided it was their right to pursue BS. What would the outcry have been then? Would it still be the same, or would the parents be (rightfully) condemned and neighbors yelling about how they would have called someone in had they known, etc etc? I used to think there would be an outcry, but now I’m not so sure.

For better or worse, the US has a long-standing tradition of “you can’t tell me what to do.” It’s deeply ingrained, and a lot of times, pretty inocuous and even enviable. My inalienable rights . Unfortunately, more and more crazies are not realizing that when their “inalienable rights” infringe on the rights of others to safety, health, and in more extreme cases, life, something has to give, ESPECIALLY when the decision is not just about themselves. Too often these stories (CAM, antivax, whatever) boil down to ME, MINE, I, MY. When we choose to do certain things, there are limitations that protect those around us. If I choose to drink, I am legally prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. If I choose to smoke, I cannot be indoors in a public space. If I go hunting, I can’t fire my gun within 500 yards of a residential building (where I live). If I have a gun and children, I have to keep it locked up (again, where I live). These are decisions we make for ourselves that can potentially advsersely affect others, and most people have no problem submitting to the subsequent limitations to activity that follow. Why are so many facets of healthcare different? Do people not realize that when they make decisions, it affects other people?

I do also wonder about the silent majority. If the comments on blogs and news stories was even remotely representative of the public at large, we’d be in a lot more trouble. We know the extremes usually scream the loudest and take the time to speak. But how many of these people, especially those who make antivaccine comments, walk the walk IRL? Or do they follow what is recommended by the AAP and the law for school entry, and just go on internet boards to scream to be contrary? Who really, in the wake of devastating illness, would hold no contempt for SBM, despite what they post on FB next to a LOLcat and George Takei meme? Internet tough guys?

I’m also curious, is this relegated to solid-tumor malignancies and lymphomas? I have honestly never seen a story about someone attempting to cure AML or ALL or any other leukemia with this nonsense.

These anti-vaxxers need to get over themselves; the CRPD isn’t going to cause “forced vaccination”. There are far more pressing matters concerning disabled people’s rights. But yeah, they ought to be concerned with “rights” to abuse their children with “biomed”. Somehow I suspect that children have the right to not have bleach shoved up their bums, or get chemically-castrated and chelated or jacked up with off-label and inappropriate prescription drugs. Think of the parents will you.

There is, of course, the obvious hypocrisy with the parent’s absolute right to deal with their offspring in any way they see fit.
Withholding lifesaving treatment is okay but when a mother decides not to give birth for whatever reason, the loons turn on her. The control reverts from the parent to the state pretty quickly.

My wife and I gave up our Arizona foster care license recently, in part because of the heartbreak of seeing a shaken child we’d fostered reunited by court order with biological family members who were still suspects in the criminal act of shaking the child. Basically the judge didn’t give a sh*t about the child and wanted the case off his roster.

So maybe all these “parents” who view kids as property should move here to Arizona, because the court system here treats children like inanimate objects and ignores the best interests of the child.

I’m so glad to see that Delsyid is okay with parental neglect, as long as the child has the opportunity run away (would love to see how a toddler “runs away from home”).

Dr Chris points out how views of the child vary even within one culture. I was fortunate to study with a fellow who looked historically at how the ‘concept’ of children itself had evolved primarily in Eurocentric cultures.

Early Christians considered the child as unbaptised, unruly and in need of stern discipline and programmed religious instruction to tame its wanton, inborn, heathen immorality.
Later reformers like Rousseau viewed children more admiringly as exemplars of the Natural Man prior to his corruption by the many snares of Society. During the Industrial revolution, they were often conceptualised as small adults, and expected to work and think as such but remain small enough to fit inside chimneys and the tighter recesses of coalmines.

The idea that children have rights is pretty new. When I read over anti-vax Matricratic confessions, I wonder how far we have progressed from those historical models because if children serve their parents’ needs over their own – whether religious or economic or ego-based expressive- something is frightfully wrong.

We see this particular attitude among antivaccinationists as well. For instance, just the other day, the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism published a little screed by someone named Dr. Karol Osborne entitled Concerns: UN Convention on Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

AoA continues to attract quality contributions. It’s worth noting that Dr. Osborne’s medical license was suspended by the State Medical Board of Ohio in 2007 after she was “adjudged mentally ill or mentally incompetent.”
Liz Ditz noted

Dr. Osborne has recently left the practice of medicine to ” fight attacks upon the family and the parent/child bond becoming especially prevalent in Pediatrics. Additionally, she has a desire to work towards maintaining and restoring Purity and Innocence in Youth, and exposing them to Virtue, Beauty and Truth in their homes, schools and communities.”

Orac:

Come to think of it, it’s usually religion that drives this attitude.

I used to think that, but after reading a lot of these kinds of stories I’ve realized that’s not quite true. Religion rarely drives the decision; rather, the decision comes first and then religion is used to justify it. This, of course, is a very popular use of religion — possibly it’s most popular. Not to give guidance, but to justify our preconceptions. How many people join a church that challenges them? Very few. Most join churches because they are in line with what they already believe. The exercise of self-justification has long driven the progress of religion.

H323 is quoted as saying:

he Bible if very clear that children are a gift from God our Creator to the parents . . . The Amish and Mennonites will simply not accept a socialistic government that takes custody of it’s children and hands them over to a medical system that has little regard for human life (abortion services are considered a medical service.) . . . When the mother wants to kill, the state grants the choice to the mother. When the mother wants to make cancer treatment choices, the state takes the choice from the mother!

How interesting. This person is astonishingly lacking in self-reflection, because he/she cannot see that he/she is not really arguing for ultimate parental autonomy, but only autonomy to do what pleases H323. And he/she cannot see the irony in that, because he/she has built up a tidy wall of religious justification to prevent seeing it.

This isn’t about the state’s rights to the children. It’s about the rights of the children themselves. How telling that the people supporting the parents in this case are opposed to that.

I have mixed feelings about the case. But I do not have mixed feelings about the argument that the state should butt out because parents own their children.

AnObservingParty #10 wrote:

For better or worse, the US has a long-standing tradition of “you can’t tell me what to do.” ..Too often these stories (CAM, antivax, whatever) boil down to ME, MINE, I, MY.

Well put. I think the problematic aspects of this attitude is often fueled by a strong tendency to confuse lifestyle choices with questions of fact. “You can’t tell me how to live” turns into “you can’t tell me what to believe” and suddenly modern science knowledge is just one way of seeing things.

Also, a strong cultural respect for anything which falls into the category of religion and faith immunizes virtually any belief which is held with an emotional conviction from legitimate refutation. You’re ‘telling people what to believe.’ That’s wrong, because reality is only a thin cover on spiritual truths which are known through faith. Thus there’s no common ground to stand on in order to do that.

One of my altie friends was once defending a parents’ right to use faith healing on their sick child. When I asked about children subsequently dying from diseases which were otherwise curable I was informed that, as an atheist, I wouldn’t be able to understand the proper paradigm in which to frame this problem.

It seems that it’s not areal problem., You see, death is not really death. It’s simply a transition to another stage. If the child dies it was meant to be and the faith of the parents was helping this along. The stronger the attitude of faith, the stronger the love and the better the outcome for the child. And on the spiritual level the child knows this. Dead or alive. It’s all good, all right, all part of the process of growth.

Not being spiritual, nonduality is going to scare and bewilder me. But it’s fine, I was reassured. MY way can be respected as long as it doesn’t try to interfere with the ways of OTHER people.

My reaction to this defense of murder was apparently only to be expected from an atheist, and since faith can’t be compelled it was time to change the topic.

When I asked about children subsequently dying from diseases which were otherwise curable I was informed that, as an atheist, I wouldn’t be able to understand the proper paradigm in which to frame this problem.

One of my uncles is a Catholic priest, and he is appalled by the notion faith-healing. Granted he’s a Jesuit, but the majority of mainstream-religions don’t hold what your altie friends think to be a proper paradigm either.

I think some of the more fringe groups also use the religion and or medical autonomy/health freedom to place blame somewhere but avoid taking any real responsibility, be it to find a way of absolving themselves, finding answers in a sea of randomness, or passively giving up responsibility for a decision. It’s a very strange kind of hypocrisy, wanting rights and choices but not wanting to own up to everything that comes with it. It isn’t that they refused treatment, it was that God would decide that it was time.

parents have the right (though it is still morally wrong) to neglect but not to mistreat so long as they don’t infringe on the child’s absolute right to leave home or run away at any time.

So a parent has the right to neglect a three-year-old child, as long as they leave the doors unlocked so the child can escape and fend for itself in the wild?

@ An Observing Party:

Psychologists have often studied how and why people assign blame: attributing causation for negative outcomes to external causes may be a way to preserve self-esteem but not taking responsibity for one’s actions has other consequences as well.

Now that I’ve read a few more of your articles I really have your number. I know you won’t allow this comment through, just as you denied previous comment, but I also know you will read it.

All you do is follow around the alternative medcine people and then try to discredit them. Your posts are completely derivative and you have nothing to offer in the way of content or insight. Obviously you have been stunted emotionally and intellectually and that explains your incredible defensiveness towards politcally incorrect points of view.

@EdNigma – wow, you are a real dummy, aren’t you?

Anything of any real substance to add? And unlike the sites you probably inhabit, this one encourages free-flowing conversation.

Edward Nigma #23 wrote:

All you do is follow around the alternative medcine people and then try to discredit them.

If you think Orac is wrong then you ought to try to discredit his arguments. That this hasn’t been your tactic — and you have instead pursued the childish tactic of personal insults — is going to make everyone here think we have YOUR number.

There is nothing wrong with trying to point out errors. Alternative medicine is not “politically incorrect. It’s just plain old incorrect.

Now that I’ve read a few more of your articles I really have your number. I know you won’t allow this comment through, just as you denied previous comment, but I also know you will read it.

Of course, Mr. Nigma, not understanding that I don’t sit around instantly waiting to approve posts that got hung up in moderation, is unduly antsy. Amusingly, I let both of his comments through, both here and at my other post, as I do with nearly every commenter except for some rare—and I do mean rare—exceptions. In any case, neither of your comments added anything of value, and certainly you are completely unable to rebut anything I’ve said. And you accuse me of writing posts that are “completely derivative.” Yawn.

Your comment makes me think that if such a case occurred and the family were African-American or Muslim, the coverage might be different

I have the funny feeling that if such a family were American Indian, it would be totes cool to let them use their ancient earth-centered natural healing techniques, though, at least in the US.

{nerdmode}
Mr Nigma, if you are actually a DC comics fan attempting to be clever, surely you’d know it’s spelled “Nygma”. 😉
{/nerdmode}

So a parent has the right to neglect a three-year-old child, as long as they leave the doors unlocked so the child can escape and fend for itself in the wild?

Strictly speaking, he’s only saying that doing so shouldn’t be a crime, leaving open the argument that it’s immoral. In doing so he only succeeds in proving that his position is completely untenable. (Putting it kindly.)

I’m so glad to see that Delsyid is okay with parental neglect, as long as the child has the opportunity run away (would love to see how a toddler “runs away from home”).

Rothbard’s position is that if the child can’t run away yet, they have no option but to suffer whatever neglect the parents choose (explicitly including being deliberately starved to death). Anything else would supposedly represent an unsupportable assault upon the parent’s liberty.

Truly one of the most vile and despicable arguments I’ve seen recently. He’s worse than NAMBLA.

Delysid: I think your article embodies what I distrust most about the libertarian mindset: Why is it assumed that attempting to imitate a decent human is imposed by society rather than being a default state? Humans have been social animals for thousands of years, and those rules would make wolves ashamed.

All: I think what we are failing to understand here is that G*d is fundamentally malevolent. If you’re not a grown straight male and not a fetus, He really doesn’t care about you. In fact, He is prolife only because pregnancy punishes women for being alive. He likes it when kids die and enjoys watching people sufffer.

{nerdmode}
Mr Nigma, if you are actually a DC comics fan attempting to be clever, surely you’d know it’s spelled “Nygma”.
{/nerdmode}
You beat me too it, @ Calli #29. Part of me also immediately wondered if this is Jim Carrey in disguise. But then I realized that that kind of conspiracy-y thinking makes me like them.

Of course, Mr. Nigma, not understanding that I don’t sit around instantly waiting to approve posts that got hung up in moderation, is unduly antsy Why, why would have throught that Orac has actual doctor-things to do? *sarcasm mode*

Where are all those published case studies of cancer patients that the odious John Stranger claims were cured by cannabis oil?

Orac, I already viewed John Stranger’s video about Sarah’s cancer…and his super strain HIV video…and his Chemtrails video, as well.

Folks, go and view them; they are unintentionally funny. Some people should be aware of their limitations with their inability to pronounce words, their stammering, their atrocious grammar and their lack of poise in front of a video camcorder.

It’s difficult to _not_ be derivative in writing about alternative medicine, since alt med constantly recycles the same tired old tropes. But RI has a knack of frequently managing a fresh take on nincompoopery.

“Now that I’ve read a few more of your articles I really have your number.”

It’s 666 – hadn’t you realized?

Anyway, why are we picking on parents for denying their kids effective cancer treatment, when we should be asking ourselves why the FDA, AMA and CDC have suppressed so many cancer cures?

Fortunately, an intrepid “citizen journalist” at NaturalNews has revealed the top 7 cancer cures the Man doesn’t want you to know about, including my favorite, 35% hydrogen peroxide. Concentrated H202 is not only good for what ails you, it builds a whole new you.

“What should you do, whether you have cancer or not? Alkalize your body, that’s what. Now keep in mind, hydrogen peroxide does not rebuild the immune system or repair the cells damaged by toxic chemo; however, there’s no better time to welcome that “change of season” for the regeneration of new cells, skin, hair and organ cells than right now. This is preprogrammed in your DNA. Men and women have the same schedule:

120 Days – NEW Red Blood Cells
90 Days – NEW Skeleton
60 Days – NEW Brain Cells, Tissue
49 Days – NEW Bladder
45 Days – NEW Liver, NEW DNA Cell Material
30 Days – NEW Hair, NEW Skin
5 Days – NEW Stomach Lining

http://www.naturalnews.com/042577_cancer_treatment_hydrogen_peroxide_alternative
_medicine.html#ixzz2j87F8H00

I just hope all these regenerating cells know how to fit into your brand new form. It’d be depressing to drink H202, turn into a shapeless mass of protoplasm and have to crawl around using pseudopods.

I have a nifty machine that vaporizes H2O2–we use it to disinfect potentially contaminated rooms. I bet it would work fine on woo-meisters–it could certainly get to the magical 35%. And they could inhale it–certainly that’s better than merely drinking it. Surely that would alkalize the body. Just a thought.
(oh look, there’s sarcasm dripping from the walls!)

Just out of curiosity, has anyone heard of a case that’s the reverse of this situation? Where the parents or the child is refusing alternative medicine in favor of science based medicine? I wonder if those screaming about the rights of Sarah Hershberger and her parents would fight just as hard for the aforementioned hypothetical family or if it only applies for those seeking alternative treatments.

Bacon (comment #36) and Janet (comment #37)
It is truly frightening how difficult it is to tell parody from full blown woo (or religion or politics, but I repeat myself). It would only take a few slight changes in your comments to turn them into an alt-med advertisement. I suspect Libertarians like Delsyd or Rothbard would have no problem justifying your selling it to the scientifically illiterate, whether or not it killed anyone, as long as you ‘neglected’ to provide a guarantee in writing. Let the victim/mark/target/buyer beware.

Orac said:
“Come to think of it, it’s usually religion
that drives this attitude.”

Maybe, certainly in many cases, but we also know that religion survives as a second set of books in the brain. It’s not unusual for people to use it as an excuse when their real motivation is something else (even when the something else is somewhat legitimate but uncomfortable to admit).

In this particular case, didn’t they start with real doctors first and then abandon it? It seems like their religion isn’t really the cause.

Exactly, Carl. Religion isn’t what caused this, though a number of commentators are gleefully supporting them with religious arguments. Turns out it’s actually true that religion justifies — it’s just that folks often misunderstand what that means. They think it means religion will make them just, but no.

The crux of the fail in this article is that you have not recognised that once a human being has kids they gain special mental abilities that means they are operating an a whole other level. A level that those who have not had a big dose of hormones and love and sleep deprivation cannot possibly understand.

This superiority can be observed in the field by any writings or speech that begins “As a parent….” as what follows will be concrete truth. The parent always knows best, therefore [article subject matter].

Calli Arcale #40 wrote:

Religion isn’t what caused this, though a number of commentators are gleefully supporting them with religious arguments.

But what causes religion? And what keeps it going?

The term “religion” doesn’t apply only to the particular edicts or tenets of a creed or church: it can also be used to indicate the basic human tendencies towards error which are encouraged, fostered and even celebrated in specifically religious styles and patterns of thought. From the Naturalistic Fallacy to anthropomorphizing to trusting anecdotes to eschewing science to demonizing your opponents to adhering to dogma to granting power to belief itself, the religious approach weaves our subjective tendency to be biased into a noble story of a choice for virtue. And alt med plays this narrative out.

If the problem is that alternative medicine proponents treat their beliefs like a religion then I think this points to a problem with religion itself. Add to this the fact that all too often the quackery turns out to be based on some form of vitalism or dualism or ‘woo’ and the connection is even clearer.

Can religion be combined with humanism — with science, reason, human rights, etc? Sure. Just like alternative medicine can also be combined with reasonable science-based medicine. This doesn’t mean though that the problem can’t be religion, it can’t be alternative medicine, it must be something else. I think it suggests the opposite.

What causes religion? People do. Whether God created Man or Man created God, it’s absolutely certain that Man created religion.

Note: I am a Lutheran, and I do believe God created the universe. But religion? That’s our doing (though in my cynical moments, I can see a strong argument for the devil’s hand in it).

I think it’s a mistake to label the general errors that humans are prone to as “religion”, as if there is a bucket labeled “good critical thinking stuff” and “everything else”. Religion versus science really isn’t a thing, because the two are not really comparable. They’re not really two different ways of knowing, as some like to claim.

Now, some religion absolutely makes it science difficult for its adherents. Christian Fundamentalism, for instance. But most religions don’t. This gets back to my premise that religion isn’t about making one just, it’s about justifying one’s beliefs/practices/etc. The original ideas behind a religion (like being kind to other people because God loves them and is in them) become buried in justifications for those ideas. Once that process begins, the religion becomes self-justifying.

The Terry Pratchett book “Small Gods” has some very interesting things to say on this subject. I highly recommend it.

BTW, I don’t think alt med is usually a religion. However, you are right that the same sort of thinking does show up in that it’s more about justifying conclusions than finding out what’s true. I find that most alt med users aren’t what I’d call religious about it, though. They’re far more casual.

Rothbard’s position is that if the child can’t run away yet, they have no option but to suffer whatever neglect the parents choose (explicitly including being deliberately starved to death). Anything else would supposedly represent an unsupportable assault upon the parent’s liberty.

Remember Rothbart’s reassuring words,

in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum

.
Swift’s Modest Proposal is the obvious precedent for someone arguing how a truly free market in infants — untrammelled by government regulations — would reduce the frequency of neglect. Note the scare quotes around the word ‘neglect’; perhaps Rothbart is rejecting the validity of the concept, and is using the word here only as a concession to his readers.

Anyway, Rothbart does not seem to grasp the concept of “reductio ad absurdum”. If your philosophical postulates lead directly, ineluctably to monstrous absurdities, then sane people conclude that your postulates are wrong.

@herr doktor bimler- I’m wondering if this “free baby market” would include children repossessed from parents in debt.

“As a parent….” as what follows will be concrete truth. The parent always knows best, therefore [article subject matter].

I could pull up some references to serial murders and abuse cases of children by parents that completely obliterates your statement. Becoming a parent is not intrinsically a level up in ANYTHING.

AnObservingParty, I’m thinking that her statement was probably sarcastic. That said, I still have to qualify it with a “probably”, given some of the people I’ve seen.

Calli Arcale #44 wrote:

I think it’s a mistake to label the general errors that humans are prone to as “religion”, as if there is a bucket labeled “good critical thinking stuff” and “everything else”. Religion versus science really isn’t a thing, because the two are not really comparable. They’re not really two different ways of knowing, as some like to claim.

Religious faith vs. science, then — are they “two different ways of knowing” or something else? Is religious faith in the bucket of “good critical thinking stuff?” Or is it belief based on evidence which is insufficient for those in the world who don’t want to believe — but enough for those who do, who are open and receptive to the Truth?

This gets back to my premise that religion isn’t about making one just, it’s about justifying one’s beliefs/practices/etc.

Yes, through making a commitment to believe — and to stand by a claim of fact as if one were standing by the value the fact presumably supports.

Religions which ‘do not make science difficult for its adherents’ are I think in the same position as schools of naturopathy which try to include a lot of science-based modalities and encourage vaccination. That’s lucky, not a vindication of naturopathy. The category is defined by not being science-based: too reasonable and they’ve gone to the Dark Side of SBM. It’s just as easy to use the principles of naturopathy to justify why vaccines are okay as to use them to justify that they are not. There’s no ability to appeal to the common ground of what we can all agree on.

Alt med is not necessarily a religion itself, I agree. But like all pseudosciences and religions, it ends up falling back on common apologetic techniques. Techniques and ways of thinking which are not only familiar, but associated with virtue.

I’m wondering if this “free baby market” would include children repossessed from parents in debt.
That is unfair to Rothbart. I think he imagines the baby market as operating more like a free labour market. So the baby is a free, autonomous agent: If it can’t persuade its parents to feed it, it is the baby’s responsibility to find a new home (or to join the neighbourhood wolf-pack). But the new family don’t *own* the infant; that would be monstrous!

@ Gray Falcoln,

I don’t know anymore, honestly, especially from a name I’m not familiar with. Isn’t that sad? That we’ve experienced enough people with that mindset to not be sure when someone saying something so illogically horrible if s/he is being facetious?

@AnObservingParty- Remember, just about anyone, and I mean anyone can post here. Out of a billion or so people, we’re bound to find a few lunatics.

in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum

Really? So if you don’t want your baby anymore, you just sell it to the highest bidder? Yes, that might end the “neglect”, but it might just as well start the abuse.

@Renate

Have you ever heard of “adoption?” Is that a crazy libertarian fantasy?

@Delsyid – I hear that Pedophiles pay incredibly well for “neglected” children…..should fit right in to your libertarian fantasy land…..

I shudder to think how the “free baby market” would be impacted by pedophiles (after all, you only have to look at human trafficking for a non-hypothetical example of a market in people.) It remains very strange to me how so many libertarian-identified people can say truly dreadful things while sincerely believing that if only nasty government got out of the way, everyone would be nice to everyone else.

[email protected]
Actually, I doubt it–there’s a long history of Native children being removed from their familes at rates higher than statistically probable. There’s a big difference between the woo or otherwise romanticized versions of “Native” things beloved by (mostly) white people and the actual lives of most Native/American Indians.

@Jubilee:
There are accounts by ‘care takers’ of darker skinned indigenous children that the children’s skin would get lighter the more ‘civilized’ they became.

If I remember correctly Mormons were particularly fond of that meme.

Antroposophists (the Steiner lot) still subscribe to this nonsense.

@Lawrence

Pedophiles have the ability to create their own chidren.m

Also the black market exists already. Did making drugs illegal stop the drug trade? No. It makes it more dangerous. Why would doing the same thing in other sectors work differently?

Also the black market exists already. Did making drugs illegal stop the drug trade? No. It makes it more dangerous. Why would doing the same thing in other sectors work differently?

Babies, recreational drugs, yup absolutely see the parallel there.

Pedophiles have the ability to create their own chidren.m

By binary fission, like amoeba? By assembling them out of spare parts and animating them with electricity? Growing them in vats? Please be more specific. Your response is noncupatory (excuse me for writing like this; I’m practising for Talk Like a Jack Vance Character Day).

If you are arguing that bad or exploitative foster-parents are not a concern for a market in child custody (and therefore not a reason to regulate the market) because they can “create their own children”, you might as well go all the way and claim that anyone “create their own children”, in which case there is no need for a market in child custody.

Also the black market exists already. Did making drugs illegal stop the drug trade? No. It makes it more dangerous. Why would doing the same thing in other sectors work differently?

Whatever happened to it’s just damn wrong do nothing and let evil people abuse kids? Kids are not adults and they haven’t a chance in the world defending themselves against predators.

I’m with Chris Hickie on that. I don’t see it as a freedom-vs-regulation issue. Neglect is a clear crime to me, which justifies intervention regardless of your preferred default system for normal non-horrible everyday parenting. If there were no laws whatsoever, I might even be MORE likely to intervene in a lot of things.

Delysid, your attempt to draw an equivalence between selling babies and the drug trade fails. Taking drugs is a victimless crime. The illegal status of drugs is what creates violence and victims: if drugs were legal users would only be – putatively – harming themselves.
This is manifestly not the case for selling children. There is considerable potential for children to be victims. It is in general wrong to harm others, and far more so to harm those who can’t protect themselves.
Try this quick quiz: would you like your parents to have sold you to a paedophile (for a mutually agreed price, of course)? Would you – if you have children – do it to your child? If not, it fails the Golden Rule test, which tends to be a good first approximation guide to moral questions.
And Rothbard’s frankly deranged argument that all that is needed to exculpate neglect or abuse is that children are free to run away doesn’t work. A child or toddler, let alone a baby, may be free to run away but lack the means or the physical ability. This renders the freedom to do so entirely meaningless.
I, for example, am free to fly to Mars. I lack the ability to do so. Therefore, my freedom to fly to Mars is, while real, is every bit as valueless as Rothbard’s ‘contribution’.

accidie,

I think your are wrong on that. Recreational drugs can be very harmful if used without regard for how it affects others. How about the adoptable baby who was taken away from the druggie mother who didn’t bother to stop having fun while she was pregnant? MOST parents, by far, stop getting trashed when they are pregnant, and also do not get drunk when driving with or without children.

Similarly, far from every person willing to pay to adopt a child is going to be an irresponsible or evil parent, though that certainly is possible, and the legal ease of doing so probably increases the risk.

I’ve had some second thoughts on religious motivation. While my original conclusion about the initial cause often being non-religious still stands, I suppose that it can still be said that religion is a driver if it takes the wheel and provides a convenient excuse to forget about the need to have rational arguments to explain an initially non-religious choice. It wasn’t the driver at first, but now it is.

Sastra:

Is religious faith in the bucket of “good critical thinking stuff?”

Actually, it misses the point I was trying to make. The point is that tempting as it is break everything into dichotomies, it doesn’t represent reality very well. There aren’t two realms, one labeled science and one labeled religion, with all thinking neatly divided between them. People use lots of different strategies for getting on with their lives, often more than one at once.

Granted, Carl, RDs can harm children if they’re exposed in utero or neglected after birth while their parents party. But this is not restricted to drugs sold on the black market, which is what Delysid referred to.
But – and this is NOT nit-picking – with the exception of harm caused in utero, which presents a special case, the harm caused to others is indirect. The drug user is directly harming only him or her self, whereas a person who sexually molests a child is directly harming another. I don’t want to suggest that indirect harm is other than reprehensible, but it in general lacks the element of intent that marks more heinous acts.
Neither did I suggest that every person willing to pay to adopt a child has malevolent intentions. Most adoptions at the moment involve considerable financial cost, which can be glossed as ‘paying’, and most adoptive parents have honourable motives in adopting. But to reduce adoption to an unregulated financial transaction would, as you indicate, greatly increase the risk. Cthulhu knows I object to nanny-statism, but I draw the line at that one.

As I understand it, rooted in British common law, the state is considered to be the ultimate authority for the disposition, and best interests, of children. The biological parents are, by convenience and default, considered adequate until they are shown to be unreliable.

This established precedent is why the state can, and do, remove children when biological parents are deemed sufficiently unfit to pose a risk to the well being of the children and wider good of society.

And yes, this does include the, albeit indirect, power of life and death over children and adults alike. Given sufficient cause adults, but on a sliding scale, can be drafted to serve, and possibly die, as the nation deems necessary.

I know … paint your face blue and scream freedom .. knock yourself out with outrage in contradiction of this bold-face truth but it is both functionally and historically accurate. It has always been so. Welcome to reality.

Delysid:

Have you ever heard of “adoption?”

Of course. My beautiful goddaughter was adopted through open adoption, arranged through Lutheran Social Services. Her adoptive parents had some genetic issues that they didn’t want to pass down, and her biological mother did not want to be a mother at that particular time. So I definitely think adoption can be a wonderful win-win situation for all involved.

But it isn’t always, and US adoption is poorly regulated. Open adoption in particular is almost completely unregulated. There’s a very disturbing book I recently read, called “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption”, by Kathryn Joyce. It is a frightening expose into some of the abuses that have occurred to feed the voracious market for adoptable children in the US, and the disturbing subtexts of it. It is definitely not as simple as benignly pairing children in need with parents who will love them.

Delysid, why are you bothering studying dentistry? People are going to get cavities anyway.

@Calli Arcade- There is a difference between adoption and the child market. In adoption, what you describe is a gross abuse of the system, and one which no doubt requires several people to be investigated and punished. In the child market, that’s just business as usual.

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