There was a brief segment on the news last night about a 16-year-old boy in northern Israel who is rejecting chemotherapy. He apparently ran away from the hospital and, since then, a court has ordered him to undergo treatment against his will. This is no open-and-shut case. As you’ll read in this summary from The Times of Israel, this is not the boy’s first foray into chemo; he had, in fact, done very well with the first course. Alas, his cancer has reared its ugly head, and the boy has decided that, if he is to die, he would rather die with more dignity and respect that not, and spend his last time on Earth playing with his friends, trusting in God, and so on. You’ll also read that oncologists are debating the use of chemotherapy in the last stages of a patient’s life. I believe this is the article that was referenced. Now, one person’s faith in God and trust in prayer is another person’s mental instability, and I pretend to have no inside knowledge of the particulars of this case. But, I do know that his parents support him (as does his rabbi, which could very well be the impetus for the court and the medical establishment to bristle in defense) and, his minority status notwithstanding, cancer confers upon its Chosen Ones a rapid – albeit often unwanted – maturation and clarity of thought. (One need not look too hard to find stories of young cancer patients articulating an understanding of the fragility of life that the majority of the population does not possess.) On a related note, it would be interesting to learn about the background of the court of strangers who have determined this boy and his parents do not know what’s best for the young man. Does the judge have any first-hand experience with cancer? Is she, perhaps, bitter about a loved one who suffered? Has she, herself, undergone chemo and its attendant crappiness? What about the social worker? I pretend to have no answers, but I have a point-of-view: I know enough – have experienced enough – to know that even the well-intentioned often have no clue of what’s really best for the cancer patient. And, as painful as it may seem to those around him, the decision is his and his parents. This is not a case of an appendectomy or broken bone where there is no question about what’s “right.” The medical establishment, itself, doesn’t know. How can a district court in northern Israel possibly dictate a course of action?
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