June 11, 2005


This article pisses me off. A 12 year old girl has chemotherapy for Hodgkin's lymphoma, the doctors strongly recommend radiation therapy, which the parents refuse because they think the girl is cured. Now the kid is in state custody, and her cancer has come back due to not having had the radiation therapy [of course, you don't know if it would have been successful, but still].

It's like taking half of a course of antibiotics: you might have killed the disease, or might not.

I don't know if it's worse or better than a couple who just want to treat their kid with prayer. At least there would be some principle involved, rather than rank stupidity.

Update: Doctor says girl's cancer back because of parents. Hmm.

Posted by Owlish at June 11, 2005 09:30 AM

I get a different impression. I may to refuse treatment if my understanding were that the medication had already done the trick. I don't know how the doctors explained the situation to the parents, but they weren't refusing treatment, just what they felt was excess treatment. That seems reasonable. Doctors aren't always correct, and patients have suffered at the hands of their doctors because of incorrect treatment. We are always being told "become informed, it is your job to stay on top of the situation."

Isn't it possible that the cancer would have come back if the child had the treatment? Isn't it possible that there could have been other, grave, medical results from having too much? With cancer, it is a bit of a guessing game, at least from my understanding. I think you need to test and retest. It seems this situation could have been helped by perhaps a better explanation from the doctors, and more reliance on testing (okay, but we want her back every two or three weeks, or once a month to retest.)

Posted by: Rachel Ann at June 11, 2005 04:29 PM

Ok, certainly you can refuse medication or medical treatment if you think you're well. But that's the whole point: if your doctor gives you two weeks of antibiotics, tells you to take the full course, you take 4 days worth, feel better, and stop, then (1) you're an idiot (2) you are contributing to the possibility of bacteria evolving towards antibiotic resistance. If you don't want the treatment, don't start it. In this case, apparently, the treatment regiment involved combination therapy, and I strongly suspect the doctors discussed that at the beginning of treatment

With regard to this case, there is no way CPS has intervened unless there is good proof that the kid needs the radiation therapy to improve her survival, even before the cancer shows up. Just for grins, I looked up treatment of Hodgkin's Disease in a 1998 textbook [so it is likely out of date]. At that point, the usual therapy was radiation therapy for the lower stages, and chemotherapy or combined therapy for the higher stages. Not knowing the exact details of the case, I can't say for certain what I would do.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the kid really only qualified for chemotherapy based on the level of disease, and the fact that she has had a recurrence of her cancer is pure coincidence. But I doubt it.

Posted by: owlish at June 11, 2005 11:03 PM
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