Only Parents Can Make Important Decisions about Children’s Health

An Outline

In essence, most people would think that a medical doctor is in the right position to make decisions regarding the health of their patients especially minors and teenagers as they are capable of knowing what is best for them medically. At a point, many parents have the responsibility and authority to make important decisions about their child’s refusal or discontinuation of any treatment. The parents know what is best for their kids as they are emotionally involved in different aspects. The health of the child is their major aspect to speculate on. In most cases, the outcomes that are suggested by the doctors are either dangerous or have long-term side effects for their children. According to the health law, the parents are given advice by a qualified medic, and they have the final ruling on the health of their child.

To successfully achieve my research objectives, I have divided my paper into two sections. The first section is how the law utilizes the right of a parent to make decisions with reference to an example of the verdict made by the Supreme Court of the US according to the health Law. The second section is the illustration of how religion is related to making a medical decision. I end my research paper with the works cited. Before I could commence my research analysis, I have to provide my stand on the research works that depict my objectives and it this that I start with.

How the law gives the right of a parent to make decisions

Looking into some research work done by Lee Black, it is by the rule that parents have the right to make decisions concerning their child’s medical treatment. The Supreme Court of the United States had a case where it upheld the right of a parent to make the decision for the child based on the kind of treatment that they were being subjected to. In the case of a child named Joseph Hofbauer from New York who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, the doctor suggested the child undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment but his parents rejected the suggestion. The parents opted for another treatment of metabolic therapy in Jamaica which included the use of Laetrile. After their return to the U.S., the state removed Joseph out of their custody on grounds of failing to enroll him in conventional treatment that had been suggested by the doctor hence a ground of neglect.

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There were many detailed demonstrations concerning the treatments of cancer. Both sides had Physicians who testified trying to prove which treatment was appropriate for Joseph. The state defense was trying to show how the method was inadequate treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, for the parents they testified how the method was very beneficial and effective. Though with this info, there was no conclusion that they avoided conventional treatment.

The law court noted that the act regarding children’s health care required the parents to entrust the health of their children to a doctor. In such a course, this could be expected by a normally prudent loving parent. It can be achieved by the help of the solicitor for the welfare of the child to promote his recovery. Parents have the right to take note and think more about the commendations that they are offered by doctors and make a decision out of them. The court determined that the parents did not refuse or neglect their child but opted for an alternative method of treatment. The verdict had medical proof for it and the court sustained the right of the parents to make their decisions regarding the health of their child.

How religion is related to making medical decisions

Newmark v. Williams’ case in the Supreme Law court of Delaware favored the parents’ side. The parents made a resolution of not commencing their kid on chemotherapy treatment. This was after their child was analyzed and found to have suffered from Burkitt’s lymphoma. The therapy had only a 40 percent chance of survival if it was established on the child earlier enough.

The parents opted to stay clear of chemotherapy and seek alternative treatment through their religious beliefs. The court determined that the parents were within their rights not to undertake the treatment as suggested by the physician. The spiritual cure exemptions reveal more in respect to life.  More so, any ill child could have a better life in the loving environment of his family as compared to the sterile hospital atmosphere which is highly demanded by doctors seeking to prescribe cures of doubtful effectiveness.

The determining factor for the court’s decision, in this case, was the treatment suggested by the child’s doctor. The doctor’s treatment had only a 40 percent chance of success hence the court verdict justified the parents not to put their child under more pain and lessen the chance of success.

The respect for religious beliefs had made the court distinguish that medical cures and decisions by doctors are not always methodical and many people depend on faith to heal themselves. Yet, relying on spiritual treatment is never the absolute and right way to go. In cases where devotion to religious lessons prohibit standard life saving for instance blood transfusion, would make the court come up with a verdict that the parent is not fit to make choices for the child and not make martyrs of their children just because of faith.

There are many cases for instance the believers of Jehovah’s Witness disregard getting a blood transfusion from a person who has not repented his sins. In reference to Baby Boy Doe where Darlene Brown was pregnant and during the operations she declared that she does not necessitate any blood transfusion because she is Jehovah’s Witness believer. It was in her right to refuse treatment based on her religious belief and also wanted to protect the child she was carrying. The physician got a court order so that he could do the blood transfusion to save the life of both mother and the unborn baby. After the child was born Darlene Brown went to court to contest what the doctors had done.

In the fifty states of the United States of America, only two states do not have an exemption of medical care whereas the rest 48 states permit exemption of medical care based on religious belief. The reason why parents seek an exemption in medical care includes strong religious convictions about faith healing that are characterized as Christian Science.

This case is recounted in detail because it represents the federal and state case law, while the State allows physicians to intervene when it comes to saving the life of both minors and parents regardless of the parents’ religious status where prohibited in the case of the pregnant woman. To do so, under current law and knowingly it is to violate the right of the woman to refuse treatment but also the right of her religious beliefs.


From the Lee Black research analysis, parents have the right to make decisions concerning their child’s medical treatment. Also from the Newmark v. Williams case in the Supreme Law court in Delaware, the verdict was made to support the parents’ views according to their religious beliefs. From the research, I can say that the child’s health choices should be done depending on the situation one is in. This could be done according to the law that depicts more on the right to live as this is the first priority to any human being. The verdict of the court battles over the provision of medical treatment the parent has the right to make the decisions of a child’s health care depends on the type of objection that is at hand through religious or secular means. This is based upon the suggested treatment and the chances to survive with or without treatment. Religious refusal of medical treatment is legally valid, especially where the treatment is more likely to fail than succeed.


  1. Paul, Moli. “Advances in Psychiatric Treatment.”Decision-making about children’s mental health care: ethical challenges. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/10/4/301.full>.
  2. Mayoras, Danielle. “Could You Lose The Right To Make Medical Decisions For Your Child?”Forbes.    Forbes Magazine, 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/trialandheirs/2014/01/27/could-you-lose-the-right-to-make-medical-decisions-for-your-child/>.
  3. Mayoras, Danielle. “Could You Lose The Right To Make Medical Decisions For Your Child?.”Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/trialandheirs/2014/01/27/could-you-lose-the-right-to-make-medical-decisions-for-your-child/>.
  4. Diekema, Douglas. “Parental Decision Making.”: Ethical Topic in Medicine. University of Washington School of Medicine, 14 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 Apr. 2014. <http://depts.washington.edu/bioethx/topics/parent.html>.
  5. Lagay, Faith. “Virtual Mentor.” When a Parent’s Religious Belief Endangers Her Unborn Child7 (2005): n. pag. Print.
  6. Black, Lee. “Virtual Mentor.” Limiting Parents’ Rights in Medical Decision Making8 (2006): 676-680. Print.
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