Ethical Dilemma of Surgery vs. Religion involving a 12 year-old-child visiting the US.

Essay by CarindaUniversity, Bachelor's February 2004

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Twelve year old Kallie is admitted to the hospital and found to be in need of surgery for a "life-threatening" condition stemming from a hemorrhage, or "bleed" in her head. She was born with Down's syndrome and is moderately mentally retarded, but has lived her entire life with her parents, who are enjoying a brief visit to relatives in New York when the need for surgery is diagnosed. The family is from one of the Caribbean islands, and they practice a religion that forbids surgical cutting. The physicians explore the possibility of surgery with Kallie's parents, but they remain steadfast in their refusal. The social worker finds them to be devoted parents, whose love for their daughter, despite her mental retardation, is not is question. Kallie has a healthy and warm personality and endears herself to the pediatric staff, who argue vigorously for the surgical treatment. The treatment team could seek a court order overriding the parents' refusal of surgery.

Without the surgery, Kallie faces a high probability of another bleed in the near future, which might cause her death. With the surgery she will most likely live for several more decades-the usual life span of a person with Down's Syndrome, but shorter than normal. An additional complication is the risk of surgery itself, which is known to have a 5-10 percent morality rate. However, the parent's refusal is based not on the risk of surgery, but on their religious convictions.

Should the physicians seek a court order to override parental refusal to consent for treatment? Could that recommendation be based on a finding of parental neglect because of the child's need for medical treatment? Or should the parents' refusal of treatment be respected based on their religious convictions and the fact that they are visiting foreigners who should...