Daniel has quit chemo after one treatment, and he and his mother missed a court appearance, resulting in an arrest warrant for the mother and an order to seize Daniel, put him in foster care, and resume treatment immediately. It's unclear from the news stories whether Daniel himself made the decision, or if it was his parents choice. And even if it was his decision, no doubt his parents worldview is deeply influential on him. Add to that the complexities of whether or not a child can truly grasp the gravity of a terminal illness, can balance the short-term pain of treatment with the loss of years of his life, etc, and you have a very complex case. All the issues of government intervention in parenting, child autonomy, religious freedom, and the power of the medical-industrial complex factor in here in a very convoluted way.
One of the interesting things coming out of this case is the way choice is constructed. Daniel's attorney, Phil Ebert, said "I am very angry that Daniel isn't here. The case from the very beginning was about honoring and respecting a decision, a choice ... we now need to respect the judge's decision." This quote is odd in that it conflates a paternalistic decision made by an authority figure and externally imposed on the individual with that person's individual choice and autonomy. Generally when we talk about choice as a social and legal issue, we're already assuming that an authority figure such as a judge could in fact make a choice for you, but we're questioning whether enforcing that decision would be the best thing for you, or a legal action, or something we want to allow in a democratic society that values personal autonomy.
Another issue that's unclear from the news coverage is the extent to which Daniel is capable of making an informed decision on his own. According to this and other articles, Daniel is illiterate (which brings up other issues concerning religious freedom and parenting) and his family doctor was not given sufficient time to explain to him the disease, the chances that chemo and radiation will work, etc. So this does raise huge concerns that, even if Daniel is mature enough to make a decision of this magnitude for himself, he's probably not informed enough to make a truly autonomous decision.
However, the state's view of medical care and parental obligation is also somewhat problematic here. According to the judge, state law requires the parents to provide “medically necessary care.” But the question of who gets to determine whether a course of treatment is medically necessary or sufficient is not stated. In a government that's so profoundly influenced by the lobbying actions of the medical-industrial complex, conventional western medical treatment will most likely be viewed as the only adequate treatment (another marvelous example of the colonization of the lifeworld by a profit-driven system). And conventional western medical practice is not evidence-based, contrary to popular belief. Further, in the worldview of the family, chemo and radiation treatments amount to an assault on Daniel’s body and torture in the long term. Given this view, it's clear that the duty of the parents would be to protect him from treatment and seek alternative therapies.
So I think all these factors combine to make this case very complex and thought-provoking. In my view, it's very difficult to produce an easy answer in this case, as both sides have a number of valid concerns and a number of obvious flaws. I would be interested to hear how others are responding to this. Your thoughts?