Editor's Note: A Minnesota judge issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for the mother of Daniel Hauser, a 13-year-old boy who is refusing treatment for his cancer, after neither she nor the boy showed up for a court appearance.
Anderson Cooper spoke with CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Arthur Caplan, Chairman of the Department of Medical Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Cooper: Dr. Caplan, is this a tough call for you?
Dr. Caplan: It's not a tough call for me, Anderson. When you compel treatment, it has to be something that's well established and proven. This is. The chemotherapy success rate for the cancer that this boy has, if we can get it going soon, is about 95%. It's very, very good. You wouldn't push as hard if you had an experimental treatment or something that was iffy. Other facts, if you look at the situation with the chemotherapy, the alternative the parents proposed is well known to have a success rate of zero. So sometimes you can say, well, you know, the parents prefer surgery. We prefer chemo. Let's go with what they want first. you've got to move to save this child's life. Parental rights are strong, but they do have a limit when you're basically sacrificing your child for a religious belief that they themselves can't articulate.
Cooper: Dr. Caplan, though, it may be tough to actually give this boy treatment. He's saying he's going to kick and refuse, you know, and make it difficult for doctors to put any needles in him. How do you deal with that?
Dr. Caplan: Well, I'll tell you, I've seen these cases. What happens is, you've got the dad who's already started to come around and say maybe chemo. They'll work with a psychologist. They will try very hard to bring the boy around. And I will tell you, Anderson, there's a lot of success in sort of swaying people once they understand and see one of their parents start to waver. I've never seen a case where you actually had to strap a child down and sedate them and administer chemotherapy that way. Could happen, but most of the time when parents begin to sort of change their minds and the dad is here, you get the kid to come on, too.
Cooper: Art, are you surprised to hear that maybe the dad is starting to change his mind, or you say that's what often happens in these cases?
Dr. Caplan: It often happens that way. When you're really up against it and you start to realize the doctors are saying this is the cure and you've got to go with it, pretty soon, or you're going to miss the opportunity, one or both parents usually begin to waver. One other point, Anderson, you can sometimes get a parent who holds out to work with you, saying you pray, you do the ceremonies, healing ceremonies you want, we'll do the chemo, we can work together. That sometimes brings them around, too.
Cooper: Jeff, if they continue to refuse treatment and this boy dies, god forbid, would the parents be charged?
Toobin: They could be. Oftentimes the prosecutors exercise their discretion and say, look, they've lost a child. They've suffered enough. But the point is not to, you know, prosecute later. It's to save the kid now. That's the focus of everybody's effort. And what makes this case so excruciating is that you have a real cure here. 90-plus percent, and you have a 0% chance for the others. As art was saying, this one is a particularly easy case. Sometimes you have cases where there's only a 10% chance of saving the child. And the parents just want to take the kid home and, you know, do hospice care. That's an understandable situation under circumstances. This is not. This is, as far as I'm concerned, just child abuse.
Cooper: What's the legal precedent for something like this?
Toobin: There actually are a lot of precedents mostly involving Christian scientists, Jehovah's witnesses and virtually all the time the court says what this mother is doing while we sympathize with her pain, this is child abuse. This is the same thing –
Cooper: She could do it for herself, but it's the fact that she's making that decision for a minor.
Toobin: Absolutely. This is a minor. He is not qualified to make this decision for himself. This is what it needs to be a minor. Other people make your decisions for you, and you are not allowed to make this decision. This is the same thing as if he got hit by a car blocking the ambulance and letting him bleed to death. There is no difference. and if need be, they have to take the kid away and strap him down and put - and apply chemotherapy that way. It's horrible to think of, but it's life or death.
Cooper: In terms of what would the mom be charged with if, in fact, she is found?
Toobin: Child neglect, child abuse. It is a form of assault. It's just - you know, you are allowed to believe anything you want. And you are allowed to treat yourself in line with your own beliefs if you are an adult. But you can't impose religious beliefs on a child who has no other options.
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