Liberty must be balanced with order but not abandoned


Your 17-year-old daughter, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, calmly but determinedly refuses chemotherapy.

Her refusal is not based on religious beliefs; she simply does not want to ingest poison in her body, suffering the side effects and incurring further damage to her internal organs.

What would you as a parent say?

Cassandra, the name given to a 17-year-old Connecticut student in state court documents, is such a person. Her mother supports her daughter’s wishes, but the Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) disagrees.

The department seized Cassandra from her home, moved her to the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and forced her to receive chemotherapy there.

After two days, Cassandra refused further treatments and left the hospital and was missing for a week. Based on a trial court’s grant of authority, Cassandra was again seized by the DCF, moved to the hospital and force-fed the chemicals.

Welcome to 1984.

Legally, what is under consideration is the Connecticut’s Supreme Court’s consideration of the constitutionality of the “mature minor doctrine.” The doctrine, which is recognized by several states, not including Indiana, effectively permits 16- and 17-year-olds to prove they are mature enough to make challenging medical decisions for themselves.

The state should have the responsibility to make decisions, pass laws or enforce regulations that contribute to an individual’s and a society’s general well being or welfare, including physical health.

Liberty, though, is the responsibility of all of us. Liberty, or libertas, the freedom from state oppression, is the key value that our Founding Fathers knew separated us from other nations. It is at the heart of our constitutional rights.

Liberty must be balanced with order and security but it cannot be abandoned, suppressed or eliminated completely in favor of the other two values. If it is, then we no longer will live in a constitutional republic but in a centralized state-based country — no different than most European nations, whose citizenry long ago lost true freedom.

Stephen M. King, Ph.D., is an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Send comments to [email protected].

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