In a case which may soon be reminiscent of the death of 11 year-old Madeline Neumann last year, a Minnesota judge issued a warrant on Wednesday for the arrest of Colleen Hauser, who has apparently fled the country with her 13 year-old son Daniel. The search for Colleen and Daniel, who may have fled to Mexico, has added urgency due to the Hodgkin’s lymphoma that is currently killing Daniel. Hodgkin’s is described as a “highly curable” form of cancer when treated when chemotherapy and radiation, and Daniel’s disease seemed to respond well to an initial treatment back in February. His parents were alarmed at the side effects — severe nausea, pain — and refused to continue the therapy. Two weeks ago a judge ordered the Hausers to submit Daniel to the treatment, which his doctors are convinced is his only realistic hope for survival, but they refused.
Their refusal, as you have no doubt heard or deduced from my article title, is rooted in religious belief. The Hausers are members of a sect called the Nemenhah Band, which favors a holistic approach over traditional medicine. It was founded by Philip “Cloudpiler” Landis, who claims to have cured his own cancer years ago through an altered diet and visits to a sweat lodge. He’s also been convicted of fraud and imprisoned for selling phony natural remedies, and he charges members a $100 monthly fee for the privilege of belong to the Nemenhah Band.
Prior to abducting her son, Colleen Hauser had been treating Daniel’s cancer with a regimen of vitamins, herbal supplements, and ionized water. His last medical examination revealed Daniel’s cancer had noticeably worsened since discontinuing chemo.
The first rule of the Nemenhah Band is “do no harm.” Here’s the deal: if authorities aren’t able to find Colleen and Daniel Hauser and either persuade or force the kid to submit to chemotherapy and radiation, his Hodgkin’s is going to kill him. He’s going to die. His disease has been allowed to advance so far that even with the treatment he may die, but it’s the only hope of survival he has.
Obviously the best case scenario is that Colleen Hauser comes to her senses and returns to Minnesota to allow her son to receive treatment. But I don’t expect that to happen. So, in the unfortunately far more likely event that Daniel dies of his completely curable form of cancer, here’s what I’d like to see transpire afterwards: Colleen Hauser and her husband, Anthony, charged with homicide due to neglect, or whatever the applicable charge is in Minnesota, tried, convicted and imprisoned for a good long fucking time.
There is no excuse for this. Religious freedom is a sacred and inviolable human right, but it only gives you the right to believe as you wish, not the right to act on your beliefs to the detriment of others. Daniel Hauser is 13 years-old, legally a child, and if his parents refuse to act in his best interests to preserve his life, the state has every right to do so in their place and to punish them for abandoning their responsibilities as parents. Just as the parents of poor Madeline Neumann ought to face justice for allowing her to die of diabetes while they prayed for God to heal her, so should the Hausers be charged criminally if their son dies of a curable disease because they chose irrational and discredited spiritualism over a proven medical treatment.
Mr. and Mrs. Hauser are, theoretically, consenting adults in control of their own actions, so I don’t know if there’s any legal route to pursue “Cloudpiler” Landis, the snake-oil salesman who duped them into all of this. But even if there is a Hell, it can’t possibly be deep enough or hot enough for men like him.
Read a proper bit of reporting on this story here, and an excellent write-up from ScienceBlogs here.