Today, I clicked the News section on Google and came across an interesting article at the bottom of the page. The article was titled “Book raises alarms about alternative medicine,” but what really caught my eye was the first line that they teased…
“The 12-year-old girl arrived at the hospital wracked with abdominal pain.”
I read the article, expecting it to be about how some parents choose not to treat their children with traditional medical methods and end up hurting them or maybe even killing them. Every once in awhile there’s a story about a child that dies because his parents refused to give him the proper treatment, usually because of religious or alternative medicine reasons.
Either way, these are sad stories. There’s no denying that, and it’s easy to let our emotions get in the way of our decision-making abilities. How simple is it to push to have a law that says “The government will take your children when they are sick and treat them correctly if you as the parents decide that you’re going to deny them what they need to get better.”
That’s pretty cut and dry. Who wouldn’t want to save the lives of children?
When it comes to children and liberty, things seem to get a little bit dicey. Children are humans, obviously, and have rights. However, since their minds aren’t quite fully developed, they’re not always capable of making every decision about their lives.
If an adult chooses to use alternative methods to treat himself, even though the average Joe Schmoe could tell him that it’s not going to work, that’s on him. I don’t believe that there would too many people who would try to put a gun to his head to make him see a traditional doctor. With a child, that’s different, but I don’t think that putting a gun to the parent’s head is the right thing to do.
The question many would ask me now is whether or not I think that it’s okay to allow parents to make decisions about their children that could potentially harm them?
My answer is yes. And that’s because the alternative is worse.
I intentionally phrased the question a certain way. Different people have different opinions on, well, everything. This includes what sort of medical treatment a child should get. So when you’re writing your law to decide what method of torture you should impose upon parents who treat their kids with an internet connection instead of Dr. Professional, ask yourself where you should draw the line. Once you set the precedent that the state has the authority to dictate to parents how they should raise and treat their children in some way, it opens the door for more and more control by the state.
It sounds great on the surface that the government would protect children from poor decisions by parents, but can we trust government to make all of the right decisions? They’ve never made poor decisions about health (or a myriad of other things), right?
I’m not too into alternative or holistic medicine, so don’t think I’m carrying their water on this. For example, if I have kids, I’m going to get them vaccinated. I do not, however, think it to be any sort of “crime” to decide against having your children vaccinated. That decision is made by the parents with the child’s wellbeing in mind. That same parent might think I’m insane for thinking that circumcision is okay. Again, who gets to decide what is legal?
Is the libertarian system perfect in terms of keeping every child healthy? No, it’s not. But who is best suited to deal with their children: the parents or nameless bureaucrats? A broad collection of ideas is more likely to get you to the correct answer than having one or two people pick a path and power ahead with blinders. For the most part, parents are going to do their best to raise their kids well. What happens when some power-hungry rulers get to make decisions about your children? It has happened before with the state. And don’t think the ball hasn’t already started rolling here yet.
Does this give parents carte blanche to do whatever they want to their kids? It doesn’t, but you really have to be careful with getting involved. There are some crazy, evil people out there who will do intentional harm to children. We can deal with those people in a different article at another time.