A Minnesota judge is weighing whether to force a 13-year-old boy who claims to be a medicine man in his church to get chemotherapy for his cancer - a treatment the boy and his parents have resisted for religious reasons.
Daniel Hauser, of Sleepy Eye, has Hodgkin's lymphoma, and county authorities are accusing his parents of medical neglect for not following through with the chemotherapy and radiation treatment doctors have recommended.
Doctors testified in court last week that Daniel could have a 90 percent chance of being cured through chemotherapy and radiation. But they said there's a 95 percent chance of death if the family decides to forgo the treatment.
In written final arguments filed Tuesday, Brown County Attorney James Olson asked the judge to order chemotherapy for the boy, who he says isn't mature enough to make his own medical decisions. Olson wrote that Daniel has a learning disability and cannot read, and he cited testimony from doctors who said it doesn't appear the boy understands the severity of his diagnosis.
Olson also raised questions about the Hausers' testimony that Daniel is a medicine man and elder in the Nemenhah church, a religious organization that advocates natural healing methods used by some Native Americans. Those titles are given to every member of the church over 13 years of age, Olson said.
"Daniel's testimony indicated that he does not have a complete understanding of what it means to be a medicine man or an elder," he wrote.
If the family doesn't comply with a potential court-ordered treatment regimen, the county attorney and the boy's guardian ad litem wrote, Daniel should be put in foster care to get the treatment.
But attorneys for Daniel and his family said the judge must decide whether Daniel's parents had a "rational basis" for their decision to stop chemotherapy - not whether they made the decision a "reasonable person" would have made.
Philip Elbert, an attorney for Daniel, wrote that the Hausers' faced an "unfair choice of two bad scenarios" for treatment and weighed all options for his care in deciding on an alternative that fit better with their religious beliefs.
"The parents in this case did not fail to act nor did they rely solely on spiritual treatment methods for Daniel's medical care," Elbert wrote.
Daniel's mother, Colleen, has said she approved of using Western medicine during a life-threatening emergency but says her son isn't in medical danger. The family has also said their religious convictions say the body shouldn't be harmed, and they said chemotherapy and radiation were poisons.
Daniel's parents emphasized through their attorney the risks of chemotherapy, questioning its effectiveness. And they said the action by county authorities was violating their rights.
"The path advocated by the State is one of torture and criminal action," wrote their attorney, Calvin Johnson.
Daniel's lymphoma was diagnosed in January, and he was given one round of chemotherapy in February. But instead of returning for a second round of the treatment in March, the Hausers opted for an alternative treatment involving a nutritious diet, drinking ionized water, and taking vitamins and herbal supplements. His mother testified the regimen was based mostly on information she found on the Internet.
An attorney for Shiree Oliver, the boy's guardian ad litem, wrote in final arguments that the state has not recognized complementary and alternative health care as a substitute for medical treatment.
"Even if Mr. and Mrs. Hauser are providing Daniel with complementary and alternative care, they are still medically neglecting Daniel," the attorney, Tom Sinas, wrote.
Judge John Rodenberg could issue a decision later this week
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