New South Wales Supreme Court Tells Brainwashed Teenager He Can’t Kill Himself for Religious Reasons… Yet

We’ve heard stories of Jehovah’s Witness parents willing to let their children die rather than accept a life-saving blood transfusion. Thankfully, the law almost always sides against the parents. If they want to refuse the blood to save their own lives, so be it. But they have no right to kill their children because of their own religious beliefs.

In Sydney, Australia, a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness cancer victim compared receiving a blood transfusion to “being raped.” He told doctors he would “rip the IV out of his arm” if they gave him the transfusion. He would rather die than betray his religious beliefs.

Thankfully, the New South Wales Supreme Court told him he has to accept the transfusion. He’s a minor, so he doesn’t get to kill himself… yet.

“The interest of the state is in keeping him alive until [he turns 18], after which he will be free to make his own decisions as to medical treatment.”

The boy turns 18 on January 18 next year, when he will then be able to exercise his right as an adult to refuse further treatment.

I think that’s exactly the right decision. While the line that distinguishes a child from an adult is arbitrary, it’s solid. Australia, like America, says you’re an adult when you’re 18 and this kid’s not 18. So there.

Considering that reports show his parents are also JWs, it’s a safe assumption that they drilled this nonsensical belief into his head. Somehow, they’re able to live with themselves knowing that they’ve given their own son a death sentence that’ll come to fruition in a few months if his cancer doesn’t get better.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Just another death cult.

    • Artor

      A few years ago, they were just another death cult. Now their temples are everywhere!

      • The Other Weirdo

        What they need is someone to explain to them what is best in life.

        • Matt D

          Well, don’t ask Conan, he’s got some outdated ideas on that front.

  • Randy Meyer

    Family Guy had a real good response to these Jehovah Witness nutjobs.

    • flyb

      Go on…

      • Alison

        Flyb- love your picture!! That is such a funny movie!!! I haven’t seen it in years…and its fitting to this blog haha

        • flyb

          Thanks! It’s one of my favorite movies. And still available for viewing on crackle.com.

          edit: for any curious folk it’s called The Gods Must Be Crazy.

  • John of Indiana

    The parents will rationalize this by claiming “Gawd’s Will Be Done” or the sky faerie “Moves in Mysterious Ways…”.

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Fortunately, JWs don’t celebrate birthdays.

    • Artor

      LOL!
      “You can make that decision after your 18th birthday.”
      “But I’m a JW, I’ve never had a birthday.”
      “Alright then, I guess you won’t get to make that decision for quite a while.”

      • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

        The key word is “celebrate.” I meant that a death at a birthday party might be a bummer, so it’s good that they won’t be celebrating.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    When you think you are going to see someone in the afterlife it is easy to condemn them to death.

  • Baby_Raptor

    What an insult to actual rape victims.

    • Miss_Beara

      Exactly what I was going to say.

      Rage.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      Rape robs its victims of the ability to tolerate metaphorical language.

      • 3lemenope

        Having never been raped myself, I still found the metaphor inapt and histrionic (and those two together, if meant in seriousness as this kid apparently does, can lead to legitimate offense). While there is a surface comparison in that both things involve the use of a body as an object in a way the subject of that body does not approve of, the experiences themselves and their aftermaths (i.e. what makes rape a horrible thing beyond the metaphysics of it all) are in no relevant way alike by all available reports. The act of comparing one’s own discomfort to being raped is akin to comparing in seriousness an authority figure who declines a request to a fascist. It’s like meta Godwinning, or something.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          So, you’re arguing for usage of “rape” beyond a general definition, to include the victim’s experience and aftermath. It’s interesting. Does this mean a rape victim with an anomalous experience and aftermath also shouldn’t use “rape” to describe it? I’d also like to know more about “legitimate offense.”

          • 3lemenope

            So, you’re arguing for usage of “rape” beyond a general definition, to include the victim’s experience and aftermath.

            I don’t have to argue for it. It’s what the word means when it is indicating a particular experience, as distinct from when it is used to indicate the abstract concept. ‘To eat’ means ‘to take in sustenance’, but it also means the preparatory, aesthetic and gustatory experience of consuming a particular thing. Eating an artichoke is a different experience in many ways than eating a slice of pizza; the experience of eating a meal you’ve prepared yourself is different from eating a meal prepared for you by a friend, or by a chef at a restaurant.

            Rape is the sexual violation of an unwilling person. That’s the abstract definition. The experience of being raped is much more (and by all reports, more horrible) than anything called to mind by the definition alone. It includes the aftermath.

            Does this mean a rape victim with an anomalous experience and aftermath also shouldn’t use “rape” to describe it?

            Of course that’s not what I’m arguing. The world doesn’t work fully in abstract categories nor upon absolutist terms. A person who has been raped is entitled to describe it however they wish, if they wish. If a person has what, compared to the group of people who have experienced it, an anomalous experience, the only thing they might want to be careful of is implying that their experience is representative instead of anomalous.

            I’d also like to know more about “legitimate offense.”

            It’s really quite simple. “Legitimate offense” is offense that is:

            1. Authentic, that is, related to an actual, endogenously generated feeling of outrage which corresponds directly with the object, person or practice that is being claimed to have caused offense

            and

            2. Legitimated by peers, since the nature of offense is a social call to justify personal feelings of outrage towards a object, person or practice either experienced, observed, or had described

            If people in one’s peer group tend to respond to the outrage with “hey, yah, that sucks, you should be mad” or something to that effect, they have legitimated it, by socially supporting ‘taking offense’.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

              I also disagree with your broad use of “to eat,” which I’d criticize similarly.

              It’s interesting that you allow for people to describe rape however they wish, except for the kid in the story. To be clear, I understand that you allowance is limited to your definition of “rape.” But if you can insist upon your own definition, then why can’t he?

              As a semi-relevant aside, dictionary.com includes seizure and plunder in the definition of “rape,” which is apparently consistent with its origin. I assume you’d also exclude plundered person or location as a rape victim.

              I’m giving your ideas on “legitimate offense” some thought. I’m not sure I agree, but thanks for elaborating.

              • 3lemenope

                To be clear, I understand that you allowance is limited to your definition of “rape.” But if you can insist upon your own definition, then why can’t he?

                No, it’s limited to, at the very least, concurrence with the abstract definition. If you call a tail a leg, a cat still has only four legs. A blood transfusion has, under the relevant circumstances, no sexual component, so cannot qualify as rape in a literal sense.

                So his claim is at best a metaphor. And the metaphor fails because the speaker is clearly trying to invoke the moral approbation of rape, but the act of receiving a blood transfusion has no similarities to rape in the way that the latter gains moral significance. Rape is not morally significant because of the metaphysics; it is on that level not particularly different from any other physical violation, like a punch to the jaw. It is, rather, what the experience of rape tends to cause in its victim that causes the true weight of its moral repugnance.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

                  I’m sorry. I must withdraw from this discussion. You’re ostensibly working with information unavailable to me. I don’t have so much as a direct quotation, while you’re privy to his state of mind. Thanks for the exchange.

                • 3lemenope

                  Your sarcasm aside, no, I don’t think a person needs to have access to a person’s state of mind to judge the basic parameters of an experience. If a young kid gets a paper cut or skins their knee often times they experience it as utter and unrelenting agony and a really big deal that has to be taken care of NOW, the same sort of wound that might make an adult go “oof” and carry on with their activity. Is the adult incapable of dismissing the child’s experience as not nearly as serious as the child thinks it ought to be taken?

      • Baby_Raptor

        Rape is a real thing. It’s deeply painful, traumatizing and dehumanizing. Using it as a metaphor for any old thing a person doesn’t like denigrates the people it’s happened to and dulls society’s reaction to it.

        This kid not being allowed to kill himself is not rape. It’s not anything close to rape. And him calling it such is horrid.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          The article reported the kid as saying that being forced to have a blood transfusion against his will is “akin to rape.” I understand his usage, while recognizing its difference from sexual rape. My reaction hasn’t been dulled, but obviously I can speak only for myself.

          If he describes “any old thing [he] doesn’t like” as “akin to rape,” it wasn’t in the article.

        • Mark Browne

          He may feel that it is as bad as rape – from what I know of JW beliefs, the blood contains the soul, and their soul is damaged by the foreign blood. If you believe in a soul, then this doesn’t seem an unreasonable comparison to me.

          Please note that I am not defending his beliefs – I think he is a grade A nutbag, but for him, his soul is something that should not be violated.

        • Mira

          I get your point. In the gaming community “get raped” is a very, VERY common thing to hear/say. Took me a very long time to get to the point where I could hear it and not get really upset. I still don’t like it, and I don’t agree with the phrase being used casually, especially coming from a similar but not as horrifying position as you were (viz your previous post on another story), mz Raptor.

          • Baby_Raptor

            It bothers me still, but I manage to keep my mouth shut. (Most of the time!)

          • Albert

            I hear what you’re saying. Sometimes in games people even say “die”, which is extremely offensive. What could be worse than ceasing existence for an eternity, yet people go around chanting it to others while playing a game where they kill each other.

        • raveries

          I think dismissing this boy’s statement out of hand is problematic for a number of reasons.

          Firstly, whilst his choice of wording is poor he’s 17 and we don’t know what his level of education is, so he may be trying to describe a feeling of violation in the only metaphor he’s been exposed to.

          Secondly, (please bear with the tangent) my grandmother when we were discussing marital rape argued that agreeing to sex is a part of marriage and calling it rape delegitimises victims of non-marital rape. This point of view is apparently not uncommon among women of her generation. I disagree with my grandmother because the state of being married wouldn’t actually render the experience any less horrifying and I am actually horrified at the idea of millions of women thinking that just because they’re married they haven’t been raped. Just because those women don’t think what happened to them is that bad, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take it seriously and conversely just because we don’t think that transfusions are that bad doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take this kid’s feelings seriously.

          Thirdly, if a transfusion is something he really thinks will damn him for eternity, then it’s understandable that he experiences it as terrifying; a better metaphor might be forced sterilisation, which has been argued as both a personal and a societal good but which most people would agree is still an egregious violation of the victim/patient’s autonomy. I’m not saying that the real world consequences of a transfusion can be compared to forced sterilisation but in this kid’s head I suspect the two are equally bad.

          This kid should have chosen better words to describe his feelings, but I don’t know that it’s fair to dismiss his feelings because of his word choice.

      • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

        Perhaps an analogy will help.

        Let’s say there’s a person who went through a tragic accident and lost his entire leg. A person then comes up to him and says, in perfect seriousness, “Man, I’ve got it just as bad as you. I stubbed the shit out of my toe once.”

        The stubbed-toe victim will likely be considered to be some combination of idiot and asshole by any listeners.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          Your analogy didn’t help. The kid didn’t assert that what he described as rape would be “just as bad” as that of anyone else’s rape. Also, I think the legitimacy of language shouldn’t be determined by the moral sensibilities and reactions of listeners.

          • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

            Let me break the analogy down for you: In the analogy, actually being raped is having your leg amputated. Being required to have a blood transfusion for the sake of your own health is stubbing your toe.

            While both the rape and the blood transfusion qualify as having something happen to your body that you do not want (just as having your leg amputated and stubbing your toe both qualify as an injury to the foot/leg region of your body), the vast difference in degree makes using the word “rape” absurd and insulting to those who have actually been raped.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

              I understood it the first time. It didn’t help because it depends on the unsubstantiated premise that the legitimacy of word usage is determined by the severity of the instance it has been used to describe. You are welcome to redefine or limit the definition of words you use, but the rest of us get to use the words too.

              “That’s not a knife. That’s a knife.” — Mick Dundee

              • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

                Ha! It’s been a while since I’ve seen Crocodile Dundee.

                Anyway, it’s true that language is reshaped and redefined by the people who use it, and we have the right to do so. But we also have the right to criticize people for poor or absurd modifications of the language, and reject their attempts to stretch the definitions of words.

                Imagine someone told you that killing bacteria qualifies as murder, and that you are morally obligated to commit suicide to end the microbe holocaust being perpetrated by your immune system. Would you have any respect for that person’s definition of murder?

                I would hope not; it’s absurdly stupid and poorly thought out. Just like trying to say the blood transfusion qualifies as rape.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

                  It depends on what you mean by “respect.” LOL, I swear I’m not trying to be difficult.

                  I think I can work with anyone’s definitions if they make them available to me. In that situation, my primary concern would be to examine the supposed moral obligation. If it couldn’t be substantiated, the surrounding details wouldn’t matter.

                  It’s similar to my lack of concern for Christians’ definition of adultery, which includes lust, and murder, which includes hatred.

                • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

                  It’s alright. It’s good practice for making analogies, if anything. XD

                  Reflecting on what you said earlier: “Your analogy didn’t help. The kid didn’t assert that what he described
                  as rape would be “just as bad” as that of anyone else’s rape.” I think I have a better analogy to make my point, now.

                  By this statement, you imply the kid can legitimately describe the blood transfusion as rape (likely due to being a violation of his body to some degree) despite not being as severe as rape as it is typically known.

                  But does any violation of your body qualify as rape, regardless of severity? Imagine you are a highly sensitive person who is out at the grocery store, when someone taps your shoulder to get your attention. But you did not give this stranger permission to violate your body in such a way. Is it reasonable to cry “rape” over a tap on the shoulder?

                  If no, it indicates that degree is indeed an important consideration in word choice. That said, I hold that calling the transfusion “rape” is an exaggeration of degree that delegitimizes actual rape.

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

                  The article indicates his description as “akin to rape,” which may or may not be a meaningful distinction. If he said that to me, I’d ask, “In what way(s)?” His meaning is more important to me than his words, which is why I wouldn’t fault him merely for using “rape” as a metaphor. I think he meant it in terms of an intrusive violation of his body.

                  I can’t comment on the kid’s experience of undergoing a forced blood transfusion; specifically, if the experience is not as severe as typical rape. For all I know, it could be worse.

                  Regarding your analogy, I think your points are valid. The problem, as we have already recognized, is the correspondence between the meaning of a word and what it is meant to describe. What amount of precision is expected in literal usage? In figurative usage? I expect most people would fail if challenged to be explicit and literal in all communication.

                  So, yes; degree is an important consideration in word choice. I’ll add that intended meaning is an important consideration in communication, which at least rivals the importance of word choice.

                  That said, I hold that calling the transfusion “rape” is an exaggeration of degree that delegitimizes actual rape.

                  I disagree because a thing isn’t changed by the sloppy or misapplied language used to describe it. It’s merely poor communication.

                • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

                  He may consider it an intrusive violation of his body, but is it reasonable? A key difference between the forced transfusion and rape is that the transfusion is being done for the kid’s benefit (though he may think otherwise), whereas rape is generally done for pleasure and/or expressing dominance over someone else at that person’s expense. Is it reasonable to compare the transfusion to rape in light of this?

                  The kid may think the blood transfusion to be a violation of his body at his expense, but is it reasonable? Most people would gladly accept one for the sake of their health. Why doesn’t he? The likely answer seems to be that he has been indoctrinated into holding false beliefs about blood transfusion (Such as believing transfusions are a sin against a nonexistent god), much like those who believe medical care in general is a sin, or like those who believe the Earth is flat and/or no older than roughly six thousand years old. Should we accept a comparison of transfusion to rape based on false and unreasonable presuppositions?

                • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

                  I mostly agree with what you’re saying. I get it. That is, up until, as you mentioned previously, that his use of the word, “rape,”delegitimizes the act of rape. On a side note, this reminds me of Rep. Akin’s remarks on “legitimate rape.”

                  Yes, his choice of words less precise than it could have been. I don’t expect an emotional teenager to thoughtfully craft his language. I’m more than twice his age, and I’m still trying to improve my own communication.

                  Once more, I feel it important to note his use of “akin.” As we’ve discussed, a forced blood transfusion is similar in some ways to forced sexual intercourse, which might be all he meant to convey. He could have compared it to assault, or torture, and we’d be dissecting that instead. But his meaning is more important to me than his words. I think I understand his meaning, but with so little evidence, I can’t reach much certainty.

                  Regarding your final question, I consider it irrelevant. I’m sure I’m operating with some false and unreasonable presuppositions on a daily basis. Yet, despite this, I can still attempt to communicate with others, and they can still come to understand my meaning.

            • higuys

              I Dunno. I think being restrained and and having your body violated with forceable penetration and infused with someone else’s blood is probably a lot closer to (sexual) rape than many other rape metaphors.

              • 3lemenope

                I think that really only speaks to the generally horrendous state of rape metaphors and their absurd proliferation.

            • Spuddie

              Bad analogy is usually the sign of a weak argument or an avoidance of facts in question.

              The problem with using it is it gets people more concerned with why the analogy is crap than the issue at hand.

          • Baby_Raptor

            So you’re perfectly fine with racist and sexist language too?

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

              Language is a tool used to transfer ideas among people. The only bad words are ones which fail to effectively communicate the intended message.

              My concern is what a person means by his use of language, regardless of which words he chose to express it. If his ideas are objectionable, then the focus of criticism and prohibition should lie exactly there. Banning the words he used is, in my opinion, blaming the innocent. It’s like killing the messenger who brought bad news.

              I hope this addresses your question. If not, please elaborate.

    • Brian

      While the comparison to rape was a rather ugly thing to say, let us not forget the kid is a victim of brainwashing.

    • Agrajag

      While I agree it’s a really bad choice of word, I can understand why he choose the word he did.

      Having a medical procedure done on your body, against your will, and possibly by use of force (if nessecary) will understandable feel like a violation of your body, and a violation of your bodily autonomy.

      In this specific sense it’s similar to rape. Of course it’s not a *sexual* violation, so there’s pretty huge reasons NOT to use “rape” to refer to medical-procedures-performed-on-me-against-my-will.

      It is however quite understandable that people get angry at the idea that doctors will force them to undergo medical treatment that they themselves don’t approve of.

      FWIW medical autonomy is achieved earlier than 18 in many countries here in Europe, for example in Norway you’ve got the right to be heard from age 12, and the right to determine from 16. This also includes privacy – if a kid under 12 seeks treatment, the doctor MUST inform the parents, if a kid between 12 and 16, he *can* (it’s in his judgement), while if the kid is over 16 full doctor-patient privacy applies.

      That is somewhat related to the age of consent though — because it was judged that a person who is mature enough to consent to sex, should also have the right to decide over things like contraception, abortions and pregnancies that might result — and to get medical treatment for STDs or suchlike without having to ask parents – thus bodily autonomy at 16.

      • Baby_Raptor

        I understand why he used the word he did. And you laid his reasoning out very well.

        For me what makes it so insulting is the absurdity level. They’re Christians, so I doubt they have any issues with real rape, or with forcing women to do things that violate their bodily autonomy. But when doctors decide to save a kid’s life, THAT is gross abuse?

        • Pikachu

          Could you clarify what you mean by Christians not having issues with real rape?

          • Baby_Raptor

            Crack open the nearest bible. God didn’t see rape as something worth condemning; quite the opposite. He ordered the victims to marry their rapists. And then there’s the whole “It’s only rape if she screams loud enough to be heard” passage. And, tangentally related, the passage where god orders forced abortions on women whose husbands think they’ve been sleeping with another man.

            And then you have “legitimate rape” talk, purity culture, the entire pro-forced birth movement, complementarianism, state-enforced rape via vaginal ultrasounds….All by Christians.

            I imagine you’re going to point out that there are Christians who don’t buy into this, and you’re right. But they’re a minority, and they’re not what anyone thinks of when you say the word “Christian” to an American (unless you’re talking to one at the time.)

            • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

              So you’re guessing what they believe, and throwing an extremely horrible insult at them (“they don’t care about rape”), on the basis of no evidence whatsoever? Please don’t do that.

              Ex-JW here, and I could say many nasty things about the Witnesses, but condoning rape is not, generally, one of their faults.

              TRiG.

            • Pikachu

              I’m not in the US, but I’ve never met a christian who supported rape or the marrying of rape victims to their rapists.

              • Baby_Raptor

                So every Christian you’ve ever met is 100% egalitarian? All of them believe in enthusiastic consent, and that spouse/partner rape is a real thing?

                How do you know? Do you regularly discuss rape with people?

                • Pikachu

                  Yes I have met many Christians from many different denominations and have discussed with them many different topics about morality and ethics and their beliefs. None of them have ever supported sex without consent. I’d be interested in a new testament bible verse that supports rape, because many of the Jewish traditions from the old testament are not followed in Christianity.

                • Baby_Raptor

                  Take your pick of any of the “Woman, submit” verses. I don’t recall any of them having an “Unless you’re not in the mood for sex” clause.

                  And, really, selective practicing isn’t a defense. Selective practicing is what gets us things like “Shrimp is great, I love my beard and polyblend cotton is AWESOME, but gays are an abomination!” It’s just cherry-picking.

                • Pikachu

                  Let’s think about the women submit clauses which you mention. If you assume that the verse applies to sex, which I don’t, but let us just assume that it does for arguments sake. Then the verse is saying for women to submit to their husbands. But this does not mean that husbands can have sex without the woman submitting. That is, the verse would ask the woman to give her consent to sex. But that doesn’t imply if the woman doesn’t give her consent that the man can force himself on the woman.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      The rape comparison is actually standard. It’s what Witnesses are advised to say in these circumstances. It’s not his own analogy.

      Which makes it worse, I think.

      TRiG.

    • Albert

      There is a valid analogy there. He is having blood enter his body from a complete stranger against his will, to circulate through every organ of his body. He is of sufficient intellectual capacity to make his choice, as acknowledged by the judge. Who are you to demand a person lives an extra 40 – 50 years or so, when he is just going to die anyway. Why do you impose your beliefs in the sanctity of life on to others?

      • Baby_Raptor

        Where did I “impose my beliefs in the sanctity of life on others”? All I did was voice my opinion of his comparison.

        • Albert

          I said “Why do you impose your beliefs in the sanctity of life on to others” to prevent you from rebutting my point by simply saying rape doesn’t save lives but transfusions do.

          • Baby_Raptor

            So…you accused me of something I didn’t say to…What?Okay. Whatever works, I guess.

            I have no stake in whether the kid lives or dies. Do I think letting him kill himself would be stupid? Yes. Can I really do anything other than pontificate on the internet? No.

            But his comparison was out of line and offensive. And that’s really all my post was about.

            • Albert

              Why was the comparison out of line? Simply because rape is sexual and forcing a strangers blood into your body is not? Why do you think sexual crimes worse than non-sexual crimes? Secondly, why is killing himself stupid. Everyone dies, so what difference does it make if he dies a bit earlier?

  • primenumbers

    By infecting him with delusions, his parents have sentenced him to an early death. Sad, but inevitable consequence of beliefs that don’t match up with reality.

  • IamAGuest

    How is not refusing a blood transfer not classified as insanity!? We treat insane people, right? Regardless of whether we have their consent or not.

    I’m all for refusing treatment, when it’s based on some reasoning that doesn’t include faries, voices in your head, gods or other clearly imaginary things.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      I think your first sentence includes too many negations to express what you intended.

  • peknud

    I wonder if any Jehovah’s Witnesses wear glasses.

  • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

    I actually disagree with this ruling. As a teenager, I hated being told that I did not know what I wanted, or what was best for me. I still hate that people told me that I did not know what I wanted, as if my feelings did not matter. If the kid wants to refuse a blood transfusion, he should be allowed to refuse a blood transfusion. It does not matter what the reasoning is.

    • 3lemenope

      While I deeply sympathize with this view (as I too was annoyed that people thought they knew what was best or what I wanted, and rarely actually did), the teenagers who actually do know what they want and/or what is good for them are way outliers. As such, there really can’t be a prudential rule that accommodates them. Sometimes it really sucks being ahead of the curve.

    • Artor

      Except that this is literally a life-or-death situation. Angsty teenagers are not known for making good decisions, no matter how much they wish they were treated as adults.

      • Pikachu

        Similarly adults are known for making terrible decisions, no matter what age. Should we just allow the government to force everyone to have beneficial treatment and neglect the principle of medical autonomy?

        • Artor

          Is there some secret complexity about the age of consent I missed? The gov’t can’t and shouldn’t be making decisions like that, which is why 18 is generally established as the age people can make decisions for themselves. This kid isn’t 18 yet, so he doesn’t get to choose to die. How is that hard to understand?

          • Albert

            The difficulty is that in the Gilick v West Norfolk case, it was established that children above 14 of sound mental capacity are able to consent to treatment. It was also acknowledged by the judge in this case that the right to consent treatment is identical to the right to refuse treatment, which has been set in common law in Australia. However that said, the court has said it has permission to overturn the choice of the competent child if it is not in the child’s best interests according to the court. But why can’t a child who has been deemed mentally competent able to make a decision about refusing treatment just because he is under an arbitrary age of 18. Sure for convenience an arbitrary age is easier, but if we want to do what is morally correct, then there should be no distinction between a mentally competent 17 year old and an 18 year old adult. It would be different if the judge hadn’t specifically noted the child was mentally competent.

    • Sven2547

      As a teenager, I hated being told that I did not know what I wanted, or what was best for me. I still hate that people told me that I did not know what I wanted, as if my feelings did not matter.

      So if a teenager wants to kill himself, we should step out of the way?

      My comment may seem like offensive hyperbole, yet that is effectively the situation here.

    • Mr. Pantaloons

      Not being done with puberty is a terrible reason to be allowed to die. Sometimes people have to be told what’s best for them, because they’re not fit to discern it for themselves, and a teenage fundamentalist is pretty much the best example there is of someone whose feelings about something this important should NOT matter when the stakes are literally life or death. His idiotic conflation of blood transfusion with rape is just proof of his inability to reason; his legal status just cements it.

    • LesterBallard

      We’re not talking about a tattoo or piercing, how late you can stay out, who you date, shit like that. He’s basing a life or death decision on irrational bullshit that his parents fed him since birth.

    • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

      I am not going to reply to every single reply to my original comment, because it would just be the same for each one.
      If this were a 17 year old girl who wanted an abortion, but was blocked by the state, we would all be yelling “her body, her choice!” This boy owns his own body and if he wants to do something stupid, then he can do it. The government should not regulate what we do with our bodies. His parents were not forcing him to refuse the transfusion, he did it on his own. We should respect what other people want.

      • Thiriel

        There is a difference between someone that has lived and been loved for almost eighteen years and is being treated by medical professionals who want to save his life and a collection of cells that may or may not have been conceived under horrific circumstances and the girl may not be prepared (emotionally or financially) for.

        There is a huge difference between the two and legally, until the boy is 18, his body is not his own. He is the responsibility of his parents and in the event that his parents cannot (or will not) make a decision that is literally between life and death, the state has a right and responsibility to intervene up to and including removing him from his parents care until such time he is legally capable of taking care of himself, which many western countries arbitrailly determine to be the age of 18, unless he undergoes a psych eval and is found to be mental incompetent.

    • Thiriel

      Kari, it’s not that your feelings don’t matter, it’s just that teenagers, from a neurological point of view still aren’t fully formed adults. Their prefrontal cortex is still trying developing (the part of the brain responsible for executive reasoning and control, meaning that they traditionally have a hard time knowing what “right/wrong safe/unsafe” and when to simply stop.

      Hence why Youtube is full of teenagers doing things most adults consider stupid, such as jumping out a third story window to see if the can roll like Link in Loz.

      Yes, some people, girls especially, develop faster than others and that at 18 a persons prefrontal cortex doesn’t magically appear over night on the day of birth, 18 years old was the date decided by the culture and is in the law and if they don’t enforce it, when the child dies (as he will if he doesn’t take the treatment), then whats to say that the parents won’t sue the government for failing to ‘save’ their son?

      The teen can do whatever he wants, once he is *LEGALLY* allowed to. If not, then the person who refuses because of religious reasons probably could be charged with murder.

    • http://mittenatheist.blogspot.com/ Kari Lynn

      At 26, I am still being told that I am too young to know what I want.
      “You’re too young to get married!” by my best friend.
      “You’re too young to be sterilized!” by my doctor.
      “You’re too young to know that you don’t want kids!” by my boss.
      “You’re too young to know about this experience that you just explained that you went through in great detail!” by pretty much everyone else.
      I’m sorry if this is a sore subject for me, but we wouldn’t be saying anything if the kid decided that he just wanted to die and didn’t want to fight the cancer. If he just said “Meh, I don’t want to go through the horrors of chemotherapy. Just give me morphine and let me die!” We would have nothing to write about.

      • Thiriel

        Your case is vastly different from his. Besides that, have you ever replied that what you do with your body is none of their business? Or maybe your friends and co-workers are just worried about you.

        I’ve had similar experiences as an asexual “You’ve never had sex so how can you know if you like it or not?” My response is, depending on whether they are gay or not, is to say “well, how can you know your hetero if you’ve never had gay sex before?” that usually shuts them up pretty quickly.

        As for sterilization, its natural that your friends and doctor would be worried, because its an irreversible procedure and how do you know ten years from now that you won’t want kids of your own? I’ve had this argument before with a twit who said that wasn’t it better to have your own kid who has yours own little genes than to adopt some poor child who needs a home? This is what I said to her and this is what you should tell others who say you are too young; STFU. My body my rules.

        As for the ‘let me die’ strawman. He’s doing exactly that, only under the guise of religion and you know what? They state would most likely intervene anyways, for the exact same reasons.

        Different reasons for whining won’t change the outcome, but whining about something is a sure fire way to be treated as a juvenile who can’t take care of him or herself,

  • 7Footpiper

    I wonder if (in the unlikely event) he is cleared of cancer before his 18th birthday will he go ahead and kill himself anyway?

  • Rip Van Winkle

    I don’t agree with forcing someone to endure medical treatment if they don’t want it. The parents don’t want it, the kid clearly doesn’t want it, let the little shit die and give the blood to someone who will appreciate it.

    • Artor

      Parents refusing life-saving treatment for their kids is called murder. Kids are not legally responsible for making those decisions.

      • Mark Browne

        I agree that kids are not legally responsible for making these decisions, but a 17-year-old is not a kid – he’s a young adult. In much of Europe (and certainly here in the UK) older “children” can make medical decisions for themselves.

        However, given that the law in New South Wales is that he can’t, then he will just have to wait until he legally can.

  • LesterBallard

    Religion is child abuse.

    • 3lemenope

      Well, that religion is child abuse, at least.

  • ORAXX

    The religious views of a teenager are not truly his or her own, but rather they are the beliefs of the parents, who have force fed them to their child from birth.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      Does your assertion apply equally to teenage atheists, skeptics, and secularists? What about Jessica Ahlquist?

      • Mitch

        I think the hope is that if a teenager is an atheist, skeptic, secularist, etc., it’s because their parents didn’t force any belief system on them. Instead, they were allowed to examine, question, and eventually come to their own decision.

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          It seems dangerously close to a double standard. I have such hope for all people.

          • 3lemenope

            I have a similar hope, but I think there is a difference between having hope and applying probabilities.

            Religions don’t generally spontaneously propagate; pretty much any religious activity under the age of ten can be assumed to have originated as an idea by someone other than the kid themselves–heck, most religions have an age under which they don’t consider the kid responsible for most religious or civil actions or restrictions–so chances are quite substantially higher for a religious teenager that their religiosity is a direct result of childhood religious inculcation than the comparable teenage atheist.

            Atheism does have a substantial rate of spontaneous generation, such that you get an atheist kid every now and then (for a variety of reasons) with two theist parents.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

              A valid point.

            • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

              The Witnesses have an unusually high turnover, actually. People join; people leave. But yes, this kid was raised in the religion.

              TRiG.

          • Mitch

            Agreed, it could be viewed as a double standard. Maybe the sad reality (for me, anyway) is that it seems much more likely that non-theistic parents would allow for that sort of questioning. There is a much higher “cost” for religious parents (“My child will be eternally damned”) to keep their children in the ranks of believers

  • Jim Tarvin

    sad

  • Glasofruix

    Let’s just hope that he doesn’t procreate before he kills himself.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      Why?

      • Glasofruix

        See SeniorSkeptik’s comment just below mine (chronologically speaking)

        • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

          Members of my family attempted to pass their religious beliefs onto me. Though initially successful, it didn’t prevent me from becoming an atheist.

          • mel897

            That’s key. It was initially successful. I’m pretty sure you were older than 17 when you finally saw the light. This kid, as a minor, has probably not had a chance to shake off this cult’s indoctrination.

            • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

              Sure, but I’ve known people who have claimed to reject religion as young as twelve. I’ve read of younger examples. This blows my mind though, because it never occurred to me to question the fundamentals of religion until I was in my early 20s.

              As @3lemenope:disqus remarked, the proclivity of religious parents (extended family, community, etc) to indoctrinate kids significantly increases the the chance of them becoming religious adults.

  • SeniorSkeptik

    While I support the NSW Supreme Court’s decision to force treatment on the sixteen year old, the darker side of me says let him make his own choices about treatment before he is old enough to reproduce and pass on his idiotic beliefs.

  • Garret Shane Brown

    They can live with themselves because they truly believe he’ll be rewarded for committing suicide.

  • getz

    The kid would rather die than have something forced on them.

    If it’s not like rape, then it is exactly like “forcing someone to experience something they believe is worse than death.” They are also in a position where they may actually choose death, so their statement shouldn’t be trivialized. Really, a kid planning their own death being met by a reaction about how much they insulted other people is an issue in itself. The whole “arbitrary age limit” thing is just a reminder that these kind of restrictions are as much about justifying ignoring terrible decisions as they are about preventing them. Whatever 180 the government performs when a kid hits 18, the kid themselves will still be remarkably similar to how they were when they were 17.

    But anyways, if anyone is looking for appropriate popular analogies, work backwards:

    Ask a group of people what they would rather die than be forced to go through. Fortunately, I found such a discussion on the internet, so, for the curious, here’s what was listed:

    “To be totally alone and not by your choice. No friends, no family, no lover, no pets. If a person lived through that, it would change them in some way or another.”

    “Unintentionally hurting someone you love more than life itself…and not being able to resolve things with them…”

    “Burning alive would fit.”

    “being in a vegetative state.”

    http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/2599798#ixzz2gKARoilA

    “Honestly, I’d rather die than be brutally raped. I’d also rather die than experience the death of my children.”

    “I would rather die than being blown up but living and being a vegetable the rest of my life.”

    “Rape or child seriously harmed.”

    “I’d rather die than be forced to do anything that goes against my beliefs. I’d rather die than work a dead end job. Id rather die than be disloyal to my family. I’d rather die than smoke crack cocaine or crystal meth. I’d rather die than live ignorant.”

    “I would rather die than be tortured or raped (especially since I’m a man). What are some things that are worse than death for you personally? Would you rather die than convert religions, or die rather than go on welfare, etc., etc.?”

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110802161511AAzv33m

    Everything from rape to isolation to torture to being burned alive. That’s what it’s like to the kid, and they’re willing to die for it. Others actually have. Of course, people have shown a remarkable ability to stay alive after going through something they would rather die than experience, so hopefully their fight against a transfusion will end in the same way, and their opinions regarding transfusions will hopefully change enough for the analogies they use to refer to them to change as well.

  • ConureDelSol

    Wait, so do the parents not get to make the decision for him like they do here in America? If his parents are JWs I would imagine they would refuse for him to have a blood transfusion too.

    Not that I would support that idiocy, but I’m just curious how that works.

    • sunburned

      Even in America if the parents make a medical decision that has serious ramifications such as denying a blood transfusion the State through the social care system would step in.

      The Hematology/Oncology department that treats my son automatically assign a Social/Case worker who’s job it is to make dealing with stuff easier. They interface with the schools, insurance companies and generally make things easier. They also have the job to make sure that the medical treatment being received by a minor is in the best interest of the minor.

      You can bet your bottom dollar if a minor refused a lifesaving transfusion and his parents didn’t do their job in making sure he received it a social worker would step in.

  • frankbellamy

    I’d wager a fair amount of money that if the state of Illinois decided to categorically prohibit girls under the age of 18 from getting abortions, Hemant would have something to say about it, and it wouldn’t be “While the line that distinguishes a child from an adult is arbitrary, it’s solid. [Illinois] says you’re an adult when you’re 18 and this kid’s not 18. So there.” Nobody questions whether an adult JW should be permitted to refuse medical treatment, including a blood transfusion, even if we think it is not what’s best for him/her. Nobody here questions whether a 16 or 17 year old girl should be able to get an abortion if that’s what she wants, even if some think it is not what’s best for her. We recognize that even if not legally a full adult, she is capable of understanding the options available to her, understanding the consequences of those options, weighing those consequences in light of her own personal values (not just values her parents impose on her), and making her own decision. Both of these positions we hold out of respect for people’s right to determine what happens to their own bodies, and to determine the court of their own lives. To then turn around and deny that same right to a 17 year old JW is inconsistent to say the very least. By all indications, he also understands what his options are, what the consequences of those options are, has weighed those consequences in light of the values that he holds, and has made his decision. To refuse to respect that is to treat him as less than human.

    I’m also not sure the analogy to rape is that far off in this case. It strikes me as similar to muslim women who compare being forced to remove their hijabs to being strip searched. In both cases (rape and strip search), the harm is not physical. Both can and do often occur without much physical damage to the victim’s body. The harm is psychological. Rape is horrible because of the psychological impact that lasts long after the event. And psychological harm can vary significantly depending on the victim’s cultural background. That is why a muslim woman may find showing her hair significantly more traumatic than any reader of this blog would. Similarly, I imagine this JW would find a blood transfusion significantly more traumatic than any reader of this blog. This JW has strong beliefs about blood transfusions, and those beliefs plus being forcibly subjected to a blood transfusion, I wouldn’t be surprised if that did create lasting psychological harm that makes a comparison to rape not inappropriate.

    • joey_in_NC

      Excellent point in the first paragraph regarding the inconsistencies between the position of this situation and the presumed position involving a minor seeking an abortion. I wrote my comment above before noticing this post.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I believe the distinction is that pregnancy is very bad for a 16 or 17 year old but not universally fatal. Untreated cancer of this type is universally fatal. The stakes are lower.

        • Bob

          How is pregnancy bad for a 16 or 17 year old? If it were so bad, why has natural selection allowed them to reproduce at that age?

          • DavidMHart

            Natural selection has not fully prepared us for living in complex information-based economies where, in order to have a reasonable chance of getting a decent job so as to be able to provide well for one’s children, one has to either be extremely lucky, or study well past the age of 16, which is not entirely incompatible with being a teenage mother, but it certainly makes it a lot more difficult.

            Also, remember that, as Natalie Angier put it, nature is a slapdash engineer – sure, pregnancy at 16 isn’t always medically disastrous, but it is on average more dangerous than pregnancy in one’s twenties or thirties because natural selection does not make all systems run perfectly – it just makes them good enough, most of the time, to ensure that life carries on.

          • Baby_Raptor

            Natural selection isn’t perfect. It doesn’t always make the best decisions.

            A 16/17 year old can conceive, but that doesn’t automatically mean that their body is ready to carry a pregnancy to term. It also is far from guaranteeing that said teenager is mentally healthy enough and prepared to do so.

          • jejune

            12 year olds can also get pregnant

            And without modern medicine, the pregnancy can and does, in most cases, kill them.

            King Henry VIII”s mom gave birth at 12 years of age. She barely survived, and was infertile for life.

          • jejune

            Also, because a teenager is still growing, the fetus will take calcium needed for her bones, and use it for itself. The woman cannot stop this from happening.

            Teen girls are more likely to develop osteoperosis as a result of early pregnancy.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Well, it doesn’t usually kill 16 or 17 year olds. It just sets them up for all sorts of problems later in life. Natural selection doesn’t give a crap if the mortality rate for 16 year olds is 20% or even 1% (it isn’t nearly that high), but we humans do. Natural selection doesn’t give a crap about vagino-rectal fistulas, either, or setting a woman up for organ prolapse in her 50s. People do care. Unhealthy doesn’t have to mean fatal or instantly fatal, you know.

        • joey_in_NC

          And what does that have anything to do about the “right to bodily autonomy”?

          Nice try (not really), but try again.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            A 16 or 17 year old pregnant girl is not seeking to commit suicide. They are trying to assert control over their body by choosing whether or not to host a parasite for nine months, culminating in a new person if the answer is yes. It’s unhealthy to be pregnant at that age, but usually not fatal, so we allow the teenager to make that decision even in the throes of religious delusions. You’re ignoring a shit-ton of context when you make this argument, about who controls all women’s bodies and what pregnancy is and does- would you argue we should force all pregnant teenagers to get abortions because pregnancy is usually bad for them? That’s the logical conclusion to your argument.

            This 17 year old wants to commit suicide, effectively. We don’t let teenagers make that decision, having decided that bodily autonomy doesn’t include taking one’s own life for any reason other than untreatable fatal illness.

            • joey_in_NC

              A 16 or 17 year old pregnant girl is not seeking to commit suicide.

              First of all, refusing a certain type of medical treatment != committing suicide. So you can cease with that fallacy.

              …would you argue we should force all pregnant teenagers to get abortions because pregnancy is usually bad for them? That’s the logical conclusion to your argument.

              Actually, no…this is the logical conclusion to your argument. If there is a 17-year-old has a pregnancy that is considered very high risk to her own health, then according to you and most people here the state should force her to have an abortion if that meant increasing her own chances of survival. Refusing an abortion would be akin to “committing suicide”. Because “we don’t let teenagers make that decision, having decided that bodily autonomy doesn’t include taking one’s own life for any reason other than untreatable fatal illness.”

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                I would support some forced abortions for children, though not for a merely high risk pregnancy. One in a teen with heart failure, though, or a teen with an ectopic pregnancy, or a child of 12 (all with death rates approaching or equaling that of untreated non-Hodgkins lymphoma)? Yes, absolutely.

                Once you fall below “almost certain death”, the autonomy of the child reasserts itself because what is in the best interests of that child changes. And yes, refusing medical treatment with a very high chance of success when you have a disease with a near-100% fatality rate is effectively committing suicide.

                • joey_in_NC

                  Once you fall below “almost certain death”, the autonomy of the child reasserts itself because what is in the best interests of that child changes.

                  And in one swoop you have dismantled the entirely flawed “bodily autonomy” argument that pro-choicers have been using decades. Thank you for pointing out the logical and moral bankruptcy of the pro-choice movement.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I’m afraid you’ve stretched yourself too far. See, when something is acting as a parasite and using you as a host, you always have the right to expel that intruder if you choose to. While we may intervene to save children’s lives, 1) fetuses aren’t children and 2) we don’t force children or adults to give up their organs or bodily fluids to anyone else, even if the cost is the death of that someone else. So unless you consider blood and uterus to be not bodily fluids or organs, I’m afraid your overeager attempt to justify the bodily enslavement of women is just going to have to die here.

                  Unless you think that adult women have no bodily autonomy whatsoever?

        • frankbellamy

          The point of a right is that the holder of the right, not you as a member of the general public, gets to decide when it is good or bad to exercise it. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a right.

          Put another way, I’m assuming you wouldn’t support a court forcing an 18 year old JW to get a life saving blood transfusion, even though the stakes are the same. Why? And why doesn’t the same reasoning apply to a 17 year old?

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            Because the rules dealing with children and adults are different. There are lots of very good reasons for this. We’ve set an arbitrary dividing line, and yes, it is arbitrary. Nonetheless, we’ve set it, and we should follow it because of the terrible precedent of not doing so. Courts have a mandate to act in the best interests of a child that they don’t have for adults, and they should follow it.

            That’s why, even though I might like to see a court order an 18 year old JW to get a blood transfusion if that occurred in a legal vacuum, the precedent set would be awful and that should never happen. Courts can not stand in loco parentis to people who have reached the age of majority. My personal preferences and disdain for religious bullshit can not, and should not, prevent an adult from doing something stupid. It can and should prevent a child from doing something stupid, because children need additional protection. Since we’ve defined child as under-18, we should stick with that.

            • frankbellamy

              Your reasoning is too abstract to be sufficient. The rights of children sometimes are different (voting) and sometimes are not (right to a lawyer). And sometimes the dividing line between full adult rights and something less is drawn at a different age (driving). Nobody denies that it is sometimes correct to deny children legal rights that would be granted to adults, but neither does anybody maintain that children should have none of the legal rights of adults. In order to have an intelligent conversation about what rights should be accorded children, we need to be talking about the implications of giving children the specific right, and about at what age the child is mature enough for it to make sense to give the child the right in question. And you haven’t gone anywhere near that kind of right-and-age-specific conversation.

              Here we are talking specifically about the right to control ones own body. That is about as fundamental and personally significant a right as we can conceive of, and it is one that in other contexts is legally protected even against the child’s parents. And here we are talking about a 17 year old. As I explained above, I think 17 year olds generally have the cognitive faculties necessary to be entitled to that right. If you don’t think they do, why not? You need an answer to that question to justify your position.

              You also need to explain how you handle the abortion issue. If you really think the state should be able to override a 17 year olds medical decions simply because the state thinks it is in the child’s best interests, what about those states (and we have many in this country) that think it is never in the child’s best interest to have an abortion? Do you really think they should be able to impose that standard by law? If not, how do you distinguish that case from this one?

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Actually, children may not be interrogated by the police without the presence of a lawyer or parent, period. They have more protections than just Miranda rights because they need them. No one ever said that children should be denied all legal rights (seriously, what the fuck are you reading to get that?), but some? Yes, definitely. And even if we disagree on which ones, the idea that children should not have all the legal rights of adults but, conversely, be more protected than adults is well-ingrained in our society. I happen to agree with that idea, even when it leads to bad outcomes for children or adults (children may be removed from abusive homes. Adults may not, even if they are being terrorized- we don’t have Adult Protective Services because we expect adults to be able to take care of themselves absent serious mental illness or disability).

                Many 17 year olds are cognitively capable, yes. We still don’t let them vote. We still don’t let them decide much of their medical care, including suicide. The right to abstain from medical care is a subset of bodily autonomy, and an important one, but one we have not extended to children because a 10 year old or a 5 year old couldn’t handle it. Any line drawn would be arbitrary. 18 is not ideal, but it is the line we have, and if you want to petition courts and legislatures to change it I give you full support. As long as the law is that 18 is the age of majority, though, it’s important to stick with it.

                As for abortion and teenagers- all the medical evidence suggests that pregnancy is bad for you and abortion isn’t. So really, what you’re asking is why I don’t support states that argue that abortion is always in the child’s best interests and require all pregnant teens to get abortions. And the answer is tangled up in a whole lot of issues about control over women’s lives, sexuality, and fertility. Context matters. The fact that the state is trying to save a life, as opposed to control a life, also matters. Intent may not be magic, but it does matter, and the state’s goal in forcing this boy to get medical care is to save his life, while the state’s goal in forcing a girl to be pregnant is controlling her life, while its goal in forcing her to get an abortion is her long-term health but not her short-term survival. I would support a state-ordered abortion in the case of a 16-year-old presenting with an ectopic pregnancy, for example.

                Oh, also, of course my reasoning is abstract. I’m talking about general principles here, which are abstract. That isn’t an argument, that’s an indication you don’t have a counter-argument.

                • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

                  Yes, you have to inform parents before you strip search a 13 year old. Whether you face any consequences for breaking that law is another matter.

                  http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/06/25/supreme-court-rules-strip-search-child-illegal/

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  So, our system of justice doesn’t work sometimes. Tell me something I don’t know. Why not push for proper enforcement of the law then, instead of telling me that children don’t deserve more protections? What relevance does this have to anything?

                • frankbellamy

                  I got the idea of children having no rights from your last post, which talked all about the lack of rights of children in general without drawing a connection to the current issue.

                  So are you saying that the driving age and drinking age should be moved to 18? 18 is the line for a lot of rights, but not for all rights by any reason. Different legal rights are conferred at different ages. There is nothing wrong with that. The law is perfectly capable of recognizing that people gain different abilities at different ages and therefor of drawing different lines.

                  And I really am asking about states that think abortion is never in the child’s best interests. You think the evidence goes the other way. Great. I agree with you. But many people don’t. And either the 17 year old child has a right to make her own decision irrespective of the state’s judgment about her best interests (which is my position and the position of most pro-choice people), or she doesn’t. If she doesn’t, then it follows that states that think it is not in the child’s best interests to have an abortion can prevent her from getting one. That is the issue you have to deal with.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You failed to read it properly, then. I have not, and have never, advocated that children have no rights. I merely said we followed different rules with children, and that is true.

                  No, actually, I don’t (well, maybe driving, but that would be a practical hardship on so many people …). I support your ability to advocate for such a thing, though. If you think medical autonomy ought to be at 16, say, then go for it. Just don’t expect low courts to make rulings that go contrary to established jurisprudence, which is that a person is a child until they turn 18. And yes, because children have some rights, they get to decide whether they want to host a parasite or not. They just don’t get to decide to commit suicide. There is a slight difference there- hosting the parasite is harmful, but not usually deadly, so the child gets to choose. Suicide is, by definition, deadly, so the child doesn’t get to choose. Different levels of consequence mean different amounts of autonomy, as you well know.

                  I have responded already to the abortion thing: context matters, and abortion is tied up in many other things including misogyny, women’s lives, and control over sexuality and fertility. It’s not that simple and it never is that simple, and you’re just ignoring all the context in favor of your quest for never recognizing my arguments. The fact that the state is trying to save a life, as opposed to control a life, also matters. Intent may not be magic, but it does matter, and the state’s goal in forcing this boy to get medical care is to save his life, while the state’s goal in forcing a girl to be pregnant is controlling her life, while its goal in forcing her to get an abortion is her long-term health but not her short-term survival. I would support a state-ordered abortion in the case of a 16-year-old presenting with an ectopic pregnancy, for example. Best interest is a flexible standard, granted, but we’re all pretty sure dying for no reason isn’t in anyone’s best interest. Pregnancy is much harder to determine best interest, so it’s correspondingly harder for courts to make a determination. We’re talking about real life here, not a hypothetical state that would force all teenagers to get abortions (the actual, proper analogy you still refuse to use).

                • jejune

                  The right to abstain from medical care is a subset of bodily autonomy,
                  and an important one, but one we have not extended to children because a
                  10 year old or a 5 year old couldn’t handle it

                  There was a guy on RHRC who argued that an 11 year old rape victim should be forced to undergo a pregnancy because she ‘was not capable of understanding that abortion would kill her unborn child’

                  OH yeah, for kicks, he said she should be extremely happy that the rapist had gifted her with a baby :P

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Wouldn’t that mean she should be required to have an abortion, because she wasn’t capable of understanding what pregnancy was about?

                  I mean, to be logical about it …

                • allein

                  I’ve never understood that argument. “Abortion is so monumental you can’t possibly understand what it means so you shouldn’t be allowed to have one!” (doesn’t matter what age you are for a lot of people who use such arguments), but no one ever says the same about going through pregnancy and childbirth and actually bringing a new life into the world, which then needs to be raised into adulthood. Apparently that’s relatively inconsequential compared to ending a pregnancy in the first several weeks.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I don’t get it either, but I think it goes back to the idea that women can’t be logical or intelligent so they need men to look after them and make all their life decisions for them, combined with the idea that women are for having babies.

                  IF women’s natural and proper role is making babies, and IF women are incapable of logical thought, THEN men can force women into forced pregnancies by claiming it’s for their own good or they don’t understand what abortion really means. It’s truly sickening, but it almost makes sense in a twisted sort of way.

                • allein

                  Yeah, I suppose you’re right about that. :-/

                • Rob

                  Feminerd, why do you say that a fetus can be terminated against its will, which relies upon the mother for survival, but you are against a boy being terminated when it is inline with his will. Why benefit is there to keeping this boy alive in the present, when he and everyone else will die eventually anyway? I’m not saying abortion is wrong, but why is suicide wrong if abortion is ok?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Fetuses have to have brains capable of consciousness to have a will. Until 28 weeks (at the earliest), they don’t. They can’t even feel pain until 22-24 weeks.

                  You’ll also note that a woman is a person. She has her own will, and her will and bodily autonomy supersede any will a fetus can be conjectured to have (it doesn’t, but we can pretend for the sake of argument).

                  Once born, a baby is a person. While still connected to and leeching off another person, it isn’t. The rules for persons and not-persons are, and must necessarily be, different, lest persons lose rights in favor of not-persons.

                  As for the benefit of keeping him alive- another ~70 years of life, of living and loving and losing, of the only life he’ll ever have? It’s a mere fraction of no time at all in the universal scheme of things, but it’s all we have, and it’s worth fighting for. And since we consider children too emotionally and mentally immature to make that sort of decision themselves, the courts get to decide in the best interest of the child when the parents are medically (or otherwise) negligent. The best interest of the child involves, you know, being alive.

                  Suicide of an adult isn’t ethically wrong. It’s a tragedy, and it usually shouldn’t happen, but it does. A person suffering from clinical depression isn’t making that decision “in their right mind” and thus is making a wrong choice, but not an unethical one. We simply can’t legally prevent them from making that wrong choice. A child, on the other hand, we can, because children have less rights and more protections under law (and I feel this is correct). If you think the line between child and adult should be redrawn, then you should work on that. In the meantime, anyone officially classified as a child must be legally treated as one.

                • Rob

                  Of course, part of my argument is definitely about reworking the line between a child and an adult. A 17 year old genius with much world experience may be in a better decision to decide on whether to live or die than a 18 year old sheltered dumbo. In this case, the judge acknowledged that this 17 year old was intelligent, had the capacity to understand the situation, but that the court still had the right to act in the child’s best interest simply because of the arbitrary age distinction of 18 between adults and children. While such a cut off is legally convenient, ethically it is not the best approach. Why should the number of times the sun has gone around the earth in your life time determine your rights, when every individual develops at a different rate? The answer is mere convenience and that is the main problem with this case.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  It’s actually legal precedent. And breaking legal precedents is a dangerous precedent to set.

                  After all, if legal precedents aren’t binding, what is to stop judges from just making the law say as they please? This isn’t about convenience, it’s about the rule of law. If you feel 17 is the appropriate cut-off, then lobby your legislators for the change. If you think it should be variable based on a judge’s personal opinion of someone’s maturity and intelligence (which would be an utter disaster of a policy, by the way, and immensely abusable in our class- and race- ridden judicial system), lobby your legislators for that change. But don’t expect a judge to try to go against long-standing legal precedent on what constitutes a child.

                • Rob

                  I never said I disagreed with the judges decision given the law and precedent requirements. What I disagree with is the law and the precedent. Therefore my position is that legislation should be different. Finally, just because I think the law should change, doesn’t mean I am the one to do it. Society will ultimately be better off if I continue with my work which I do best. But my position is that those who are good at lobbying should identify the ethical problems with this case and get on to changing the law.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  So you don’t actually disagree with the decision, then. You disagree with the laws that led to the legal decision. That hasn’t been your argument until just now. I appreciate that your argument has morphed into that, because at least that argument makes sense.

                  What do you think the law ought to change to? Merely identifying a problem is not enough- sometimes the reason that ethical problem exists is because all the other alternatives provide worse ethical problems, so we pick the least problematic of the bunch. Sometimes there is no perfect solution.

                • Rob

                  How has it not been my argument? I’ve argued that the boy should be allowed to die. This could mean a) I believe the laws should change, b) I believe the judge should have ruled differently given the current laws. What makes you think I have been arguing b) as opposed to a)? I have meant to argue a) this whole time.

                  How should the law be changed? Well if we consider the Gillick V West Norfolk competence doctrine, a child under age 16 is able to consent to medical treatment if they are able to show they have sufficient mental capacity. I propose that a child under 18 have the right to refuse beneficial treatment as well, if they are deemed to have sufficient mental capacity and autonomy.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  So, option of “it should be variable based on a judge’s personal opinion of someone’s maturity and intelligence (which would be an utter disaster of a policy, by the way, and immensely abusable in our class- and race- ridden judicial system)”. How do you propose to deal with the horrible disaster of abusableness?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Dude, what the judge is saying is the kid has to hang around until he’s 18 — after that, he’s free to off himself.

            • Pikachu

              Why is death stupid? Nearly everyone who ever lived is already dead, and everyone living now is going to die. Once you’re dead, it doesn’t matter how long you lived for. So why is it stupid to die early? It isn’t, it is just merely against our natural instincts of survival, which is nothing but a result of natural selection process where those who wanted to survive did survive and reproduce. That by no means says that it is better to survive than to die.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                It’s stupid because this is the only life we’ve got, and dying for no good reason when the remainder of one’s life lies ahead of one with no real physical or mental obstacles to fully enjoying it is absurd and a tragedy.

                It isn’t necessarily better to survive than die, but it usually is. There’s a reason other than mere survival instinct we want to live- that’s part of it, sure, but definitely not all of it. Why do you consider choosing death not stupid?

                • Pikachu

                  Please explain our desire to live that is not based on the inevitable and meaningless process of natural selection, that naturally filters for character traits that desire survival? The universe existed long before life existed, and will continue to exist long after life existed. Life is a mere blimp in the universe, and has no mystical meaning. Humans are arrogant and believe they have purpose and meaning and so on and believe there is something special about life. But this is expected from the natural selection process, and is nothing more than a side-effect of a natural meaningless process of natural selection. So please explain why you say there is more to survival than natural selection?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Life is fun? Life is full of sunshine and flowers and D&D and friends and wine and sex and cooking dinner and eating dinner and all sorts of things? I desire to live in large part because I enjoy my existence; sure, that’s part natural selection for survival instinct, but it’s not all survival instinct. Existence is neat and I want to experience as much of it as I can before I cease to exist. I’ll bet if you asked this young man, he’d also say he wanted to live. He’s just not willing to do the things that will cause him to live because his mind has been filled with nonsense telling him that this isn’t the only existence he’ll have. Letting him die isn’t in his best interest, because he wants to live.

              • Fred

                Dead is boring.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      I’d be a lot happier with the rape analogy if I thought he’d come up with it himself. He didn’t. Witness teens are coached to say that.

      So, yeah. That’s a problem.

      TRiG.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness cancer victim compared receiving a blood transfusion to “being raped.”

    That’s just offensive to anyone who has actually been raped.

  • joey_in_NC

    I thought the absolute right to bodily autonomy was respected in these here parts. Why is this case the exception? Is it maybe because it is a religious person demanding the right to bodily autonomy?

    • Sven2547

      Or maybe because teenage suicide is a universally-bad thing?

      • joey_in_NC

        Who says?

        • Artor

          Everybody. That’s what “universally” means. Are you in favor of teen suicide?

          • joey_in_NC

            No, I’m not. I’m not in favor of suicide…period. Teen or other. And I agree that it is a universally bad thing.

            My point is that “universally” held truths are usually reserved for the religious.

  • Kent Mason

    So very sad. What the hell was he doing in a hospital anyway?

    • allein

      JWs aren’t against all medical care (that’s Christian Scientists); just blood transfusions, as far as I know.

  • clinty

    Aren’t his parents his legal guardians that would be making this decision for him? Maybe I don’t understand how it goes in Australia, but why aren’t his parents deciding one way or the other until he’s 18?

    • allein

      Because they would decide the same thing and let him die, and as far as the state is concerned that’s medical neglect, so they step in.

  • Chris

    Isn’t age 16 the age of consent in Australia/NSW for medical treatment acceptance/refusal? Why is it that the judge has given him until he is 18 instead? Does anyone know what law the judge is using to arrive at age 18 for the age of consent?

  • Dartheon

    “He would rather die than betray his religious beliefs.”

    Wow… They wouldn’t be the same people who fight against other’s right to end their lives under their own terms would they?

    Sorry man but you’re against euthanasia, remember? You’re getting your life saving treatment whether you like it or not.

    Hypocrisy’s a bitch huh?

    • Sven2547

      You honestly can’t tell the difference?

      • Dartheon

        Ending life – whether your own or someone elses – due to deliberate inaction is indistinct from ending it due to deliberate action. If you tripped and fell in-front of a train and then chose not to get up and move out of the way, it would still be suicide. The fact that you didn’t deliberately put yourself in the life threatening situation doesn’t absolve you of responsibility.

        For the record, I am for the right to euthanasia and, were this child 18 and competent to make the decision, I would support his right to refuse the treatment. However I consider it very hypocritical to say euthanasia is wrong but then bring about your own death by refusing a simple medical procedure.

        It’s fine for them to decide whether they want to live or not but not for anybody else because religion. I support their right to die but the blade cuts both ways I’m afraid.

        • Sven2547

          For the record, I am for the right to euthanasia and, were this child 18 and competent to make the decision, I would support his right to refuse the treatment.

          Well gosh, HE’S NOT 18, so that’s a pretty worthless sentiment. Does that make YOU a hypocrite too?

          However I consider it very hypocritical to say euthanasia is wrong but then bring about your own death by refusing a simple medical procedure.

          Nobody that I’ve heard of thinks euthanasia is okay for healthy people, or people who need simple, low-difficulty surgical procedures. Euthanasia proponents are typically looking out for the extremely-elderly, or people with advanced cancer whose quality-of-life would be significantly harmed by ongoing treatment. By comparing this painful decision to that of a 15-year-old who would be expected to live a long and healthy life is dishonest, moronic, and insensitive to the highly-debatable topic of voluntary euthanasia.

          It’s fine for them to decide whether they want to live or not but not for anybody else because religion.

          How about you drop this ‘because religion’ baloney right now. Religion isn’t the main reason I’m against this. Neither I nor Hemant nor anyone-who-isn’t-a-goddamned-sociopath supports teen suicide. Period, end transmission, roll snare drum, extend arm, drop mic.

          • Dartheon

            “Well gosh, HE’S NOT 18, so that’s a pretty worthless sentiment. Does that make YOU a hypocrite too?”

            I don’t follow? What are you talking about? At best you could argue it’s an irrelevant point – although I’d disagree – but you’re kinda reaching to suggest that it’s hypocritical. Are you 8 years old or something?

            “How about you drop this ‘because religion’ baloney right now. Religion isn’t the main reason I’m against this.”

            I couldn’t really give a shit why *you’re* against this. What makes you think I’m talking about you? Was this story about you? I’m talking about the family in the article and their motivations are absolutely religious.

            “Neither I nor Hemant nor anyone-who-isn’t-a-goddamned-sociopath supports teen suicide. Period, end transmission, roll snare drum, extend arm, drop mic.”

            … except for the family in the fucking article we’re commenting on.

            What the hell do you think I’m talking about here? Do you think I left comments relating to you personally in the hope you’d show up to defend yourself?

            I’m talking about the family in the article who presumably support their son’s choice to die rather than accept a blood transfusion because of his religious beliefs and why that is a hypocritical stance for someone who is against voluntary euthanasia.

            • Sven2547

              I’m talking about the family in the article who presumably support their son’s choice to die rather than accept a blood transfusion because of his religious beliefs and why that is a hypocritical stance for someone who is against voluntary euthanasia.

              And I’m pointing how silly that stance is. I think you skipped that big paragraph I typed on the fundamental differences between a voluntary euthanasia situation and this situation.

              • Dartheon

                “I think you skipped that big paragraph I typed on the fundamental differences between a voluntary euthanasia situation and this situation.”

                You said that most euthanasia proponents are looking out for the elderly or terminally ill and that’s different to a kid refusing treatment. I agree, but it’s completely irrelevant to what I’m saying. You also opined that the comparison was “dishonest, moronic, and insensitive to the highly-debatable topic of voluntary euthanasia” however the reality is you just didn’t understand what I wrote. So I’ll try, again, to clarify it for you.

                I consider refusing the accept a simple life-saving treatment to be suicide: bringing about your own death because the alternative is too painful to continue living with. It’s a right I support, however the family in the article do not. JW’s are strictly against euthanasia, and yet they are willing to bring about their own death by refusing simple treatment treatment. This specific case is complicated further by the age of the individual in question, however the philosophical incongruence applies just the same.

                I’m not going to delve into the philosophy on positive and negative freedoms and the moral equivalence of deliberate action and inaction, however consider the hypothetical I provided earlier.

                Imagine you trip and fall in front of a train. If you choose not to move out of the way, would you consider it suicide because you chose not to act, even though you could have? I would, and for the same reason I consider bringing about your own death by refusing a simple and safe treatment – regardless of your motivations – to be suicide. While I support an individuals right to make that choice, JW’s don’t – except, apparently, where it suits them.

                If you’ve never heard of “The Trolley Problem”, it’s a philosophical thought-experiment proposed by Philippa Foot to do with, among other things, the moral and ethical equivalence of deliberate action and inaction. The highly shortened version of the initial problem is that you’re the driver of a train which is currently on track to hit 5 people. However there is a switch ahead which can put you on another line which only has 1 person on it. Do you switch the line (i.e. deliberately act to bring about the death 1 person) or do you not act and bring about the death of 5. Most – not all – respondents say they would switch, indicating that they recognise to some degree that deliberately not acting is morally equivalent to acting.

                This web-site does a good walk through of it: http://www.philosophyexperiments.com/fatman/. If you’ve not studied philosophy or seen the trolley problem and it’s various permutations before, I suggest you go here.

                If, after you’ve been through that exercise, you still don’t consider any equivalency between ending your own life and knowingly allowing yourself to die by refusing treatment, then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

                • Sven2547

                  then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

                  Well, I guess so. Largely because you typed this:

                  You said that most euthanasia proponents are looking out for the elderly or terminally ill and that’s different to a kid refusing treatment. I agree, but it’s completely irrelevant to what I’m saying.

                  You are calling a position hypocritical when you are deliberately disregarding the tenets of that position as “irrelevant”. So yes: I disagree.

                • Dartheon

                  “You are calling a position hypocritical when you are deliberately disregarding the tenets of that position as “irrelevant”.”

                  That’s not their position. It’s not the position I’m calling hypocritical. I thought I’d explained that already. I’m not interested in your position on euthanasia or a position held by a hypothetical majority of euthanasia proponents.

                  I’m talking about the position of a specific group of people who believe they should be able to end their lives for religious reasons but others shouldn’t be able to end their own lives for other reasons.

                  JWs do not believe that anyone – elderly, terminally ill or otherwise – should be able to end their own lives. So those tenets you’re referring to have nothing to do with their position. They are irrelevant.

                  Stop talking in circles. If you want to point out why I’m wrong, address what I’m actually saying rather than drifting off onto nonsensical tangents.

                  To boil down the axiom:

                  1. JWs believe euthanasia is wrong.
                  2. Deliberately bringing about death through inaction is morally equivalent to deliberately bringing about through action (reasoning and links in previous comment).
                  3. JWs believe they should be able to deliberately bring about death through inaction.

                  1 and 3 are inconsistent. I can’t simplify it for you any more than that.

                • Sven2547

                  My God I apologize.
                  All this time I thought you were calling Hemant the hypocrite for being pro-euthanasia but being against this teenager’s suicide.
                  I’m very sorry for the prolonged misunderstanding.

                • Dartheon

                  Jesus, I knew something didn’t add up! I’m glad we eventually understood each other.

    • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

      They wouldn’t be the same people who fight against other’s right to end their lives under their own terms would they?

      No, they wouldn’t. Witnesses don’t do politics. Please include some factual basis in your rants.

      TRiG.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Well, at least one decided to skip the evolution module in biology. But I’ll grant that wasn’t exactly politics.

  • Phil Johnson

    I find the idea that a government can order, and legally enforce, a medical procedure on an unwilling patient disturbing. I quite agree, this kid’s reasons for not wanting a transfusion are awful and invalid ones, but what if they weren’t? If a court has the legal power to enforce medical treatment on an unwilling person “for the good of the state” then that;s not a precedent I feel comfortable with. I won’t resort to a slipper slope argument, I’m well aware that’s a fallacy, but I think I value the right to self-determination very highly, and if somebody’s self-determination is that they would rather die… it’s sad, and stupid, and idiotic, but I think their right to choose has to take precedence.

    • sunburned

      It is because he is a minor. His right to self-determination isn’t solidified yet and the state has a vested interested in protecting the lives of minors, especially when those who are entrusted (Parents) to protect those interests are delinquent in their duties.

  • guest

    Can’t someone send him literature proving the Jehovah’s witnessess are wrong? It wouldn’t even matter if he converted to some other branch of Christianity, as long as it was a less lethal sect.


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