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As authorities search for a missing 13-year-old cancer patient whose mother shunned chemotherapy, an expert on faith healing said the case demonstrates just how these cases can get out of hand — and the need to prevent them in the future.
On Tuesday (May 19), Daniel Hauser of Sleepy Eye, Minn., and his mother, Colleen, failed to show up at a court hearing during which a judge was expected to rule on further treatment of the boy’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A court-ordered X-ray has already shown that a tumor within the boy’s right lung had worsened.
Authorities are now searching for the boy and his mother and reportedly issued a felony federal warrant Thursday (May 21) for the arrest of Colleen Hauser, who considers her son to be a medicine man in the Nemenhah Band and Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete, which have a “do no harm” belief and advocate natural healing methods.
“I’ve never seen a parent flee in this manner from state-mandated medical treatment,” said Shawn Francis Peters, who teaches religion at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the author of “When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children and the Law.”
“However, it does reflect an ongoing resistance to legal authority that is common in these cases. It’s just taking that to an extreme that I haven’t seen previously.”
Peters said it is particularly striking that the Hausers’ disappearance is juxtaposed with the ongoing trial of a Wisconsin mother, Leilani Neumann, who’s charged with reckless homicide in the death of her child from juvenile diabetes. Experts believe the death of Neumann’s 11-year-old daughter could have been prevented had she not relied on the faith healing practices of a group known as Unleavened Bread Ministries.
Two other sets of Oregon parents are expected to stand trial later this summer in the deaths of their children who were denied routine medical treatment because the families belong to a small faith-healing church.
“It shows that this is an ongoing problem and these kinds of issues keep bubbling to the surface,” said Peters. “And it indicates to me that we probably need to address these activities and these traditions and figure out a way to reconcile our legal traditions and our religious traditions that we’re not doing.”
Rather than simply dealing with complex tensions between religion and science in the courts, Peters urged public discussion — away from the heat of a tragic circumstance — where law enforcement, medical ethicists and clergy can air their views and build understanding.
“You might actually figure out a way to head off these problems before they start,” said Peters, who has researched faith-healing conflicts that date to the 1870s.
Philip J. Elbert, the court-appointed lawyer for Daniel Hauser, said he has moved from anger to frustration since he appeared in court on Tuesday and learned that Daniel and his mother had disappeared.
“I think it’s devastating that this has happened,” he said Thursday.
“There’s nothing good legally that can come out of this.”
Calvin P. Johnson, the lawyer for Daniel Hauser’s parents, issued a statement Wednesday saying the parents and son are in agreement about the recommended treatment.
“They do not approve of chemotherapy,” he said. “Under the circumstances of this case, chemotherapy constitutes assault and torture, when given to a young man who believes that it will kill him.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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