This archived article was written by: Jeff Spears
Parker Jensen captivated the media when diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and the parental right to deny him critical chemotherapy. The social dilemma arises because of a conflict between his right to medical treatment and the wishes of his parents. Substantial and sound arguments exist for both sides of the issue, and I feel that both the state and Parker’s family have valid opinions. The State of Utah argues that Parker should receive the chemotherapy that can potentially save his life. The parents fear that chemotherapy will stunt their child’s growth and leave him sterile. They wish to seek another option. The focus of this dilemma rests heavily on society protecting individual rights and the claim parents have on being the advocate of their children.
Jensen has a right to life and a right to becoming a productive member of society. The implications of the state aiding a child stems from the fact that he should have the same options as a normal citizen. We have an obligation to protect the defenseless and unable citizens of our nation, and to make sure that we continue to live up to the fact that we are the best in the entire world. Jensen’s constitutional rights ought to be recognized to allow for this application of democracy to be enacted. Without such actions we lose the truth and meaning of the premise of our goals and ambitions as a country. We would be acting in hypocrisy to take the passive approach and let and innocent child die due to our own personal assertions.
Barbara and Daren Jensen would also be guilty of a form of child abuse by denying Parker an opportunity to save his own life. The parents are allowed to make decisions for their child when in accordance with Parker’s best interests. Fleeing chemotherapy, however, is not in anyone’s best interests. Parker’s parents should not withhold proven medicinal practices from their child simply on grounds of their own rights as guardians. Each day they hold out Parker’s health can only get worse. The state must take action in assuring the best possible remedy for the parties involved. This means allowing Parker Jensen to receive chemotherapy.
The concept of the social contract is another viable argument that justifies the state’s insistence on chemotherapy. This philosophy contends that we give up certain rights in order to become a member of society. Restricting the freedoms to kill and to steal are rights citizens surrender to the government. In return, we ensure basic human rights that are inalienable by both the government and other citizens. Parker Jensen’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are protected by virtue of the social contract. His parents surrender their prerogative to choose medical care for their child when their opinions conflict with the opinions of doctors or other medical experts. In this case the social contract protects Parker Jensen from what may be a bad decision on the part of his parents.
Chemotherapy is currently the only effective treatment known for Ewing’s sarcoma. The Houston clinic said they intended to appeal to for a second opinion stated that Ewing’s sarcoma is not one of the 72 forms of cancer they can treat with other types of medicine. This validates that chemotherapy is the only way to ensure a chance of survival for the boy. If there were some other way to treat Ewing’s sarcoma, I would understand the Jensen family’s decision to insist on a second opinion. But unfortunately, this is the only way.
The arguments for the parental side contend that the prerogative for child welfare first rest on the parents. The parents feel that they have the right to receive a second opinion. This may be the case, but their son is dying as long as they delay treatment. I believe that they are entitled to a second opinion, however, Parker desperately needs to enter into treatment immediately. This is the best way to ensure both the rights of the parents and the boy are protected under the constitution.
The bottom line is the parents have a duty as humans to save their child. Even though this may not be their choice of treatment, the Jensens must attempt to allow Parker to have a normal life. There may only be a slim chance that Parker will complete chemotherapy without suffering from any side effects, yet it is the only option. If the life of this child could be saved then it is worth the attempt of the treatment.