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When A 14-Year-Old Chooses To Die Because Of Religion, Can Anyone Stop Him?


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2 hours ago, roddma said:

It's one thing ot be an adult not influenced by anyone and make those choices.I loathe when religion is involved especially with vulnerable kids. We don't always make the best decisions even at 18-21, let alone 14. Anytime it comes up about making laws to protect kids, religious rights get thrown into the mix. So nothing will ever change in America at least not soon.


Totally agree with this. I think that teenagers deserve to have a pretty high level of autonomy, but it is so wrong and sad when they let religion interfere with their treatment.

 

Fear of punishment in the afterlife or judgement in this life should NEVER be a factor in deciding your medical treatment.

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On 2/12/2016 at 0:11 AM, samira_catlover said:

Hate to say so (being actually a Licensed Medical Professional, FWIW), but I am regretfully sorta-kinda on the side of the kid. I'd seriously take the opinion of a 14-year-old whether they wanted to go through yet another round of chemo or radiation to buy time or maybe go for a cure. How exactly is this a whole lot different?

This s different because brainwashing of a child. I agree with all posters pointing out that the JW's, beneath their clean-cut veneer, are a horribly abusive doomsday cult.

1 hour ago, Vex said:

Totally agree with this. I think that teenagers deserve to have a pretty high level of autonomy, but it is so wrong and sad when they let religion interfere with their treatment.

JWs are masters of brainwashing, repeating the same dogma over and over, with no questioning or dissent allowed. My blood boils at the abuse of Hebrew scriptures being tortured to apply to Christians. Add in the social annihilation that is disfellowshipping, and yes, you end up with children deciding it is better to die than stand up to the cult. JWs are responsible for the unnecessary deaths of so many, but since they are spread out they don't get the same horror response as the Jim Jones cult murders.

Edited by SilverBeach
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I see good arguments on both sides. No one wants to see someone die because they refused medical intervention, but we also don't want to live in a world where people are being forced to undergo medical procedures with no choice at all.

With adults it's much more straightforward: If someone is found mentally capable of making their own choices they should be allowed to do so even if we don't understand or agree with it. If someone is found not to be competent there should be someone appointed to make those choices for them.

But with kids, I don't think there are any good solutions. Every situation is unique and every family is unique - some kids are completely capable of making their own choices from an early age and should be given the chance to make their views heard. It would be unfair in those instances to deny them that right. God forbid I ever find myself in such a position as a parent, but I like to think I would try to involve my kids in the conversation - even if my husband and I end up making the final call ourselves.

I don't know what can be done in regards to these types of religious groups teaching that life saving measures are prohibited. I really don't know what sort of legal action the Government can take against them. I'd love to see something done, but I really have no good suggestions.

The only thing I can think of in this specific case is to wonder whether the Doctors were ever able to speak with the patient about the transfusions without other JWs around or if they were able to remove them from the room during those discussions. If so, and the kid was still standing firm despite all the information, then I don't see what else could have been done.

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On 2/12/2016 at 6:17 AM, smittykins said:

One of their favorite comeback lines on the topic of eating blood vs. transfusing it is "If a doctor told you not drink alcohol, would you inject it directly into your veins?"

If I had anti-freeze poisoning, yes, I absolutely would. Because that's how it's treated!

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3 hours ago, VelociRapture said:

The only thing I can think of in this specific case is to wonder whether the Doctors were ever able to speak with the patient about the transfusions without other JWs around or if they were able to remove them from the room during those discussions. If so, and the kid was still standing firm despite all the information, then I don't see what else could have been done.

I can answer this because I did read it yesterday (cannot tell you where, but can look for it) - the ethicist did speak to Dennis completely alone.  He was adamant even in that setting.

Other points:

1.  We say that 14 is too young, but several reports noted that the span of treatment would have been 3 years.  So any forced treatment could potentially have occurred dozens of times, and might even have required physical restraint.  Would any of us feel differently about forcing this on a 16 or 17 year old?  (Because that was a factor.)

2.  This case occurred in 2007, so time has passed and it's been discussed in a number of settings.  I find this assignment (based on the case) interesting:  https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/NWABR_Bioethics_101_Lesson3.pdf

3.  This is not an isolated case.  Here's a 2015 case in Connecticut with some similar elements:

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/22/case-sparks-debate-about-teen-decision-making-in-health

4.  Another factor that strikes me is the "placebo effect."  The 70 percent survival rate cited is medicine's best estimate - but a person's mind is a huge contributor to health and well-being.  If he felt his eternal soul had been sacrificed, my PERSONAL OPINION (emphasis intentional) is that his outcome was less certain.

5.  The time from diagnosis to death was three weeks.  I don't know how that compares with others, but all of this happened very, very fast.  I'm sure the speed made everything more difficult.

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It really seems like this is so dependent on the individual child.  I know I am echoing what many others are saying, but I just felt the urge to restate it.  There are lots of situations and settings where society makes decisions differently for children versus adults.  So many factors come into play that drawing lines or setting cutoffs seems futile.  On the other hand, we need some type of rules or guidelines so we can all understand what we are talking about.  On the upper end, we as a society have decided for the most part that the day you turn 18 your are officially an adult (with some exceptions for practical reasons such as driving or age of consent laws).  It doesn't matter that the brain is not yet fully developed - we don't care.  We don't care if a person was born at 23 weeks instead of 43 weeks and therefore in some ways is actually "younger".  I recall in another thread where people were talking about possibly raising or lowering the age at which one can drink, drive, enter the military etc.  So it isn't totally cut and dried, but for the most part 18 is an age we as a society seem to have settled on as being an "adult".

On the lower end, it is much fuzzier.  However, I think the vast majority of people would say that a child is a child is a child up until somewhere around the age of 10 or 12.  Whatever limit an individual chooses to set, we recognize that a true child is vastly different than an adult.  Not only do we say true children should not be able to engage in adult activities, we hold their parents or guardians responsible for making sure they are properly cared for and monitored.  They may have a small voice in their own destiny in terms of something like a custody battle, but by and large they are entirely at the mercy of their parents unless the state can determine that those parents have committed some type of egregious wrong.  Below this cutoff, no one will really argue that the child has the capacity to drive responsibly or to make life or death medical decisions.

The period between roughly 12 (in my mind) and 18 is just fuzzy.  Kids in this age range capable of taking on more responsibility and determining their own destiny.  We set arbitrary cutoffs for things like driving and age of consent.  Different states set different cutoffs (though federal highway funding rules and regulations have resulted in a uniform driving age to some extent).  There is no black and white right or wrong. If all kids developed on the exact same timeline, it would be much more clear.  We know that is far from truth.  What a kid is capable at this age is dependent on both biology and life experience.  In my mind there is some reason to believe this teenager may well have had life experiences that have made him old before his time in some ways.  Kids raised by unstable, erratic, drug-addicted parents often need to take matters into their own hands and fend for themselves.  I won't go so far as to say I think he is capable of making this decision responsibly as I am going on very little information.  I also totally agree with everyone who has been saying that it is critical to make sure that this decision is not being made due to coercion or undue influence of religious individuals, but rather due to sincerely held and well reasoned personal belief.  It does seem, however, that numerous well informed or expert individuals have taken the time to get to know this individual well enough to make a well informed recommendation to the court.  The Judge then weighs all available information and comes to a decision.  That is a huge and heavy burden and hopefully everyone acted with due diligence in this situation.

In terms of the religious angle - that is very hard for me to comment on.  As a firm believer that there is no higher power that is acting as a gate keeper to salvation based on our well-intentioned acts here on earth, I think it is all rather insane.  To some extent, that makes me want to rush in and force treatment on both children and adults who I believe are making unwise decisions.  However, I am fully aware that, despite my strong convictions, I simply don't know if I am right.  I may be completely wrong and some other belief system represents truth.  While some of those belief systems seem more reasonable or rational to me - I don't really feel that is my place to judge at all.  A while back an online friend who was raised JW tried to explain the whole transfusion thing.  While it seems I may have misunderstood her, my take away message was that somehow the soul or the self is contained in the blood.  That sounds crazy to me - but then others think it is crazy that I believe our selfness is contained in the brain.  So again - who am I to judge?  

Again, I don't really have any personal opinion on what the right answer is here, but from what I have read it does seem to me that the professional involved are going about things in the way that seems appropriate to me.  Due to my own beliefs, I find this decision tragic, but it is not my decision to make.  Sorry for the long ramble - the issue of how we deal with people who are not adults, not full fledged children, not incapacitated (basically teenagers) is a special interest of mine.  Never any easy answers and all kinds of people can and will have varying opinions.

Edited by Whoosh
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1 hour ago, Whoosh said:

 It does seem, however, that numerous well informed or expert individuals have taken the time to get to know this individual well enough to make a well informed recommendation to the court.  

with one exception: a psychologist to take the psychological state of said patient into account. Their reason? no protocol exists(ed?) to determine if a minor is capable of making these decisions.

To quote from the article

Quote

They also appeared concerned that Dennis hadn’t received a psychological evaluation. “Psychology had declined as they do not have the tools for such an assessment,” a state caseworker wrote.

That part floors me. I understand that a one size fits all approach sucks in situations like these, but if you don't create tools to be able to make assessments for such situations then maybe a one size fits all approach is better.

I recall hearing this story  a while back about a 17year old wanting to refuse treatment and her right to do so being denied. It would be interesting to see how the same class would react to both situations.
 

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At 14, the reality of the finality of death is not yet fully developed. There is no justification for JWs manipulating their members with this non biblical prohibition on transfusions. Not much love at all in that religion. I speak from personal knowledge.

JWs change their dogma from time to time ( the truth changes, as does the date for the end of the world). They go so far as to prohibit married couples from having oral sex.

If not for the cult brainwashing aspect and minor child, maybe the choice argument would hold water. But choice is an illusion here, a deadly one.

 

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If a 14 year old should have the right to seek and accept medical treatment in accordance with their own belief structure (e.g. birth control, antidepressants, etc.) then they also have a right to deny medical care for the same reason.  Sadly, it is often not possible to determine efficiently and on a case by case basis whether a person is brainwashed OR whether they truly hold certain beliefs and make choice of their own free will.  And with young and easily influenced persons, it is even harder.  

I think that letting 14 year olds make their own medical choices is overall a good thing.  It got me antidepressants and many of my friends access to contraceptives that otherwise would have been inaccessible to us.  It is sad that this happened, but mostly it is sad that this person made that choice.  I fully believe that it was his to make.

The problem is not that teenagers are given agency over their own bodies, the problem is JW.  The solution to that is not to target teenagers having bodily autonomy, but target the cult that got this individual to this point.  By the time it got to where it did, the medical experts were right.

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9 hours ago, Georgiana said:

 

The problem is not that teenagers are given agency over their own bodies, the problem is JW.  The solution to that is not to target teenagers having bodily autonomy, but target the cult that got this individual to this point.  By the time it got to where it did, the medical experts were right.

I pretty much agree with you, except bodily autonomy and life/death decisions are different to me. I was a smart, sensitive 14 year old, but the permanence of death had not yet rooted into my psyche. As I said earlier, the problem is cult brainwashing of a minor child. I would never have stood by and let my minor child make a decision like this. Or my major child for that matter, I cannot imagine standing by watching my offspring die a preventable death.

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For me this story sounds like the teen didn't have anybody (maybe with the exception of that teacher) who cared enough to have him live and stand up against JW.

Yes, that includes the aunt. She also kept her distance, making sure he wouldn't see her as his new mom, thereby denying him the same standing in her family that her daughters had. I think he was in a very lonely place emotionally.
The aunt was totally aware that he was looking for social acceptance, she doubted his spiritual beliefs to be genuine.

And then he got ill and suddenly had the chance to show everybody that he was indeed a "true" believer. That he would give his life for this.
I don't think he gave his life for his beliefs but for the acceptance it gained him, for the admiration it gained him. He was the JW's hero.

He was surrounded by people who I believe were totally rapt to see somebody die for his beliefs without themselves losing somebody too close to them. It was a wonderful affirmation of their beliefs and how strong this belief can be. And it didn't cost them something too dear.

No, I don't think teenagers should be allowed to choose their own death because of some made up religious rules.
I oppose religious exceptions when it comes to life saving medical treatment of minors.

Life is precious. Very precious.
And sometimes it takes some more time living to realize that.

Edited by Joyleaf
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3 hours ago, SilverBeach said:

I pretty much agree with you, except bodily autonomy and life/death decisions are different to me. I was a smart, sensitive 14 year old, but the permanence of death had not yet rooted into my psyche. As I said earlier, the problem is cult brainwashing of a minor child. I would never have stood by and let my minor child make a decision like this. Or my major child for that matter, I cannot imagine standing by watching my offspring die a preventable death.

#1.  Can you expand on this?  To me, bodily autonomy is paramount.  I should have the right to control what is done to my body - even in life/death decisions.

#2.  Yikes.  Maybe I'm misinterpreting your statement, but would you really attempt to overrule your adult child if s/he declined a treatment?

1 hour ago, Joyleaf said:

For me this story sounds like the teen didn't have anybody (maybe with the exception of that teacher) who cared enough to have him live and stand up against JW.

Yes, that includes the aunt. She also kept her distance, making sure he wouldn't see her as his new mom, thereby denying him the same standing in her family that her daughters had. I think he was in a very lonely place emotionally.
The aunt was totally aware that he was looking for social acceptance, she doubted his spiritual beliefs to be genuine.

And then he got ill and suddenly had the chance to show everybody that he was indeed a "true" believer. That he would give his life for this.
I don't think he gave his life for his beliefs but for the acceptance it gained him, for the admiration it gained him. He was the JW's hero.

He was surrounded by people who I believe were totally rapt to see somebody die for his beliefs without themselves losing somebody too close to them. It was a wonderful affirmation of their beliefs and how strong this belief can be. And it didn't cost them something too dear.

No, I don't think teenagers should be allowed to choose their own death because of some made up religious rules.
I oppose religious exceptions when it comes to life saving medical treatment of minors.

Life is precious. Very precious.
And sometimes it takes some more time living to realize that.

I'm sorry, but I think you are projecting and speculating a lot.

A large number of health care providers cared about this young man.  They spoke to and with him.  If there were clear evidence of undue influence, surely SOMEONE would have presented that during the court hearing and that would have entered into the judge's consideration.  

************************

I've had several brushes with decisions in this realm, as I am caregiver for my disabled husband and several summers ago spent about six weeks as the decision maker for my brother after he was critically injured.  

Several interventions were required for my brother at different times - for example, a tracheostomy and a PEG tube.  I made the decision to have the trach placed.  He refused the PEG for an extended period.  I know his physicians were very frustrated.  Should they or I have substituted our opinion for his?

Shortly thereafter, my husband injured himself (to be blunt, through his own poor judgment.)  He refused any medical care.  It was a really scary situation - and one of the health care team later said I should have ensured he got emergency care - that that was an expected part of my role as caregiver.  My husband has limitations in his executive function.  At the same time, my role is also supposed to respect him and his wishes.

It's not always cut-and-dried.  It's a very challenging situation for all involved.  In the case presented, we have NO evidence that his aunt was anything other than a caring, loving person who was doing her best.  We may think JW's are a cult, but our nation has a strong tradition of respecting religious beliefs.  Would we be willing to have our own belief systems abrogated by a medical professional?  What if it were a spouse refusing medical intervention for an ectopic pregnancy because she deems that an abortion and a sin?  My husband is generally opposed to western medicine, but it's not predicated on religion - should he be overruled and forced to use chemotherapy if the situation calls for it?

Just how far would you be willing to go?

Would you authorize the use of physical restraints on your 14 year old?  your 15 year old?  your 17 year old?  your adult child?  your spouse?  your sibling?

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4 minutes ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

A large number of health care providers cared about this young man.  They spoke to and with him.  If there were clear evidence of undue influence, surely SOMEONE would have presented that during the court hearing and that would have entered into the judge's consideration.

He received no proper psychological evaluation. It was a pediatrician who said that he appeared mature.
And as you say yourself:

 

8 minutes ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

We may think JW's are a cult, but our nation has a strong tradition of respecting religious beliefs.  Would we be willing to have our own belief systems abrogated by a medical professional?

I think this is very much what happened in court there. People afraid of stepping on the toes of religion.
And yes, I want the state to protect minors from religion when it comes to life and death.
 

9 minutes ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

What if it were a spouse refusing medical intervention for an ectopic pregnancy because she deems that an abortion and a sin?

If she's not a minor, I would accept that.
I can only repeat what i wrote and maybe bold it:

1 hour ago, Joyleaf said:

I oppose religious exceptions when it comes to life saving medical treatment of minors.

It's about minors, life and death and religious reasons for me.

For me what this boy did was suicide due to religious believes and that is something minors have to be protected from.
Whether they want to kill themselves because they are gay and believe it is a sin or whether they believe they won't go to heaven if they receive more than only parts of blood.

I had a friend who chose death over going into chemo again. And I respected and accepted that decision. Because she was an adult.

I also worked in a law office (I don't live in the US) where we had such cases involving minors (the court would appoint a special kind of guardian for the minor so that he had his own council), so I have seen some of this.

Using a cut-off age like 18 years might seem random for some but it is a limit I can live with.
 

31 minutes ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

Would you authorize the use of physical restraints on your 14 year old?  your 15 year old?  your 17 year old?

Yes.
i would rather see my son be angry and disappointed with me but alive somewhere on the world than knowing he's dead in his grave.


 

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SOS, I was referring to life and death decisions made by a minor child who has been brainwashed by a cult. Brainwashing is powerful and decisions made under it's influence are at times irrational, even for adults with fully developed brains. So yes, bodily autonomy for children under these circumstances should be curtailed. If they are wise enough to make good life and death decisions at 14, they should file for emancipation because no further parenting is needed. I feel strongly about this, having been closely associated with the JWs at one time. There is no influencing a brainwashed person unless deprogramming takes place. 

And when it comes to my beloved only adult DD, hell yes I would do everything in my power to not let her just give up and die, unless there was no hope medically and the treatment itself caused suffering. People with depression and other mental illnesses, adults or not, have distorted thinking that can have it seem that death is preferably. Not giving in to that, and I hope someone would intervene on my behalf if I was just willing to die without having to.

It's all about love.

 

 

I'm not just speculating about JWs being a cult, I was in it. I self-deprogrammed but I was brainwashed too. You can't see it until you are out. And their right to live (or die) according to their beliefs has not been abridged under the law.

Except for limited circumstances, restraints cannot be legally  used in health care facilities or nursing homes.

 

Edited by SilverBeach
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51 minutes ago, SilverBeach said:

If they are wise enough to make good life and death decisions at 14, they should file for emancipation because no further parenting is needed.

Well, that's not the standard that's used in the US.  So are you arguing that the "mature minor" precedent should be stricken?

51 minutes ago, SilverBeach said:

hell yes I would do everything in my power to not let her just give up and die, unless there was no hope medically and the treatment itself caused suffering.

But chemotherapy DOES cause suffering.  In fact, in re-reading details this morning, the chemotherapy likely hastened this individual's death, as the chemotherapy itself attacks red blood cells.

51 minutes ago, SilverBeach said:

Except for limited circumstances, restraints cannot be legally  used in health care facilities or nursing homes.

And, again, that was part of the issue for the physicians, who would have been back in court, applying for those "limited circumstances."  Doctors clearly feared that if he became stronger, he would physically resist their efforts.  Similarly, in the case I posted upthread (more recent in Connecticut) she was restrained and/or sedated for treatment.

 

ETA:  I'm reading this analysis:  Whose Body Is It Anyway? about the meta-issues involved.  (It's 77 pages.)  

Edited by SpoonfulOSugar
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There are two things that seem critical here 1) was the professional evaluation of the minor done appropriately and 2) how do we distinguish between a "real" religion and a cult.  I appreciate people highlighting the fact that the psychologists in this case basically did nothing.  I entirely agree that there clearly should have been an extensive psych eval in this situation.  If that didn't happen (and it sounds like it did not) - I have a major problem with that.  As others have said, we don't have a perfect solution so you simply do your best as a professional to answer the question.  Saying that we can't answer the question with with the exactness or precision we would prefer so we are going to do nothing seems very wrong and borderline unethical to me.

On the religion vs cult question - I really don't know how people are drawing lines.  Again, I am only speaking my own thoughts as a non-believer.  It seems to me that if we are going to deny rights based on the fact that we believe someone has been indoctrinated into a false belief system, the answer will largely depend on what the evaluator's definition of true vs false belief systems is.  That is a very complex question and I am pretty sure my response as a non-theist would differ from the response of a devout Evangelical which would differ from the response of a Muslim which would differ from the response of a JW, etc.  There are several SCOTUS and other court decisions that do touch upon the question of "what is a sincerely held religious belief".  There are likely others that address the question "is this a religion or a cult".  I would assume the judge in this case used those standards, but I probably should not make that assumption - after all I assumed so strongly that a comprehensive psych eval would have been conducted in a case like this that I entirely missed the fact that it seems there was basically no meaningful input from psych whatsoever.  

Finally, if a court did find that the belief system was a true religion and not a cult, the next question is was the religious belief sincerely held or was something else going on.  I think @Joyleaf raises some very good concerns in this area.  Having never met the minor, I don't know as any of us can be sure if this particular minor's beliefs were sincerely held or not.  The professionals involved would be responsible for this determination.  Again, I am not sure that I personally think that can be done appropriately without a psych eval (even though psych evals are not 100% "correct" or whatever on that type of issue").

This is a really important issue in my mind and I appreciate everyone who is sharing thoughts.  My first response was based on the assumption that someone competent and qualified had conducted a thorough psych eval.  It makes me extremely uncomfortable to know it appears that didn't happen.  

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My cousin recently died of heart failure. He was 41. To him, it wasn't real until the end, when it was too late to do anything, so when he was first diagnosed 7 years ago, he refused to stop smoking, which was required if he was to be eligible for the needed heart transplant. Every time he had a good day, that was "proof" that his condition wasn't that bad, and he had time before he really had to do anything about it.

I thought he was an idiot for not taking his doctor's advice and that he didn't understand the finality of his choice, but I'm not about to say they should have forced him to do what the doctors recommended.  My cousin, an adult, couldn't grasp the idea of his death until the end, so do I think a 14 year could? Probably not. But people make decisions every day without understanding the consequences and some of those consequences are death.  To me, the real tragedy is that this kid lacked the support system to keep him from falling victim to the JW brainwashing.

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6 hours ago, SpoonfulOSugar said:

Well, that's not the standard that's used in the US.  So are you arguing that the "mature minor" precedent should be stricken?

But chemotherapy DOES cause suffering.  In fact, in re-reading details this morning, the chemotherapy likely hastened this individual's death, as the chemotherapy itself attacks red blood cells.

And, again, that was part of the issue for the physicians, who would have been back in court, applying for those "limited circumstances."  Doctors clearly feared that if he became stronger, he would physically resist their efforts.  Similarly, in the case I posted upthread (more recent in Connecticut) she was restrained and/or sedated for treatment.

 

ETA:  I'm reading this analysis:  Whose Body Is It Anyway? about the meta-issues involved.  (It's 77 pages.)  

My ex husband had colon cancer and his daughter had breast cancer so I am familiar with chemotherapy. His hair didn't even fall out and he didn't call his treatment suffering, more boring than anything. His daughter died but she fought until the bitter end because of her 8 year old son.

I know nothing of the mature minor precedent and it is not relevant to me. Nor are the meta issues. I have relayed my personal stance and it shall remained unchanged. Of course to each her own, but there is really nothing to argue about here as far as I am concerned. The facts and circumstances of each case are different, but in this case of a brainwashed minor deciding he is ready to die because of cult teachings, when the child likely does not understand the real permanence of death, is simply not something I could ever support. Should the bodily autonomy of Jonestown victims who willingly drank the koolaid be respected, if they had been able to choose? Brainwashing does not allow for autonomy when it leads to death. 

 

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1 hour ago, SilverBeach said:

Should the bodily autonomy of Jonestown victims who willingly drank the koolaid be respected, if they had been able to choose?

Short answer:   yes

1 hour ago, SilverBeach said:

Brainwashing does not allow for autonomy when it leads to death. 

Brainwashing does not override autonomy for the simple reason that identifying whether someone is experiencing brainwashing is a subjective matter.

It is fair to say this is a painful situation for friends and family to watch or to accept.  It is fair for friends and family to attempt (when the situation allows) to persuade the person to choose otherwise.  But it is NOT fair to say that because person A believes that person B has been brainwashed, that person B loses their autonomy.

To be exceedingly blunt, while our individual lives matter greatly to our loved ones, those lives are not sacred.  The value of each individual life does not exceed the value of personal autonomy as a principle.  We should, in my opinion and within the parameters of adult/consent/autonomy, be free to make any personal choice that doesn't impinge on the rights of others.

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To those who think that adults have a grasp on death and dying, no, not so much.  Most adults (especially Americans?  Not sure how different cultures changes this) don't want to think about death until they are forced to do so.  To say that a 14 year old doesn't have the maturity to understand death and dying, well shiiiiit, if that was the benchmark for people making decisions regarding DNRs and hospice, then hardly anyone would ever get to die peacefully in this country.  Ahem.  IMHO.

For the record, I think that 14 is an appropriate age to make a decision like that when faced with that kind of diagnosis.  It's incredibly unpleasant to think about but it's real, it happens, shit sucks, there you go.

I realize my language may be too blunt on this topic and I apologize for anyone I have offended, that has not been my intention. 

Also, no one wants to see a 14 year old die, especially if most folks around him think it's for delusional reasons.  As others have stated, he had lots of people around him to advocate for him and I'm sure they did.  It doesn't take ovaries of steel to speak up for the life of a goddamn 14 year old boy for christ sake.  I have a hard time believing someone wouldn't speak up and advocate for him just because they were scared of insulting some JWs.  Come on.

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FWIW, I think religious people are far more likely to have an intimate understanding of death than the non-religious.  Not all, by any means.  Just comparatively.  I imagine having some structure with which to consider death helps.  

(anecdata: my mother has been a hospice nurse for forever, and has been in the company of hundreds of people as they prepare to die, and pass on.  she's convinced that people with some type of "framework" - usually spiritual - have a far easier time of dying: they struggle less; they accept their death; they die more peacefully.  Clearly again - not all, and there hasn't been a method to her data collection. and they give massively adequate pain relief at her hospice - none of this people die in pain business. I imagine that might also have something to do with people passing with less distress, though it doesn't account for why one group would be more or less distressed than the other) 

Anyway - on the brainwashing thing.  Church of Dog above says: 

 But it is NOT fair to say that because person A believes that person B has been brainwashed, that person B loses their autonomy.

I'd agree with this. I'd go one further - we have our own particular brainwashing that says staying alive in the face of the opportunity to die for something you believe in or love (however recent/arbitrary/vainglorious/tragic that belief is) is somehow better. I used to think Steve Irwin was an idiot - the man died being poisoned by a sting ray.  And yet on reflection: the man lived his life, and then - perhaps inevitably - died doing exactly what he loved doing. The whole idea of Valhalla. The narrative of the Islamic martyr.  ritual suicide in Japan. and so on. 

the boy is 14. his death is tragic. But he died for something he believed in.  would be all be so lucky; that sounds like a Good Death, at least to me.

(I write this on the assumption that he was properly given the chance to speak other than to JWs; that he had social workers involved etc..  If he wasn't, then the process is very bad, very poor, and it's tragic that these things didn't happen.  that doesn't necessarily negate the decision: rather that the processes give the decision integrity.  the processes should always be followed). 

For some reason this brings to mind an article I read at some point, but no idea where, of the last recorded instance of sati, reasonable recently I think - maybe in the 80s? it had be banned for a century?  but still - very rarely - took place in particularly conservative communities. The wife involved was a young woman, still in her teens I think, maybe 16?, but when her husband died she insisted on dying with him.  There were two competing narratives in this story: did she try and escape the flames multiple times, only to be forced back into them by the community members?  or did she willingly self-immolate for love?

In any case, should she have been allowed to self-immolate under the law, assuming it was willing? Was she brainwashed into thinking that self-immolation was somehow noble or good, and does that mean any willing choice is void?  Does it really matter anyway, given the brainwashing would have simply been the totality of her village existence?  And would her age then negate her decision?  Would it matter if there were different social expectations of a 14 or 16 year old in a different culture, bringing with them different forms of maturity? 

All these things exist on a spectrum, I think.  I am not sure the death itself is the problem, if that's what the young man truly wanted. I think we have an instinctive and visceral aversion to death.  Which is fine. But it's very much a product of our own brainwashing, to use the terminology of the thread. That other people cultivate another model of being - eh, so long as it's not encroaching on my rights and proper procedure is followed to make sure there isn't cohesion or inappropriate conduct - I'm not sure I see the problem.  

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You think it's good a 14-year-old died for something he believed in? Why? He didn't rescue anyone from a burning building, to me his death is tragic and useless, it could have been prevented.

No offense, but my mind refuses to see this as anything other than insanity. As a doctor, as a judge, you have to protect human life if you can. If a child wants to commit suicide, you step in, you protect him. I see his behaviour as a mental illness.

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27 minutes ago, nellautumngirl said:

You think it's good a 14-year-old died for something he believed in? Why? He didn't rescue anyone from a burning building, to me his death is tragic and useless, it could have been prevented.

No offense, but my mind refuses to see this as anything other than insanity. As a doctor, as a judge, you have to protect human life if you can. If a child wants to commit suicide, you step in, you protect him. I see his behaviour as a mental illness.

THIS +1000

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COD, it is fair to say that if the person in question is a minor and has been brainwashed into dying prematurely then yes, they give up whatever autonomy they have. Particularly if this is my minor, all this theoretical philosophical talk means nothing.

BTW, the JW world is highly constricted and controlled. There is no talking to non JWs or reading non JW propaganda. They go so far as to post JWs by the door of hospital patients to keep non JWs out. I'll say it again, my commentary about JWs is based on experience.

I find all this talk about bodily autonomy rather hypocritical. I remember when DD was in high school and there was a three page consent form I had to sign for the school to give her ASPIRIN. Yet, she could go have an invasive surgical procedure without me knowing a damn thing about it. Not commenting at all about abortion, but it is a medical procedure and to send my beloved child home to me to care for after she has one without me knowing, let alone consenting, just fried me. Some of this bodily autonomy stuff applied to children is frankly, bullchit.

 

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