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


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39 minutes ago, jaelh said:

and last: would love for the courts to spend some time on 'sincerely held belief.'  That seems to me to matter most; at least, it seems more oriented to respecting patient autonomy than establishing what constitutes the "standard of care requirements in their own region and practice area," which any hospital requiring staff to treat according to said standard would have to establish.  Who gets to be involved in working out what those standards are?  

These are the questions I have.  The courts have handed down some decisions that help to define what a "sincerely held belief" is, but it is far from crystal clear.  What is clear is that the Courts do not tend to favor a particular religious dogma nor do they go by popularity of a given belief (in theory anyway).  I would really like to see this legal definition strengthened and tightened (obviously, that is just my personal desire).  

In terms of the "standard of care expected in a region and practice area", this might not be the specific wording of the rule in the USA, but that is (or at least was) the gist of the general rule in the USA and I think it is a good general rule to continue to uphold.  That said we already do have some federal oversight and I do think some more things need to go federal and not be left to the states.  The Jahi case is a prime example - I don't think we want people jurisdiction shopping when it comes to these types of decisions.  So I guess what I just said there is I don't know LOL.  My strong, strong preference would be for the legislative and/or judicial branches of government to demand that the medical profession establish some type of oversight organization so that when questions do arise as to what should be done or the appropriateness of what has been done, the people who are in a position to "rule" on those controversies are trained medical professionals (with guidance from the judicial branch) rather than members of the legislature or Judges/Justices.  

Edited by Whoosh
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On 2/15/2016 at 11:28 AM, Whoosh said:

What I am talking about IS what would happen to your kid if you and/or your kid disagreed with the medical professionals on a life or death decision - unless you chose to violate the law and anyone who does that might wind up facing the legal consequences of that choice as they exist here on earth and in the USA.  

Nah, she managed to avoid joining a cult, and we both have advanced directives and medical power of attorneys in place. Neither one of us would choose to opt out of standard medical treatment. My DD is long past the age of majority.

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On 2/15/2016 at 5:21 PM, SpoonfulOSugar said:

 

@HerNameIsBuffy  I went back and re-read all of SB's posts in this thread, and I'm pretty confused about what she was saying.  I'm certain she thinks practicing JW's are brainwashed and therefore, no JW's minors should be allowed to make medical decisions - but that puts them all in the position of requiring legal intervention.  Since in the OP, his legal guardian concurred with his belief, as did the providers, I'm not sure how that outcome would be changed.  But she has indicated she doesn't want to argue, so I wasn't really going any further with that.

 

 

 

Hi SOS. Didn't say that JW minors should not be able to make ANY medical decisions, I said that allowing brainwashed children to make life and death decisions is a problem FOR ME. There are some JWs who are not brainwashed, but they are not true believers and are more just social JWs. The true believers are brainwashed, mind snapped closed like a clamshell. Speaking from years of experience. If you look at my comments from the narrow scope of speaking only for me, there is no confusion. YMMV and apparently does, and that's OK by me. 

5 minutes ago, Whoosh said:

So......

Hi Whoosh. So, this whole discussion is really moot as it applies to me and mine. I would not have concurred with my 14 year old brainwashed child's decision to forego lifesaving medical treatment. I could not stand by and watch my child die. Don't give a damn about the law. YMMV. 

And no, I don't want to argue, I gave it up for Lent, LOL. Not really, but I truly don't want to argue, discussing is fine as long as there is no piling on because of differing viewpoints.

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On 2/12/2016 at 9:59 AM, SpoonfulOSugar said:

But we ALL have a belief system.  To assume that my knowledge or belief justifies overriding the belief of another - I cannot do that - no matter how wrong-headed that belief may seem to be.

We don't support marrying off children just because they "want" it because it's how they were raised to religiously believe, do we?  No.  So why support people raising kids to die if they need certain medical treatments?

On 2/13/2016 at 0:32 AM, 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.

In America, "religious freedom" has come to mean a free pass to ignore laws.  And with the way our political system is going, it's definitely not changing anytime soon.

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On 2/13/2016 at 10:15 AM, Whoosh said:

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.

My best BEST friend was raised JW, and this is what she told me.  I just messaged her, and she confirmed it.  Taking whole blood is murder because that's where the soul is.

On 2/14/2016 at 8:32 PM, Georgiana said:

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.

I would let a child decide if they wanted green beans or sprouts for dinner.  This doesn't mean I have to let them decide everything possible about food.  The type of contraceptive, or getting antidepressants, isn't even on the same playing field as deciding whether or not to accept medical treatment for a new condition that WILL KILL YOU if you don't do anything.

On 2/14/2016 at 8:46 AM, 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.

So many people were pushing for this outsider of a kid to die.  He wasn't given the same standing with the aunt who kept him at a distance.  He was surrounded by people telling him to go the path of death.  I wonder if he didn't go this route not out of a sense of religion, but because life just wasn't worth living anymore.  His family wasn't there for him, and the people he felt accepted by only accepted him if he was one of them and chose death.  And very conveniently, he could claim a new religion to make it happen.  Suicide by religion.

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On 2/14/2016 at 1:03 PM, Whoosh said:

how do we distinguish between a "real" religion and a cult.

1) Do you consider Jonestown to have been the result of a cult?  Heaven's Gate?

1a) If yes, why?

1b) If yes, even if they sincerely held their beliefs?

2) Are you in the slightest but swayed by people who were raised in a religion, leave it, and then call it a cult themselves?  

People who leave Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism don't usually call them cults.  People who leave JW and Scientology very, very often do call them cults, and very, very often need support groups and therapy to move on.  When the people who leave these groups are some of the fastest to call them cults, I won't think any of us should argue that maybe they're not cults and are instead perfectly legit religions that need protecting and respect even while former members are seeking help to get away and to get to an okay mental spot.

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2 hours ago, Jingerbread said:

TWe don't support marrying off children just because they "want" it because it's how they were raised to religiously believe, do we?  No.  So why support people raising kids to die if they need certain medical treatments?

In America, "religious freedom" has come to mean a free pass to ignore laws.  And with the way our political system is going, it's definitely not changing anytime soon.

I am going to try to explain the legal underpinnings of these situations in a bit more detail.  As others have pointed out, the fact that a decision is made for religious reasons is not a huge factor in these cases necessarily (although it does play a role to some extent).   In the USA, we have a strong history of not forcing medical treatment on competent adults.  There are some exceptions to this rule when failure to treat would result in harm to or risk of harm to others.  However, when the only risk is to the competent patient, informed patient consent is required for any medical procedures.  Competent patients are allowed to refuse treatments and we don't decide for them whether their reasons are "stupid" not.  The exception would be if they were deemed incompetent and it is very hard to get someone declared incompetent due to seemingly unfounded or totally illogical religious beliefs.  I don't see that changing and I think overall most people would not want that to change.  I believe this will continue to be the general rule for medical treatments in the USA. 

Some people are not competent adults.  That can be due to age or some other factor.  Whenever a person is deemed incompetent to give informed consent, the right to make medical decisions passes to the next of kin or other legally designated individual.  That person then acts as the voice of the patient.  For the most part, the rule holds that if that decision maker is competent, we don't question their decision and therefore we don't decide for them whether their reasons are "stupid" or not.  

In certain cases, we have decided that this doesn't make sense.  If the patient is completely incapable of giving any meaningful input into the decision making process and the medical professionals think the person charged with making decisions is making very poor choices, the medical professionals can ask the court to intervene.  When this happens the court is charged with a huge decision - they are deciding to take the fundamental right to bodily autonomy (and choice of medical interventions) away from the patient or their decision maker and to place that right to choose treatment in the hands of the government.  That is a huge, huge thing to do and I don't think many Americans would be happy if the courts made this choice often.  The courts will make this choice under certain circumstances and in my opinion that is a very, very good thing, but it should be and is the exception rather than the rule.  

In the case of teenagers and some other types of patients, the patient is not entirely incapable of having meaningful input into the decision making process.  In these cases, medical professionals and the courts feel it is appropriate to evaluate the patient to determine their level of competence when making these types of decisions and then to weigh their wishes into the final decision accordingly.  

In the case of the 14 year old JW patient, the court didn't simply decide to let the 14 year old make the decision.  The way it works is that the doctors recommend a course of treatment.  The patient has the right to go ahead with the treatment or to refuse the treatment.  Since this was a 14 year old, the right to go ahead or refuse treatment falls to the parent or other legally designated decision maker.  HOWEVER, the medical community and the courts agree that the teen's input should be considered to the extent that it is deemed appropriate given their individual level of competence to make such decisions.  So, in this case, the medical professionals took the decisions of the Aunt and the 14 year old into account and determined that they should honor the patient's right to choose and not try to force treatment.  Someone from the hospital felt that the case was questionable enough that it made sense to ask the court to weigh in on the situation.  The court listened to the medical professionals, the Aunt, the patient, and possibly others and decided that in this specific case it would not be appropriate for the government to step in and remove the patient right to choose thereby placing that fundamental right to decide in the hands of the government.

In this country, we value freedom of religion, thought, etc.  The government will step in at certain times and basically say that the minor patient is basically the victim of medical neglect.  In this particular situation, if the patient had wanted to have the treatment or had not been able to give any meaningful input as to what they wanted to do, I think the medical professionals would have been quicker to contact the court and the court would have been far more likely to overrule the wishes of the Aunt.  If the patient had not wanted the treatment and the Aunt had wanted the treatment to go forward, I also think the court would have weighed all that in favor of going forward with the treatment against the wishes of the 14 year old.  However, in this particular case, the court was unwilling to overrule the legal decision maker (the Aunt) due to the fact that the minor, who was deemed at least somewhat competent to make this type of decision by the medical professionals, agreed with his Aunt.

Sorry - that is super wordy and probably still doesn't make a ton of sense.  The main gist of my point is that less than 4 years later, this kid would have been allowed to make the decision to refuse treatment no matter how stupid anyone thought that was.  At the time, the Aunt had the right to decide unless the court overruled her decision.  When the court combined the wishes of the legal decision maker (the Aunt) and the partially competent patient, they decided that it would be inappropriate for the government to step in and force treatment under those circumstances.  The medical professionals involved in the case had arrived at largely the same conclusion and most medial ethicists would say this is the right thing to do provided the 14 year old was evaluated competently and appropriately and the medical professionals and the court gave proper weight to his opinion based on his level of competence to make this type of decision.

ETA - I would personally like to see the legal system move toward defining religious beliefs as cult beliefs and/or mental illness or incompetence more readily than we do now.  If that ever happens, whatever the rule is would be applied to all religions and denominations when the result is decisions that are dangerous, stupid or insane, not just specific denominations or religions that the current majority might deem "stupid" or "insane".

Edited by Whoosh
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1 hour ago, Jingerbread said:

1) Do you consider Jonestown to have been the result of a cult?  Heaven's Gate?

1a) If yes, why?

1b) If yes, even if they sincerely held their beliefs?

2) Are you in the slightest but swayed by people who were raised in a religion, leave it, and then call it a cult themselves?  

People who leave Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism don't usually call them cults.  People who leave JW and Scientology very, very often do call them cults, and very, very often need support groups and therapy to move on.  When the people who leave these groups are some of the fastest to call them cults, I won't think any of us should argue that maybe they're not cults and are instead perfectly legit religions that need protecting and respect even while former members are seeking help to get away and to get to an okay mental spot.

I know this wasn't directed at me, but I find the cult versus religion argument interesting. 

For me, the defining attribute of a cult is that it is incredibly difficult, if not dangerous, to leave. People at Jonestown were slipping notes to outsiders to help them escape because it was physically impossible to leave the settlement. So I do consider the People's Temple a cult. Many of the people did not commit suicide by willingly drinking the Flavor-Aid, they were held down and had it intravenously introduced, and the children were tricked into drinking it not knowing what it contained. 

I am iffy on Scientology, but do think the cases in which people want to leave some sort of audit but are told they must stay push it into cult territory, as well as its systematic bullying and harassment of former members. 

And I do know many people (former practitioners and not) who refer to Catholicism as a cult, as well as several people who were raised as Hasidic Jews, mainstream LDS, and Southern Baptists who now call those religions cults. And some need therapy to move past the experiences of their childhoods. Still don't think that makes those religions de facto cults. The family of a deceased person will often advocate the death penalty for the person who killed their loved one, doesn't mean they are right or that their word is the final one on the subject. 

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2 hours ago, SilverBeach said:

Hi SOS. Didn't say that JW minors should not be able to make ANY medical decisions, I said that allowing brainwashed children to make life and death decisions is a problem FOR ME. There are some JWs who are not brainwashed, but they are not true believers and are more just social JWs. The true believers are brainwashed, mind snapped closed like a clamshell. Speaking from years of experience. If you look at my comments from the narrow scope of speaking only for me, there is no confusion. YMMV and apparently does, and that's OK by me. 

If you are comfortable sharing, what would you have done if you had required a blood transfusion during the time period you were a participating JW?  

1 hour ago, Jingerbread said:

We don't support marrying off children just because they "want" it because it's how they were raised to religiously believe, do we?  No.  So why support people raising kids to die if they need certain medical treatments?

Well, respectfully, it's not really that black and white with regard to adolescent marriage - states have different laws, and many have avenues for exceptions - like appealing to the judicial system.

Which is exactly what happened here.

Basically, we have two competing values here:  life and autonomy.  As Whoosh has pointed out, for adults, it's pretty well established that autonomy trumps life.  If we, as a society, wish to change that, we have to change the paradigm - and part of that is reconsidering the issue of a "mature minor."

I, personally, am uncomfortable endorsing the idea that an adolescent should be overruled on the issues of cancer treatment - regardless of the statistical data.  As I noted on a post upthread, an ethics discussion (which I linked) between physicians talked about many appropriate interventions to attempt to change a patient's mind, but all acknowledged that at some point, the patient's desires should be honored.

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I want to clarify that in my last post when I was talking about this particular case, I am giving the strongest argument for the decision of the court.  As I said earlier, I am quite troubled by the fact that it appears there was no psych eval in this case.  Further, I have not seen the court documents, but from the articles I have read it reads as if the court did not place much if any emphasis on the wishes of the Aunt.  I don't know if that is true or simply how the case wound up getting reported.  

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On 2/16/2016 at 6:50 PM, jaelh said:

I'm not sure what your point is.  Genuinely. 

That you want to be treated based on science doesn't mean that others might not want to be treated based on different priorities.  And it's exactly the point: you would want a JW to respect your decision to be treated "based on science", but you don't respect a JW decision to chose based on a position they hold. 

And you're kidding yourself if you think your decisions about treatment wouldn't be based on belief.  It's based on your belief about what constitutes appropriate considerations in determining treatment.   (and everything SoS said about what science can actually tell us). 

Treatment using medical science should be based on medical science, not on the latest Barney the Dinosaur episode, what Jenny McCarthy says, or what a fairytale orders.  Keep religion in the sphere of religion, and keep it out of medical science.  There's a reason hospitals don't employ religious leaders to treat patients.

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20 minutes ago, Jingerbread said:

Treatment using medical science should be based on medical science, not on the latest Barney the Dinosaur episode, what Jenny McCarthy says, or what a fairytale orders.  Keep religion in the sphere of religion, and keep it out of medical science.  There's a reason hospitals don't employ religious leaders to treat patients.

Yes, treatment should be based on medical science. 

The decision on what treatment you chose to accept can be based on anything you want. 

 

Cavat: again, I'd like to reiterate that I'd constrain the above on the basis that the decision has to be such that it doesn't harm others.  But if the decision presents no physical risk to anyone else?  Anything You Want. 

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On 2/17/2016 at 1:10 PM, Jingerbread said:

My best BEST friend was raised JW, and this is what she told me.  I just messaged her, and she confirmed it.  Taking whole blood is murder because that's where the soul is.

I would let a child decide if they wanted green beans or sprouts for dinner.  This doesn't mean I have to let them decide everything possible about food.  The type of contraceptive, or getting antidepressants, isn't even on the same playing field as deciding whether or not to accept medical treatment for a new condition that WILL KILL YOU if you don't do anything.

So many people were pushing for this outsider of a kid to die.  He wasn't given the same standing with the aunt who kept him at a distance.  He was surrounded by people telling him to go the path of death.  I wonder if he didn't go this route not out of a sense of religion, but because life just wasn't worth living anymore.  His family wasn't there for him, and the people he felt accepted by only accepted him if he was one of them and chose death.  And very conveniently, he could claim a new religion to make it happen.  Suicide by religion.

I'm sorry, but no.  I find it very, very difficult to believe that all the nurses and physicians involved would have been encouraging him to make a decision to die.  I find it much more likely that he made his wishes very well known and made it clear he wouldn't change his mind.  At that point, unless a judge says he has to have treatment, the medical staff involved must treat him within the confines of what he would allow.  To say that means that he was surrounded by people telling him to go the path of death and that people were pushing for him to die is disingenuous and insulting.  I don't know about the non medical folks involved but nurses and physicians don't get into their professions so they can gleefully watch a 14 year old "suicide by religion".  Fuck.

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On 2/17/2016 at 1:51 PM, nausicaa said:

I know this wasn't directed at me, but I find the cult versus religion argument interesting. 

For me, the defining attribute of a cult is that it is incredibly difficult, if not dangerous, to leave. People at Jonestown were slipping notes to outsiders to help them escape because it was physically impossible to leave the settlement. So I do consider the People's Temple a cult. Many of the people did not commit suicide by willingly drinking the Flavor-Aid, they were held down and had it intravenously introduced, and the children were tricked into drinking it not knowing what it contained. 

I am iffy on Scientology, but do think the cases in which people want to leave some sort of audit but are told they must stay push it into cult territory, as well as its systematic bullying and harassment of former members. 

And I do know many people (former practitioners and not) who refer to Catholicism as a cult, as well as several people who were raised as Hasidic Jews, mainstream LDS, and Southern Baptists who now call those religions cults. And some need therapy to move past the experiences of their childhoods. Still don't think that makes those religions de facto cults. The family of a deceased person will often advocate the death penalty for the person who killed their loved one, doesn't mean they are right or that their word is the final one on the subject. 

Getting out of both JW and Scientology is very hard.  Scientology has been in federal trouble for the lengths they've gone to instill fear in people.  When they'll infiltrate the feds, how can the rank and file feel safe leaving?  And JWs lose their entire families and social support systems.  That best friend I mentioned was immediately cut off without even being allowed access to her birth certificate.  Her parents held it over her that she could get it all back if she admitted "the truth."

Catholicism doesn't have roadblocks as part of the standard for someone leaving.  You might have some families who are that hard, but it's not like JWs or Scientology where it's required for people who are staying in the cults to remain in good standing.

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