Minnesota Atheists Meetup Group Message Board › Children and medical rights

Children and medical rights

A former member
Post #: 24
Recently, the practice of Jehovah's Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, despite the side effect of death in some cases has been highlighted by stories of people, in one case a woman who died after giving birth who would have likely survived with a blood transfusion, and in another, a 14 year old boy who refused a blood transfusion as part of his leukemia treatment.

As an atheist, I see these deaths as pointless, in both cases. However, I am willing to respect the right of a patient to make decisions for his or her self. We recognize the right of the patient to refuse treatment on grounds, so long as the grounds are not determined to be suicidal. The 14 year old boy refused treatment, and was brought before a judge who determined he was sane, and was not intending to kill himself by refusing treatment, but remaining faithful to his religion.

I see the rules as inconsistent. If a patient can choose to refuse treatment on religious grounds, why can't a patient refuse treatment because they want to die? As a society, why do we allow passive medical suicide but not active doctor assisted suicide?

There are two extremes, and today we are in the middle. One one side, you treat everyone, and do whatever is necessary to keep them alive, without respect of their beliefs. This would violate the patients right to refuse treatment, and make the state an imposing force on some people.

The other extreme, I see, is the ability for anyone to choose or refuse any treatment at will, including the right to end one's own life, if you so choose.

I think most feel strongly about the right for people to refuse treatment if they don't agree with it, if you are an adult. We don't see it as imposing if the state forces a child to receive treatment they may deem harmful to their chances in the afterlife. However, are we discounting the ability for children to reason? I would say that the 14 year old was able to be rational, at least in his supernatural realm of thinking, and able to think through the consequences of inaction. The issue I have problems with, is that you don't get to change your mind later. The choice for you to commit medical suicide can not be undone later.

I'm all for refusing treatment when it isn't lethal. If you want to refuse a flu shot because it was cultured in an egg base, and you're a vegan, go right ahead. I am still reluctant to allow a child, anyone under 18, to be able to refuse treatment on any grounds, even though I know they are able to reason, because I have the bias that I want to force them to be able to survive.

Soon, the blood transfusion issue won't be a problem. Artificial blood is being developed, and will be a great asset. It should be safer then traditional blood transfusions.

What do you say, force kids to get treatment they reject? Should we force adults too? Should we allow the freedom of choice for everyone?
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