All of the cases that we have talked about to this point have involved adults making decision regarding the type of medical treatment that they receive but we would like to look at the topic from a different perspective.
What about children deciding the type of medical treatment that they receive? Part of the ‘Health Care Consent Act’ states that in order to decide on consent, a person must be ‘competent’ and know all of the risks going into the decision. This stipulation is not an issue when it comes to adults who are considered competent, but what about children. When are kids considered ‘able’ to decide on a major life decision such as the refusal of medical treatment? Generally, we are told that we reach adult between the ages of 16-21 and a lot of rights and privileges are given to us at this point. We can emancipate from our parents, drive a car, get into most clubs, drink legally, smoke, get married and even join the army. But when do we get to the point when we can refuse medical procedures without our parents consent.
Here is a case to consider (2007):
A 14 year old boy from Seattle was diagnosed with leukemia in early November of 2007. He began chemotherapy at a children’s hospital in the area but had to stop the treatments because his blood count was too low. The doctors wanted to give him a blood transfusion but the boy refused citing religious beliefs (Jehovah’s Witness). The case was taken to trial and the state tried to force the boy to take a blood transfusion. The case was heard at the Skagit County Superior Court and a judge ruled that the boy was within his rights to refuse the blood transfusion. The judge felt that the boy was mature, not being coerced and that he knew all of the risks involved with his decision. The judge also stated that the boy knew “he was basically giving himself a death sentence”. The boy died a few hours after the ruling from the court. Doctors stated that the boy would’ve had a 70% chance of surviving the next five years with the blood transfusion and other medical interventions and this also weighed into the court’s ruling.
Do you think this child was within his rights to make such a decision? Do you think he was too young to understand the consequences? What if this was your child making this decision.
Other aspects of this case will be looked at in our next entry...
-Information regarding the case taken from cbsnews.com