Saturday, May 10, 2008

HArd Choices

Yesterday while running errands I heard this story:
Child welfare officials have taken temporary custody of an 11-year-old Ontario boy to ensure he undergoes chemotherapy after his father decided to take
him off treatment for his aggressive form of leukemia.
In the interview I heard it was stated that the CAS was called because of the parent's "refusal to seek appropriate medical care" for the boy. ANd, yes that is a very valid concern IT should be one of the criteria for involving child welfare officials in a family's life. BUt is that what was happening here? DOes choosing that enough is enough mean acting inappropriately?

THe interview also said that yes, they had taken into consideration the boy's statment that he did not want treatment. They had tried to assess if he was capable to make that choice (never an easy thing to do).

But here's the thing. In our society anyone choosing not to try treatment (and treatment that has only a 50% chance at that) is often seen as not thinking clearly. The younger the patient the more likely this choice will be seen as invalid. Is the societal refusal to admit the reality that people sometimes die no matter what (just bcause they get sick, not because God decided they should die) colouring what is seen as responsible parenting.

I have no idea what I would do if I were involved in this situation. Not if I were the parent, or a Dr, or the CAS worker, or as a pastor. I really hope I never have to find out.

Hard choices indeed.


  1. For what it's worth, Gord, it's highly likely that the CAS has known of this family for some time, and that this is but the straw (OK, log, then) that broke the camel's back. There is probably a history of neglect and abuse in this family of which this is but the latest example.

    In addition, CAS workers and management are hampered in media relations by an understandable restriction on what they can tell the media or anyone about a case, whereas a parent or even the child himself/herself has no such legal compunction and can present their side of a story for the court of public opinion.

    CAS is not perfect, but the restriction on publicity should always be taken into account when CAS cases become public.

    PS: My daughter is a social worker.

  2. Of course that is possible Peter, but not a definite either. CW workers can also act in cases where they have one contact (and rightly so).

    I have no problem with proper apprehensions (and not all apprehensions are warranted--accidents happen) and I have no opinion about process in this case.

    My questioning is in fact on the assumption that to refuse treatment is always the wrong choice. ANd that was pretty clearly the message in the interview I listened to. BUt of course we don't know what was told to who by whom or what was understood. We can't judge the actions of parent or CAS in this, or any other instance.

    WE can open ourselves to teh discussion on when it is appropriateto let a child say no to treatment (I hunch 11 is too young) and when it is ok to say "enough". (ANd I am betting you would see the need for such discussions.)