An email to 2GB’s Continuous Call Team Samuel’s Tapes

Medical treatment against parental wishes

July 18th, 2009 at 12:51am

An email to KXNT’s Alan Stock

G'day Alan,

Seeing as you're going to be talking about the medical treatment of children when it is against the wishes of the parents, I thought you might be interested in the Australian perspective on the issue.

Down Under, the laws vary from state to state, but most states have laws which allow doctors to override the religious beliefs of parents if they believe it is in the interests of the child, such as to prevent serious injury or death. Such things as blood transfusions, which are prohibited by some religions, can be performed regardless of the wishes of the patient or their parents, and court orders (from judges) can be used to remove interfering parties from the hospital.

As for cases where the patient is never taken to a hospital, I'm not sure what the law is on those…but I do believe that there are child endangerment laws which can be invoked, giving authorities the ability to remove the child from the custody of the parents…not sure what happens if the child dies before this happens, but I agree with you, parents have a responsibility to seek medical treatment.

Best wishes,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra, Australia

The story which sparked this discussion is the story of Carl and Raylene Worthington in Oregon…to quote from the article:
“Carl and Raylene Worthington, members of the Followers of Christ church in Oregon City, are accused of manslaughter and criminal mistreatment in the death of their 15-month-old daughter. Ava Worthington died in March 2008 from complications from pneumonia and a blood infection, both treatable conditions. The Worthington case will be the first test of a 1999 Oregon law that removed legal protections for parents who withhold medical treatment on religious grounds.”

The jury is out at the moment.

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