Parents risking children’s lives

When I was a boy, a diagnosis of leukemia was pretty much a death sentence and in fact a school friend of mine died from the disease. Thanks to advances in modern medicine, nowadays many forms of childhood leukemia can be treated and cured. So it is unconscionable when parents decide that they want to treat their child with ‘alternative’ treatments that will likely result in death. One couple in Florida decided to skip the chemotherapy session for their four-year old child and fled the state with him.

Authorities caught up with them in Kentucky and took the child back to continue the treatment, and the child now lives with his grandmother.

After the boy, who the BBC is not naming, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in April his parents opted to treat him using cannabis, oxygen therapy, herbs and alkaline water.

Medical cannabis is legal in Florida.

Chemotherapy is often associated with debilitating side effects, but many types of modern chemotherapy cause only mild problems.

According to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, about 98% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia go into remission within weeks of beginning treatment, and about 90% of child patients are eventually cured.

The report does not say if the parents are highly religious. The fact that they sought to treat the child with cannabis and other things and not prayer suggest they are not. Instead, they are probably those who, like the anti-vaxxers, think that they know better than what modern science and medicine says are the best treatments for disease.

The parents have lost custody of their son but are planning to file an appeal.


  1. says

    Life saving treatment for kids, and parents who seek to prevent it, isn’t limited to surgical cases. From the Guardian Sept. 6 2019, emphasis mine:

    A Canadian court has ruled in favour of a transgender teenager who this week argued he would be left “stranded” between genders if the judges backed his father’s legal efforts to halt his hormone treatment.
    The boy, who has the support of his mother, began taking hormones in March and now feels “amazing” as a result of the treatment, his lawyers told the British Columbia court of appeals, the province’s highest court. In addition to an improved self-image, he no longer has suicidal thoughts, they said.
    The lower court also ordered the father use the child’s chosen pronouns, meaning that if the father used his child’s birth name, or referred to him as a girl, it would be viewed as family violence under the province’s Family Law Act.

  2. Heidi Nemeth says

    The Florida parents probably were not able to meet the costs of their child’s cancer treatments. This is the USA where medical care is not a human right. Someone recently said in the comments on this blog that the US health care system is designed to get the maximum amount of money out of patients, not to provide the best health outcomes. Not surprisingly, much of the populace views American medical care with skepticism or dismisses it outright, allowing alternative medicine peddlers and users to flourish.

  3. says

    Sounds like the child was getting the appropriate care, and the parents refused it. Not that they couldn’t afford it.
    I lost a cousin to leukemia, and if I had a child with it I’d go deeply into debt to have him or her treated.

  4. Heidi Nemeth says

    I imagine a scenario like this: The parents have long suffered from a lack of access to health care due to its outrageous costs. Like others who desire things they can’t have, they decided long ago the whole medical system is no good -- a fraud. Their peers and the alternative medicine community have backed them up. Still wanting the best for their child, they tried medical treatment. Not only were the costs prohibitive, their child suffered during the treatment. (I had a doctor tell me bone marrow transplants are torture and they are to be avoided. But I’m pretty sure they are part of treating at least some kinds of leukemia.) What to do? Go back to the system they know and trust -- alternative medicine.
    I know a whole groups of people who use alternative medicine, some exclusively. For many of my friends and acquaintances, it is due to a long term lack of health insurance and affordable health care. They find communities that support their beliefs. And they find dealers in supplements, homeopathy, aruveda, diets, bio-rhythms, acupuncture, medicinal marijuana, spiritual practices and other purported forms of healing who are more than willing to guide them and sell their help and wares.

    Lack of affordable access has lead to a huge loss of trust in the American medical system. Even if we were to grant medical care as a basic human right and have enough trained medical staff where they were needed to administer that right, the American medical system would have to overcome the outright distrust they have engendered.

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