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MINNEAPOLIS – A 13-year-old Minnesota boy with cancer must resume medical treatment to save his life, despite religious and other objections by his family – unless it already is too late, a Brown County District Court judge ruled Friday.
Daniel Hauser must have a chest X-ray by next Tuesday, when Judge John Rodenberg will learn if the boy’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma has spread, the ruling said.
“Daniel Hauser is a child in need of protection,” Rodenberg wrote, noting that five medical doctors agreed on the recommended treatment.
An attorney for the Hausers said the family will comply for now but is considering an appeal.
“The Hausers believe that the injection of chemotherapy into Danny Hauser amounts to an assault upon his body, and torture when it occurs over a long period of time,” attorney Calvin Johnson said in a written statement. “They believe that it is against the spiritual law to invade the consciousness of another person without their permission. Danny feels healthy, and is anxious to continue on with his present course of healing.”
County Attorney James Olson, who petitioned for the court’s intervention, said the judge’s decision “gets things started.” But even with the X-ray, doctors may not be able to offer a prognosis for Daniel by Tuesday’s hearing, he said, and the judge may require more reports or hearings before issuing additional orders.
In a 58-page ruling issued Friday morning, Rodenberg said the boy should remain in the custody of his parents, Anthony and Colleen Hauser of Sleepy Eye, Minn., “provided that the parents get the chest X-ray” and, if chemotherapy is ordered, choose an oncologist to provide the medical care.
Minnesota law requires parents to provide children with “medically necessary care,” and providing “complementary and alternative health care” is not sufficient,” the opinion said.
If the Legislature should reconsider those laws, the judge said, “I am confident that I join all of the others involved in this matter in hoping, and indeed in praying, that Daniel Hauser lives to testify at that hearing.”
However, “this matter … involves a 13-year-old child who has only a rudimentary understanding at best of the risks and benefits of chemotherapy … He does not believe he is very ill currently. The fact is that he is very ill currently,” the judge wrote.
“It is possible that (it) may already be ‘too late,”’ the judge wrote. “The court will not order chemotherapy if Daniel’s previously favorable prognosis no longer pertains,” said the order, posted Friday on the Minnesota state courts Web site, www.mncourts.gov.
At a May 7 visit with his doctor, Daniel showed symptoms that indicate his tumor may have grown, the judge noted.
The judge said that “medical neglect as defined by Minnesota law most definitely occurred” during two recent doctors visits when a chest X-ray was recommended, and refused by the parents, to see if the lymphoma had spread.
He wrote that Colleen Hauser testified “that if Daniel’s condition worsens, she would again consider chemotherapy. Without the chest X-ray that was recommend … it is hard to understand how she would have any idea whether the … tumor is or is not increasing in size.”
Daniel Hauser was diagnosed in January with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but the Hausers stopped their son’s chemotherapy and radiation after one treatment in February and began substituting alternative care.
His doctors then notified child protection officials, prompting Brown County Attorney James Olson to file a petition asking the court to order the boy into treatment.
Daniel lives with his parents and seven brothers and sisters on a farm near Sleepy Eye, Minn.
At last week’s court hearing in New Ulm, cancer specialists from Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic testified that Daniel had a 90 percent chance of surviving with chemotherapy and radiation, but likely will die within five years without it.
The Hausers argued that the state was trampling on their rights to medical and religious freedom, citing their membership in a Native American religious group, the Nemenhah, which advocates natural healing.
Daniel submitted a formal affidavit stating that he was a Nemenhah medicine man and church elder, and that “I have made the decision to disobey any order to have me surrender to any medical treatment involving self-destruction and death, including chemotherapy.”
Colleen Hauser testified that she was trying to “starve” her son’s tumor with natural healing methods, such as herbs and ionized water, that she had learned about on the Internet.
The Hausers’ lawyer, Calvin Johnson, argued that chemotherapy itself could kill Daniel, and that forcing the boy into treatment would be unconscionable.
“This trial is the act of two loving parents who will go to any length to save their child from assault and torture,” he wrote in his closing argument. Just as doctors must ask for consent before treating patients, he said, patients have the right to refuse.
“The point is simple: The Hausers have elected forms of alternative health care that they believe to be more effective and more beneficial than those recommended by the cancer industry,” he wrote. “Here, we are dealing with a mature 13-year-old boy whose wishes align with those of his parents.”
But Olson, the county attorney, and Daniel’s court-appointed guardian, Shiree Oliver, both argued that the boy has been endangered by his parents’ actions.
“Colleen and Anthony Hauser have a right to raise their children. But they do not have any recognized constitutional right to let their son die from a curable disease,” wrote Thomas Sinas, an attorney for the boy’s guardian.
Sinas argued that Daniel’s own testimony, in a closed session with the judge, showed that he’s not mature enough to make his own medical decisions.
“Daniel, tragically, cannot read,” Sinas wrote in his closing argument. “He was not able to read the affidavit he supposedly affirmed.” He noted that Daniel’s doctors testified that he did not appear to understand the severity of his illness. “Daniel’s only source of information about his disease is his parents.”
Olson argued that Daniel has been “medically neglected,” and that his medical condition may have deteriorated because of the delay in seeking treatment. “Time is of the essence,” he wrote.

Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News – May 15, 2009
(c)2009, Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Distributed by Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.

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