I happened to see an episode of the Dr. Phil show last week and what I saw shook me to my core! Especially as a mother, it was alarming beyond words. It was called: The Fight over Justina: Medical Child Abuse by Parents or Abuse of Power by a Hospital? And you can see the episode here.
Briefly, for the past 13 months, these parents have been fighting to regain custody of their 15-year-old daughter, Justina, who they claim has been held against their (and her) will by Boston Children’s Hospital. They say Justina suffers from Mitochondrial Disease and is in need of medication, but the hospital argues that the teen’s issues are psychosomatic — and accuses the parents of committing “medical child abuse.” Justina’s parents and sisters — Jennifer, Jessica and Julia — say they’re only allowed to visit her one hour a week and claim her health is deteriorating because she has not received proper medical care. The show discusses whether the doctors are justified in their action.
Seeing the videos of her before she ended up in the hospital, ice skating, smiling and happy and now, 13 months later, wheelchair-bound and unable to walk was frightening to say the least. My heart goes out to this family. However, it’s not the first or only case of this type I’ve seen or read about.
I want to be very clear – I am not telling anyone not to pursue conventional treatment for cancer or any other disease if that is their choice and they have confidence that it is the best one for them or their child.
My concern here is when a hospital or any agency supercedes our rights – particularly parental rights. Dr. Phil clearly stated that in cases where a child is concerned, erring on the side of caution is best and I agree. He agreed that the authorities must assume there could be some wrongdoing in the home and disprove that before they do anything else. I agree. However, from all accounts, the family was not investigated. The girl was simply put in foster care and the hospital took over her care without any input from her parents, even though an older sister suffers from the same disease and is doing well on the medical treatment the parents sought.
I fear for all the parents of young children who may choose to go against conventional treatments. Or in this case a conventional treatment that not all the experts seem to agree upon. There are plenty of accounts of real parents who decided to go a different way and saw significant improvement in their child’s health. Here’s one example. Again, I’m not saying anyone must go against conventional treatment – just that there should be the freedom to do so.
I believe we should be able to get medical care from sources we trust and be allowed to take our health back into our own hands.
What do you think?
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