Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Best interests" not always so

One of the scariest phrases to hear is being told by some lofty professional that something is in your "best interests" - when you have no power to fight it.

If someone has cancer, I have little doubt that treatment that may save their life is the best option. But this raises serious ethical questions in a Minnesota case that's been in the news lately.

A 13-year-old boy who has Hodgkin's lymphoma is refusing radiation and chemotherapy even though doctors believe it will save his life. The boy's parents agree with his stance. They stopped chemo after one treatment and switched to alternative medicine.

Chemo and radiation are very hard on patients. It's easy to see why patients of any age might resist it.

Should doctors make an effort to make sure the boy gets treated? I believe so - but certain actions ought to be considered out of bounds right from the start.

One medical ethics expert said that if he refuses chemo or radiation, he could be placed in restraints.

Is putting him in restraints ethical? I don't think so.

Few things would be as undignified for a young person of that age as being placed in restraints in the name of medicine. It doesn't matter what anyone says about it being in his "best interests."

If anyone suggests putting him in restraints, they clearly don't have his "best interests" in mind. Putting a patient in restraints in the name of medical treatment is a cop-out that would be employed only by someone who isn't creative enough to find a better option.

In addition, the boy might be taken from his parents if he refuses chemo, and placed in state custody. This idea should also be nixed, especially considering his age.

Activist judges on the Minnesota Supreme Court made it legal for parents to beat their kids senseless. At the same time, a young cancer patient may be taken from his parents just to be placed in restraints. State officials sure love it when kids suffer, don't they?

"Best interests" has become a phrase that brings instant despair to many who hear it.

(Source: http://dailyme.com/story/2009051900002125/doctors-face-tough-task-boy-refuses.html)

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