Medical Treatment: Forced Medical Treatment







Medical treatment is a basic human right, and everybody should get access to it without bias. However in today’s society, there are many beliefs and cultures and some of these do not encourage while others even restrict treatment in modern hospitals opting for alternative methods of treatment. The main issue, therefore, arises on whether the government should intervene and force an individual to receive medical treatment whether they want it to or not.

There have been many cases of people refusing medical treatment from modern hospitals. Many of them cite their refusal to religious factors, cultural restrictions or better alternative modes of treatment. The right of a person to choose whatever type of treatment they deem fit lies with them. In 1975, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that forced treatment or hospitalization was against the civil rights of the person. Most of the cases that deal with forced medical treatment of a person are about mental health. If the person is not likely to decide the best type of treatment or whether they will receive that treatment or not then it would suffice that the government should intervene and choose the appropriate course of action. However, many cases have continued to restrict the forced treatment of people, and many states uphold this decision. Others choose to force treatment under special circumstances to be decided by set procedures.

In the case of children, they cannot choose for themselves and their parents or guardians must decide on their behalf which type of treatment they should receive. Most of the time parents agree to follow doctor’s treatment since they know better and mostly the outcome is a cured or the best treatment for untreatable diseases, for example, some forms of cancer. However, some parents choose not to follow or seek these treatments if they see their child is not improving or if they find alternative methods they think might work. In such cases, if the doctor feels that the child is in danger if they discontinue or not begin the treatment then he or she might pursue other avenues to force the parents to let their child receive treatment. There have been cases of minors being forced to receive medical treatment by the courts since either they were not mature enough to make the decision or their parents were not deemed to have made the right decision. The medical institution can decide to go to court to force the treatment of a minor, and if the court finds that it is in the best interest of the child to receive the treatment, then they can appoint a guardian who can make medical decisions on behalf of the child. This, in essence, means that the parents have to watch helplessly as the child receives the forced medical treatment. Clinicians, however, agree that outcomes are reduced when children are forced to receive treatment, Steverson (2002).

The featured case is the story of an Amish family that was forced to flee to Mexico when an appellate court decided to force their eleven-year-old daughter to receive treatment for her cancer. The parents decided that the treatment which was chemotherapy was too much for their daughter, and they feared she might die. The hospital, however, disagreed and went to court where a guardian was appointed to choose. Later the court reversed the order, and the parents could choose whichever treatment they saw fit for their daughter. This case highlights the trauma a family undergoes when the state decides to force a child to receive medical treatment against the will of the parents or guardians. If the parents of the child are deemed fit to raise him or her, then they should be permitted to make choices regarding the medical treatment the child receives. According to Fortin (2009), the state should only be allowed to intervene in cases where the parents or guardians are negligent of their children or if a parent decides to deny a child medical attention and he or she is in mortal danger.

In some cases, the minor might petition the court that they are competent enough to make a decision regarding their health as in the case of a 17-year-old from Connecticut, who had refused treatment for lymphoma. The court can then decide if it the minor is fit to make medical decisions or not.

In conclusion, the right to make decisions on behalf of their children is a right all competent parents and guardians should have. The state ought not to interfere with personal decisions like these. It should only intervene in emergency situations where a child’s life is in danger, and the parents or guardians refuse to give them appropriate medical attention. Many cases in court against forced medical treatment have made it almost impossible for the government to intervene as should be the case. Forced medical treatment causes trauma on the family mainly for children who are innocent bystanders and infringes on the civil rights of the parents to make the best decisions on behalf of their children with regards to medical treatment. Therefore, the government should not force parents to treatments they do not want and should let them be the final say in their children’s welfare.
Fortin, J. (2009). Children’s rights and the developing law. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Steverson, J. (2002). Children and the law. New York: Routledge.

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