Take your medicine and put your trust in God

JP: Albert Mohler addresses the case of Daniel Hauser of New Ulm that has been in the news:

First the news items:

CNN: Hearing Tuesday for 13-year-old cancer patient

Boston Globe: Court orders Minn. parents to treat son’s cancer

Star Tribune: Daniel Hauser faces custody hearing today


NEW ULM, MINN. — Colleen and Daniel Hauser, who ended a dramatic weeklong manhunt Monday, were back at home this morning and facing a court hearing this afternoon to clarify Daniel’s custody and the next steps in his medical care for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The Hausers returned home to Minnesota on a predawn charter flight after turning themselves in to authorities with the assistance of a lawyer in Southern California. Early reports said that Daniel, 13, was turned over to the custody of Brown County child protection workers.

But he was seen by reporters late this morning riding a four-wheeler with his mother on the family’s farm in rural Sleepy Eye, heading across the road to their dairy farm.

Calvin Johnson, an attorney for the teen’s parents, said Daniel was in the company of Brown County child protection workers and, later in the day, was having his cancer evaluated at a Twin Cities hospital. Daniel’s parents were with him, Johnson said, and the boy was expected to return to the family home Monday night.

A court hearing is expected to begin between 2 and 2:30 p.m. today in New Ulm to clarify Daniel’s custody arrangement and determine the next steps in his medical care. Brown County Attorney James Olson said he doesn’t expect to charge Colleen Hauser and said arrest warrants have been quashed because she voluntarily returned. The county attorney said the judge will want to know where the parents stand on chemotherapy treatment, which could influence his own course of legal action.

Albert Mohler’s commentary and Christian perspective: When Medicine and Faith Collide — What About the Child?


… there is a strong moral consensus in this country that children deserve medical care and that the state has the obligation to intervene in such cases. This consensus includes both political liberals and conservatives and includes the vast majority of Americans regardless of religious conviction. Though there are important legal issues at stake, a broad consensus exists on this narrowly-defined question. In cases like those recounted above, there is no outcry against state intervention from Christian conservatives or from secular liberals.

The 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision Prince v. Massachusetts set parameters that continue today. In that case, the Court acknowledged the rights of parents as fundamental. In an important statement the court expressed this right: “It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. Pierce v. Society of Sisters, supra. And it is in recognition of this that these decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.”

But the Court also found that there were issues of the welfare of a child that could draw state authorities into this “private realm.” Specifically, “The right to practice religion freely does not include liberty to expose the community or the child to communicable disease or the latter to ill health or death.”

As a parent, I respect this point. I cannot imagine denying my child any needed medical treatment or defending the right of others to do the same, whether claiming religious liberty or parental freedom for the care and nurture of the child.

I would defend the duty of the state to intervene in these cases, and I am thankful for the broad consensus that stands behind this duty.

I am not without concerns. Given the power of government and the reach of the state into almost all areas of life, the danger exists that the state could seek to expand this duty into other decisions related to education, discipline, and nurture — the very issues acknowledged by the Court in Prince v. Massachusetts to “reside first in the parents.” Yet, vigilance on those questions is the price that must be paid, lest more children be added to the list of those who die or are endangered by parents who claim a religious right to deny their child urgently needed medical treatment. As adults, parents have the right to refuse medical treatment for themselves. They do not have the right to refuse urgently needed medical treatments for their children.

As a Christian theologian, my concern is also directed to those who oppose medical treatment on what are claimed as biblical grounds. The Bible never commands any refusal of legitimate medical treatment. I am unspeakably thankful for modern medicine, for antibiotics and anesthesia and chemotherapy and dialysis and diagnostics. The list goes on and on. There is no Christian prohibition against legitimate medical treatment. I believe that God heals, that we should pray for healing in Christ’s name, and that our lives are in God’s hands. I believe that all healing comes ultimately from God, but that He has given us the blessings of medicine for the alleviation of much suffering and the treatment of disease. There is no conflict here.

There are serious issues of medical ethics in the case of some treatments, even as there are excruciating dilemmas that confront physicians, patients, and parents. Those must be acknowledged, but they are not the issues at stake in these cases.

In these cases I advise what the great Reformer Martin Luther advised — take your medicine and put your trust in God. For parents, this means to give your child the best care that modern medicine can offer, and to entrust your precious child to God and to God alone.

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