A Brown County judge has ordered chemotherapy for a 13-year-old boy whose parents had stopped his treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma on religious grounds.
Judge John Rodenberg ruled that the risk of death to Daniel Hauser compelled him to overrule the parents' constitutional right to religious freedom and to raise their child as they see fit.
The judge ordered the Sleepy Eye teenager to undergo an immediate X-ray, and to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The judge said he would allow the child to remain with his family, but ruled that he would remove the child from his parents' custody if they did not pursue the cancer treatments.
“The issue is Danny's right to decide how he wants to live his life.”Philip Cloudpiler Landis, Nemenhah Band
Hauser was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in January, at Children's Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis. Oncologist Dr. Bruce Bostrom recommended six rounds of chemotherapy.
Daniel became gravely ill about a week later and was taken to an emergency room, Bostrom said, and the family consented to the first chemotherapy treatment.
After that, Bostrom said, the family said they wanted a second opinion. 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.
Hodgkin's lymphoma is considered highly treatable with chemotherapy. The Mayo Clinic reports an 80 percent survival rate.
Hauser's parents said they were treating their son's cancer with alternative medicine that was consistent with their religious beliefs. The family belongs to the Nemenhah Band, a Native American spiritual organization whose motto is, "our religion is our medicine."
Daniel Hauser also argued in court that he was old enough to make his own decisions about his treatment, and he had decided not to receive chemotherapy. Hauser said his decision was religiously based.
Court filings indicated Daniel has a learning disability and can't read, and the judge said because of that, the boy is incapable of giving informed consent on his medical treatment.
Hauser's parents disputed that the tumor had grown. The family said it has been monitoring Hauser's condition with X-rays and blood work done by an osteopathic doctor in Mankato, Minn.
"Daniel loves his parents and they love him. He should remain with them as long as he receives treatment complying with the minimum standards of parental care provided by Minnesota law," Rodenberg wrote.
He also said he was following the law in the best interest of the child.
"If the Minnesota Legislature ever reconsiders the relevant statutes, I am confident that I join all of the others involved in this matter in hoping, and indeed in praying, that Daniel Hauser lives to testify at that hearing."
The family's attorney Calvin Johnson said in a statement that while the Hausers oppose the judge's ruling, they will abide by the court order and make an appointment for Daniel to see his doctor and receive an x-ray by the next court date, May 19.
In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio News, Colleen and father Tony Hauser said they believe their son is recovering, but if his condition worsened they would treat him with chemotherapy.
Nemenhah was founded in the 1990s by Philip Cloudpiler Landis, who said Thursday 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.
"The issue is Danny's right to decide how he wants to live his life," Landis said. "What if they make him take chemotherapy and he dies from that? The band will mourn with the family if that's the case, but we'll rejoice that Danny had the opportunity to test the law of the land."
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)