The ethics of religious refusal of treatment; Ohio girl could die

I am taking a class on ethics at the moment and we had an interesting discussion last night on whether employers can force employees to be in better shape.

A pair of Amish girls share a snack in Ohio. (The Associated Press)

A pair of Amish girls share a snack in Ohio. (The Associated Press)

That means requiring them to lose weight or quit smoking. The class generally agreed that privacy is more important than the greater good on this issue, even though we will pay higher insurance premiums to carry those folks with unhealthy habits.

I bring this up because this morning I came across a much bigger ethical issue, a life-and-death ethical issue in fact. And it involves faith beliefs vs. medical treatment.

The story comes from Ohio, where a judge has ruled that an Ohio hospital can force a 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy over the protests of her parents who decided to stop treatment.

Reuters has the story:

Akron Children’s Hospital asked the judge to appoint a guardian for the girl after doctors became worried when her parents stopped treatment in June after only one of five prescribed rounds of chemotherapy.

Her family was told that the girl has an 85 percent survival rate with treatment but would die within the year if she does not receive it.

Maria Schimer, a lawyer and a former nurse, is expected to be appointed the medical guardian for the girl, according to the ruling released on Friday.

The girl has only been identified by her initials, S.H.

“Parental rights, even if based upon firm belief and honest convictions can be limited in order to protect the ‘best interests’ of the child,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The girl and her parents decided to end her chemotherapy in exchange for “natural medicines” after the child’s first round of chemotherapy made her very ill.

“They do not wish to subject their daughter to this and believe the will of God will triumph,” said John Oberholtzer, the family’s lawyer in August.

I don’t have children, but this seems sad that a judge was needed to possiblt save this girl’s life over the objections of her own parents.

Could you ever see your faith beliefs prompting you to reject any of society’s conventions?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to The ethics of religious refusal of treatment; Ohio girl could die

  1. a believer says:

    It is indeed sad that the courts must intervene. Her family comes from a community of believers. Their faith is the foundation of their family. God God’s will rules. She is a minor. Parents wishes should be respected. My only question is why did they seek medical treatment initially and then opt out? And yes, as a believer, I can comfortably reject many of “society’s conventions” as you call them.

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