State of Michigan Sues Parents and Orders Them to Give their Son Carcinogenic Drugs
Now, that title may sound like something that belongs in a Sci-Fi movie. After all, such story lines are readily found on Hollywood studio lots.
But this story, is alive and well in the real world – not in Hollywood. This story begins with Michigan native Jacob Stieler, a 10-year-old boy who was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a dangerous bone cancer. The course of treatment? Surgery to remove the tumor, with chemotherapy to follow. The pain and suffering that followed was emotionally traumatic for Jacob’s parents to witness, to be sure. They couldn’t help but wonder how much more of the treatments their young son could possibly endure.
Fortunately, Jacob’s initial results were promising.
In early July of 2011, the chemotherapy was finished and a PET scan was used see if Jacob’s cancer was still present. Much to everyone’s relief, there was no more cancer was present in Jacob’s body. He has had two additional PET scans since then (most recently in January 2012), and both have come back with cancer-free results.
Sounds like a joyous finale for Jacob and his family doesn’t it? Well, not if the government has any say in the matter.
The Government Steps In
Government officials in Michigan are now insisting that standard procedure be followed. What constitutes “standard procedure”? Well, it’s being advised that Jacob take more cancer medications, which, according to experts, could actually cause additional cancer. Why would they demand such a thing after he has been proven three times to be cancer-free?
Despite those demands, Jacob’s parents refused to subject him to more treatment. And now a lawsuit claiming medical neglect was filed against Jacob’s parents because of their refusal. In December 2011, a trial judge dismissed the case. But the attention has been turned to the parents. Do they have the ability to make medical decisions for their son that are conflicting to the opinions of the doctors?
As for the doctors, they insisted that they were following standards, claiming that the rounds of chemotherapy chemicals are necessary regardless of the PET scan results. The doctors went so far as to contact Child Protective Services (CPS) when the parents refused to follow those standards. The CPS agency refused to get involved.
That’s when the Michigan Department of Human Services stepped in and filed suit in an attempt to force the parents to give the chemicals to their son, claiming that their decision not to administer the drugs is medical neglect. Though the Marquette County Probate Court has refused this suit twice, the department is relentlessly pursuing it anyway.
What About the Drugs?
The drugs that the Michigan Department of Human Services is insisting upon are not FDA approved and offer no proof of even curing cancer, which is ultimately unnecessary in this case anyway since Jacob has been proven cancer-free three times. The chemotherapy chemicals ifosfamide, etoposide and doxorubicin are known carcinogens and have other side effects as well, including heart disease and failure to sexually mature. The FDA acknowledges that these chemicals have not been proven safe for children and has been quoted as saying "safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established." The state officials are aware of this and are demanding that the parents administer them to Jacob anyway.
What Will Happen to Jacob?
What this all boils down to is who gets the final decision for what’s best for the child . . . the parents or the government? If you, as a parent, are not allowed to choose what you feel is the best decision in the interest of your child, does that mean the government ultimately “owns” your child? Do parents really deserve to be thrown in jail and lose custody of their child because they don’t want their child to be treated like a test subject?
Many individuals and organizations alike are worried that this lawsuit is a window for the “national standard of care” or “Obamacare.” It’s hard to imagine that this is really a case about what’s best for the patient. Perhaps it’s the Big Pharma profits which are motivating this case.
So . . . should parents have the right to say “no” to medical treatment for their child if it goes against their beliefs, no matter what their beliefs are and whether or not anyone else happens to agree with them?
And, if the government actually wins this case and parents lose the right to make medical decisions for their children, what’s in store for us next?