Judge To Decide If Family Can Refuse Chemo For Boy

A Minnesota judge is expected to decide whether a family can refuse chemotherapy for a 13-year-boy's cancer and treat him with natural medicine, even though doctors say it's effectively a death sentence.

With chemotherapy, Daniel Hauser has a 90 percent chance of surviving his Hodgkin's lymphoma, according to his cancer doctor. And without it?

"It is almost certain that he will die," said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota. Bostrom, who diagnosed the disease, is an ally of the legal effort in southwestern Minnesota's Brown County to make Hauser submit to chemotherapy even though he and his parents believe it's potentially more harmful than the cancer itself.

District Judge John Rodenberg was expected to rule Friday on Brown County's motion.

Bostrom said Daniel's chance of survival without chemotherapy is about 5 percent. Nevertheless, parents Colleen and Anthony Hauser are supporting what they say is their son's decision to instead treat the disease with nutritional supplements and other alternative treatments favored by the Nemenhah Band. The Missouri-based religious group believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.

"This is about the right of a 13-year-old young man to be free from acts of assault on his body," said the family's attorney, Calvin Johnson. The Hausers did not return several phone messages left at their home Thursday.

Bostrom diagnosed Daniel Hauser with Hodgkin's lymphoma in January, and recommended he undergo chemotherapy treatments once a month for six months, followed by radiation. Daniel became gravely ill about a week later and was taken to an emergency room, Bostrom said, and the family consented to the first chemotherapy treatment.

After that, Bostrom said, the family said they wanted a second opinion. They later informed him that Daniel would not undergo any more chemotherapy. Bostrom said Daniel's tumor shrunk after the first chemotherapy session.

Two other doctors who examined Daniel backed up Bostrom's assessment at a court hearing last Friday. At that hearing, Colleen Hauser testified her son became sick and depressed after the first treatment, and said the family only would consent to traditional treatments in the case of a life-threatening illness.

"My son is not in any medical danger at this point," Colleen Hauser testified. She also testified that Daniel was a medicine man and elder in the Nemenhah Band.

The mother said her son made the decision himself to refuse chemotherapy: "I think he understands he has the right to choose healthier forms of dealing with this cancer."

Brown County disagrees, and pressed the case after Bostrom notified child protection authorities.

Daniel Hauser "does not have a complete understanding of what it means to be a medicine man or an elder," Brown County Attorney James Olson wrote in a legal filing.

The Hausers, who are Roman Catholic, have eight children. Colleen Hauser told the New Ulm Journal newspaper that the family's Catholicism and adherence to the Nemenhah Band are not in conflict, and said she has treated illness with natural remedies her entire life.

Nemenhah was founded in the 1990s by Philip Cloudpiler Landis, who said Thursday that he was one-fourth American Indian. Nemenhah adherents are asked to pay $250 to be members. "We're non-dogmatic, a very universal faith," Landis said.

Landis said he founded the faith after facing his diagnosis of a cancer similar to Daniel Hauser. He said he treated it with diet choices, visits to a sweat lodge and other natural remedies. Landis also once served four months in prison in Idaho for fraud related to advocating natural remedies.

"The issue is Danny's right to decide how he wants to live his life," Landis said. "What if they make him take chemotherapy and he dies from that? The band will mourn with the family if that's the case, but we'll rejoice that Danny had the opportunity to test the law of the land."

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  • by Wanda Location: Kenansville on May 15, 2009 at 12:02 PM
    I hope that this message reaches this family. Two years ago, my sister and mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The fear of chemo and radiation was crippling for my family, but as a family and God's help we made it though. We felt scared and feared the unknown of "C", but the advancement of cancer treatment has advanced so much. Please allow your child to take the cancer medicine. I would love to call just to say "Have HOPE." The decision will be ultimately yours but please consider the doctors decision and God's grace to life.
  • by Chris Location: Greenville on May 15, 2009 at 07:08 AM
    I have to say, As long as the parents and the 13 Yr. old understand what it means to decline treatment, let them decline treatment! I have seen many people take chemo become sick as a dog and basically live out there rest days in that condition. The only thing we could ever hope for as humans is when the time comes for us all, that we have the right to go out in peace!
  • by B Location: NC on May 15, 2009 at 06:08 AM
    Let him die if that's what they want.
  • by geeeeeze on May 15, 2009 at 05:55 AM
    Do these parents really believe that natural medicine is going to heal their son of cancer??? This is a life threatening disease NOT THE FLU!!! I work in oncology and i've seen all the side effects of chemo; trust me. BUT, these parents need to put their own selfish needs and wants to the side if they want their son to live. Chemo is tough and i'm sure after his first round it did scare the mess out of him. BUT the parents need to be strong for their son and help him to realize that if he wants to live, chemo is the best choice. My thoughts and prayers are with this boy and I pray that he pulls through.
  • by Bud Location: Washington on May 15, 2009 at 05:53 AM
    It'd be easy to sit here and call those folks crazy, but let's look at it in a different light: perhaps they'll discover the cure in their efforts to treat the illness "naturally." Then we'll be praising their efforts! Unimaginable! I hope they succeed.
  • by Jen Perry Location: greenville on May 15, 2009 at 05:17 AM
    wow, what a huge ethical deliema. I know that in nursing school we are taught to always respect a patients culture. Jahovas witnesses refuse any kind of blood transfusion, even if it would save their lives; though, the fact that this involves a minor is very diffrent. I say that after giving the family all informed options and risks-it should be their choice.
  • by J Location: Gville on May 15, 2009 at 05:16 AM
    Well, you know what. If the family has been thoroughly informed that their 13 year child will DIE if they don't do Chemo,and the refuse it, then I'm pretty sure they are going to take on the consequences and hope for the best with another method. AS long as they don't come back and try to SUE the Dr.s if this chicld doesn't make it. Good luck!

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