Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Does Colleen Hauser’s Religion REALLY Require Her to Avoid Chemo For Her Son?

I’m no expert on the Nemenhah Band, the spiritual group to which Colleen Hauser belongs and whose teachings she cites in refusing chemotherapy for her cancer-stricken son.
But poking around their website, it seems to me the group actually gives members some flexibility in deciding whether to accept chemotherapy or non-natural treatments..
Article 15 of their Constitution (reprinted here) states, “The right of Community Members to choose their method and kind of medicine shall not be denied or abridged in any way and the Councils shall not enact any counsel that shall place one profession or modality of medicine over any other.”
The mission statement on their website invites those who believe “that Natural Healing comprises part of your Spiritual Orientation.” (My emphasis)
And most important, the leader of the group, has encouraged the woman to turn herself in. While defending her right to opt for natural treatment, Phillip R. (Cloudpiler) Landis, Elected Principal Medicine Chief, said in a statement released Thursday, “it is not the policy of the band or anywhere in our belief system to disregard an order from the judge and abscond with a young person that has been placed in the custody of the court, this is a capital crime and this is not the way to do it. ” (Full statement after the jump).
In an interview with KSPR TV, Landis said their members are sometimes allowed medical treatment. “Say your child falls out of a tree and his brain is hanging out. We’re not going to put plaster on there, go to the hospital and have the surgeon put your brain back in,” Landis said.
However, he said, their first principle is “do no harm,” and “They have a substance they want to pump into his body that they believe will kill him.”
Note that Landis says “they” — i.e. the Hausers — believe the substance will kill him. He’s not saying it’s a matter of doctrine within the Nemenhah religious order that they must turn down chemo. Now Colleen Hauser may, herself, believe that chemo will kill her child but I don’t see how she or her lawyers could argue that rejection of chemo is an inviolate part of Nemenhah religious belief system.


Press Release

It is the official policy of the Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization to sustain and support the decisions of our members with regard to the use of or the choosing of natural medicine and natural medicine modalities. We believe these are gifts of the Spirit. In that we fully sustain and support Colleen and Danny Hauser in their decision to seek alternative modalities in treating cancer. Having said that we also must say that it is not the policy of the band or anywhere in our belief system to disregard an order from the judge and abscond with a young person that has been placed in the custody of the court, this is a capital crime and this is not the way to do it. Our counsel and our plea to Colleen is to come home. The judge has said he would cancel the warrant for your arrest. There are better ways to handle this, come home, bring that boy home.
Phillip R. (Cloudpiler) Landis,
Elected Principal Medicine Chief

Comments read comments(10)
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David Throop

posted May 22, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Even though a church allows a range of beliefs, the most extreme believer still can have a bona fide religious view. The Unitarian Universalist church has not historically been a pacifist church. We’ve allowed members to follow their own light. Therefore, during the Vietnam war, UUs who sought conscientious objector status had a much harder time getting local draft boards to grant it than did members of Quaker and Jehovah Witness congregations. Still, a deep personal moral conviction is genuine, even if your congregation won’t back you up.
Sure, Hauser should let her daughter get treatment. But the law should only pay passing attention to what Landis says.

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Robert R.

posted May 23, 2009 at 1:05 am

A capital crime?
So they will kill the mother if she comes back? That will inspire her to bring Danny in for treatment.
Chemotherapy is a hair’s breadth from being as bad as cancer. The mother’s decision is certainly understandable. That being said, I hope she returns him to some kind of stable supportive environment at once, regardless of whether chemo is part of the child’s future.

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posted May 23, 2009 at 10:40 am

I am not sure the media has the entire story. I am sure we are only getting the pieces of the story that makes this sensational. My heart goes out to a mother protecting a child.
Chemo is poison. That is a fact. It is also a treatment that has not advanced since the 1940’s.
Yes, it is helpful in some cases, but anyone who believes in holistic medicine knows that there are alternatives and a parent should be allowed to explore those alternatives to treat the disease. I am sure that there is so much more to the story that we do not know, but modern pharmacolgy is NOT the all and the end all. Just read all the potential side effects of most medicine and many include death.

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Bill Ware

posted May 24, 2009 at 11:18 am

Natural treatments can be fully applied, but only as an adjunct to medical treatments. Chemo may not be particularly effective in cancers diagnosed in an old guy like me. I may choice not to have them and die gracefully instead. But for this young boy, the treatments are 20 times more likely to allow him to live a long life than otherwise. A parent has no right to deny him this opportunity.

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posted May 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Chemo hasn’t advanced since the 1940’s? On what planet? Not this one. To hell with gun control, we need religion control. Nutbags like Hauser who try to kill their children because of magical thinking should be sterilized. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

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Jamie, Massachusetts

posted May 25, 2009 at 10:20 pm

As a mother, I support her and her decision to not allow her son to recieve chemo, it is poison.
We should be careful about letting the goverment tell families how we are allowed to raise our children. Not everyone may agree with her decision, but it is HER decision to make.

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Your Name

posted May 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm

So this kid has about a 90% chance of surviving if he gets the chemo, and about a 5% chance is he doesn’t get it. That’ what you support? I’m glad you’re not my mother. Yeah, right, you can just miracle away the cancer. Of course chemo is poison. It kills cells. That’s the point. But it could save this kid’s life if all you miraclists would get out of the way.

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posted May 26, 2009 at 1:15 pm

I don’t think the Hausers are saying their religion FORBIDS them to allow the young man to receive chemo, only that it doesn’t REQUIRE them to impose it.

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Your Name

posted May 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Maybe her position as MOTHER, Marian, requires her to give her child a chance of survival that is 4 or 5 times better than following religious fruitcakery.

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