Doctors save teenage boy’s life against his will.

This is a conundrum to me:

Doctors from Sydney Children’s Hospital in Randwick made an urgent application to the Supreme Court to help them save the boy, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who is fighting Hodgkin’s disease.

In a judgment handed down on March 28, Justice Ian Gzell immediately ordered a blood transfusion after doctors said the 17-year-old’s life depended on it.

Justice Gzell noted his orders “may only extend (the boy’s) life for 10 months – when he becomes an adult and may stop the treatment”.

“The sanctity of life in the end is a more powerful reason for me to make the orders than is respect for the dignity of the individual,” he said.

The boy, who cannot be identified, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in January last year. He is a “devoted” follower of the religion and Justice Gzell found him to be “cocooned in that faith”.

The boy told doctors he did not want to be given blood, even in an “emergency”, and that if he was forcibly transfused while sedated it would be like being “raped”.

On the one hand, I respect the autonomy of adults, and I think 17 is getting damn close to adulthood if not there already.  (Children, on the other hand, don’t get to die because their parents filled their heads with self-destructive lies)  However, we don’t let delusional people make their own medical calls.  Take away the Jesus and how is this boy different from somebody suffering a dangerous reality break?  I mean, if somebody got dragged into the hospital and refused a life saving procedure because the martians wouldn’t let him on their spaceship, we’d not only give them the procedure under sedation but we’d also commit them.  Why do we switch gears all of a sudden when it’s not martians but a 2,000 year old dead guy who won’t let him into his ghost kingdom?  At least aliens are fairly likely to exist somewhere…

And I can see the initial appeal of the rape analogy.  However, I don’t think anybody’s ever raped another person to save their life.  I think it’d be more like yanking a person who’s tripping balls away from the edge of a cliff even though they really want to fly.

Bottom line: well-meaning parents have contaminated an innocent life – the life of their son.  They will probably have ended his life in another 10 months.  And what do you bet they’ve uttered the words “You should respect my beliefs” at one point or another?  I will not respect anything that can take two loving parents and turn them into murderers.

And what’s more, I will not respect any belief that’s equally silly, but just doesn’t include the particular stupidity about blood transfusions.  These parents aren’t wrong because they didn’t properly listen to the 2,000 year dead Jew.  It’s not like the idea of someone rising from the dead whose dad wanted followers to kill anybody who worked on Saturday makes perfect sense, but commanding someone to deny a particular life-saving procedure?  Well that’s just bonkers.

All Christians, Muslims, and other believers shouldn’t adopt the same sin of these parents as virtue, and that sin is believing stupid, stupid things through faith.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.