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Parental rights vs. child welfare examined

Two recent medical cases put issue in spotlight

Parental rights vs. child welfare examined

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - In a battle between parental rights and patient welfare, parents have rights over their children -- to an extent.

Mary Ann Cutter, a philosophy professor at UCCS who specializes in medical ethics, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that even though parents have a right to raise their children in the way they see fit, those rights can be challenged or overridden if another party suspects a child's life is in danger.

"Adult patients have a right to refuse treatments," Cutter said.  Child patients do not.
A Colorado Springs mom who chose cannabis over chemotherapy for her 3-year-old son with leukemia was forced to put him back on chemotherapy Monday.

"He's doing OK," Sierra Riddle told KRDO NewsChannel 13 on Wednesday.  "He's resting and relaxing and recovering from anesthesia."  

Landon Riddle was diagnosed with T-Cell ALL (leukemia) when he was 2 years old.  He struggled with chemotherapy, according to his mom.  She found an alternative -- medical marijuana in the form of capsules.  She says that she was skeptical at first, but Landon is now in remission.

Still, Landon's doctors recommend years of chemotherapy.  Doctors from Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora reported her actions to Child Protective Services.  After meeting with CPS and doctors, Sierra was given a choice: put Landon back on chemotherapy, or fight for it in court.  It's a case that Sierra says she knows she would lose.  

Sierra says she's decided to put Landon back on chemotherapy until they can find an oncologist who would support taking him off of it.  While on chemotherapy, Landon is still taking his cannabis oil pills.

Another case in Ohio also brings to light the issue of parental rights vs. child welfare.

An appeals court in Ohio is siding with a hospital that is seeking to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.  The court ordered that a registered nurse take over limited guardianship for the girl and decide whether she should continue treatments for leukemia.

The appeals court ruling issued last week says the wishes and beliefs of the parents can't outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

The girl's parents, who live in northeast Ohio's Medina County, stopped chemotherapy because they say the effects were terrible. They say they opted for "natural" medicines.

"Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as what that does if it's God's will," the girl's father told ABC News over the phone.

Doctors at Akron Children's Hospital say the girl will die without chemotherapy.

Cutter says the two cases are ethically similar.  

"These cases involve children and as much as we have a tradition of parent rights and family rights in this country, there are a number of reasons that the state has developed to intervene," Cutter said.

Sierra Riddle doesn't see it that way.

"These parents who are fighting for their right to some nonsense treatment are ruining the chances for people like me trying to choose an effective treatment," Riddle said.  

In both cases, the treatment selected by the parents are not considered standard of care in medicine.  In the eyes of modern science and the court of law, chemotherapy is the only proven method of treating leukemia.

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