Review Shorter v. Drury, as well as the case notes that follow. Religious beliefs have profound impact on all facets of life including those involving choice of medical treatment. Some religions disallow medical procedures and treatments that they believe are inherently sinful and/or implicitly or expressly forbidden. Depending upon the particular situation and the particular prohibition, refusal to allow such a procedure could result in the direct harm or death of the patient.
Adult patients may not be coerced into accepting a medical treatment that they find morally wrong. Indeed, adult patients may refuse a treatment for ANY reason, good or bad, that they find objectionable. However, with CHILDREN, the law takes a different tack. Regardless of religious belief, or any other type of belief, parents may NOT deny their children medically necessary care that must be rendered in order to preserve the life of the child, including such care as receiving blood products in surgery and delivery of critical medications in a life and death scenario. As with all issues that involve the limitation of what is perceived of as a fundamental individual right, these laws constraining parent’s decision-making powers are controversial. Children’s advocates hold that no child should be made vulnerable to a parent’s treatment limitation that could harm the child or result in the child’s premature death. Advocates of parenting rights include the absolute right to decide medical care for children as simply one of numerous and varied other rights that are justly reserved for the parent. Where do you stand on this issue? If a parent’s decision to withhold a particular treatment for a child may result in serious harm to the child, should society become involved and supersede the decision of the parent?
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