The case of the 16 year old boy with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Virginia is one of the hard cases in medical ethics.
The court has ruled that Starchild Abraham Cherrix must undergo chemotherapy against his wishes and the wishes of his parents.
This is the second round of chemotherapy for the boy. He says that the first round made him sick and that he would rather die feeling healthy at home than in a hospital bed.
The doctors are faced with forcing Starchild to submit to medication against his will.
I am afraid that there are no winners in this case.
A 16 year old child, while a minor, has the right of refusal of treatment. The fact that his parents – who are his legal guardians and who would rightly be his surrogates if he were not competent to make decisions – agree with him puts more ethical weight behind his own decision. Even if the parents and the child disagreed, we would have to give strong consideration to a 16 year old’s decisions.
On the other hand, the child has cancer and will most likely die if he is not treated. I understand the wishes of medical caregivers to ensure the best treatment possible.
I’m hoping for better communication between the two sides. Perhaps Starchild can be persuaded to consider a short trial of chemo.
However, from an interview that I saw on television, I’m afraid that both sides are set on disagreeing.