So our ophthalmology professor included these two pictures in one of our lectures. Although discussing retinoblastoma, or a particular type of eye tumor was part of our syllabus, I believe he wanted to expose us to a current, ethical dilemma in our country: families who deny medical care to their children stating that they rely solely on the power of prayer to heal. Now, you know me to be a person who has built my life around faith, and sees prayer as my primary avenue for communicating with the God of the Universe who I believe has nothing but love and plans for good for our world. I do not see faith and science to be opposing forces, rather, with each scientific discovery I celebrate the incredible God that made it so, and created within us the intellect, curiosity and determination that it takes in order to make these discoveries. I believe that God does heal miraculously even today, through our medical interventions and sometimes even without any medical explanation at all. I also believe that as we all know, not everyone is healed. While I readily admit that there are many who pray more fervently than I do and should, I cannot support people who choose to ignore all medical care, insistent that God heal their family member in the way that they deem appropriate. Did God not provide us with the tools and wherewithal to accomplish what we’ve accomplished medically? I believe He did, so that millions could be saved from certain death. So unfortunately, I now present to you a case of a young boy, who was brought into the doctor’s office by his parents who had noticed that in photographs, one of his eyes reflected white, instead of the normal red. Upon examination, a tumor in the back of his eye was noted. This particular type of tumor is unbelievably aggressive, and 98% fatal. With treatment, it is 90% curable. There is no question as to what my next step would be, however, these parents chose to forgo medical intervention and ask God for miraculous healing. The first picture below shows what was seen, the mass is the large, white, raised area slightly left of center. As I said, the parents chose against medical interventions, and this little boy did not survive, in fact, he became one of the 2% by their choice.
To me, this issue is one our society should debate. Exactly how far does parental decision-making power extend regarding medical treatment before it becomes child abuse, or neglect? Should a parent be allowed to deny medical intervention for any reason? Lack of insurance? Distrust of medical organizations and practitioners? Preference for homeopathic or “home” remedies? or in this case, preference for prayer intervention? I made my opinions rather clear earlier, but I also am not a parent and am not sure how I’d feel if other people told me how I should and should not take care of my child. What about cancer interventions? What is a reasonable amount of intervention that our society should expect parents to agree to or seek for major illnesses such as cancer? There are so many difficult issues at hand, but unfortunately, this was a real case, and is not the only one. I do feel like I’ve read recently of some families that are being prosecuted for denying their children treatment, however, I’m unsure as to how widespread that is, and if there is any national movement for or against forcing parents’ hands. I don’t know one parent who would deny their child care, however, how one defines “care” is debatable. What do you think?