Fear, religion, and bad medicine

Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 9:42 AM Bookmark and Share
I recently came across this post by PZ Myers about a 13 year old Minnesota boy and his family (the Hausers), who are currently in court for the right to refuse chemotherapy to treat the boy's Hodgkin Lymphoma. In doing so, they're refusing an 85% chance of surviving the cancer, in exchange for almost no chance of survival without proper treatment - opting instead for natural remedies such as herbs and vitamins (a decidedly bad form of cancer "treatment"!).

In my usual fashion, I followed up on the blog post and read through a few more articles on the story, like this one, this one, this blog post by Jerry Coyne, and http://www.childrenshealthcare.org/ which chronicles the painful and preventable deaths of a handful of children (mostly from Christian Science families) following the faith-based "treatment" their parents elected to provide them in lieu of real medical treatment.

The consequence of all this (and my reading these stories in the middle of a busy few days of thesis work) was that I completely got wrapped up in the emotional aspects of this and other stories like it, and failed to dig deeper! Was their nemenhah religion really behind all this (in my defense, their website was down when I checked)? What was their experience dealing with his cancer up to this point? A whole slew of other questions a little critical thinking should have brought to mind...

Fortunately, I just saw the post below on the blog Respectful Insolence which points out some of the mistakes which I and others have made in reading into these matters. "Orac" gives very level headed view of the situation, and to me it's a personal reminder that we're all susceptible to loosing our better judgment from time to time.

If you haven't looked over the articles and websites above, I'd suggest giving at least some of them a read before reading this one.
Daniel Hauser and his rejection of chemotherapy: Is religion the driving force or just a convenient excuse?
I'll try to post follow-up links on the Hauser case below, as they become available.

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