By Calvin Palmer
A Minnesota judge today ruled that 13-year-old boy suffering from cancer must seek conventional medical treatment instead of the parents’ choice of alternative medicines based on their religious beliefs.
In a 58-page ruling, Brown Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg found that Daniel Hauser, of Sleepy Eye in southwestern Minnesota, has been “medically neglected” and is in need of child protection services.
He allowed Daniel to remain in the custody of his parents, Colleen and Anthony Hauser, but only if they get a chest X-ray for their son and select an oncologist. The judge set a deadline of May 19.
Daniel’s court-appointed attorney, Philip Elbert, called the decision unfortunate.
“I feel it’s a blow to families,” he said. “It marginalizes the decisions that parents face every day in regard to their children’s medical care. It really affirms the role that big government is better at making our decisions for us.”
Elbert said he had not spoken to his client yet.
The parents’ attorney, Calvin Johnson, said they will comply for now but are considering an appeal.
In a written statement Johnson said: “The Hausers believe that the injection of chemotherapy into Danny Hauser amounts to an assault upon his body, and torture when it occurs over a long period of time.
“They believe that it is against the spiritual law to invade the consciousness of another person without their permission. Danny feels healthy, and is anxious to continue on with his present course of healing.”
Daniel was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and stopped chemotherapy in February after a single treatment. He and his parents opted instead for “alternative medicines” favored by the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians.
At a court hearing in New Ulm last week, Daniel’s mother insisted the boy would not submit to chemotherapy for religious reasons and she said she would not comply if the court orders it.
“My son is not in any medical danger at this point,” Colleen Hauser told the court hearing. She also testified that Daniel is a medicine man and elder in the Nemenhah Band.
Cancer specialists from Children’s Hospitals & Clinics of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic testified that Daniel had a 90 percent chance of surviving with chemotherapy and radiation, but likely will die within five years without it.
After the first chemotherapy treatment, the family said they wanted a second opinion, said Dr. Bruce Bostrom, a pediatric oncologist who recommended Daniel undergo chemotherapy and radiation. They later informed him that Daniel would not undergo any more chemotherapy.
Bostrom said Daniel’s tumor shrunk after the first chemotherapy session, but X-rays show it has grown since he stopped the chemotherapy.
Johnson said Daniel made the decision himself to refuse chemotherapy, but Brown County said he did not have an understanding of what it meant to be a medicine man or an elder.
Court filings also indicate Daniel has a learning disability and cannot read.
The Hausers have eight children. Colleen Hauser said that the family’s Catholicism and adherence to the Nemenhah Band are not in conflict and she has used natural remedies to treat illness.
Nemenhah was founded in the 1990s by Philip Cloudpiler Landis, who said yesterday he once served four months in prison in Idaho for fraud related to advocating natural remedies.
Landis said he founded the faith after facing his diagnosis of a cancer similar to Daniel Hauser. He said he treated it with diet choices, visits to a sweat lodge and other natural remedies.