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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: What Rights Do Children Have? Part II of IV

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What Rights Do Children Have? Part II of IV

Health & Safety
Without question, every child has the right to be safe and healthy. If the guardian of a minor child cannot provide health and safety (the very minimum requirement of having a child) or directly violates this basic right, the State (i.e. Child Protective Services) has a duty to step in and protect that child’s right to health and safety. I do not typically advocate granting more power to the State, maybe someone will take my Libertarian card away, I don’t know. I reason the State has a role based on my premise that children are individuals and their rights must be protected.

That being said, this raises many more questions. At what point should the State step in? What is a reasonable standard of health and safety a child is entitled to? To these questions, I do not have an answer. To illustrate my point, I’ll describe some of the more extreme health and safety issues that a guardian must be held accountable for: abuse and neglect.

We all have some idea what child abuse is; there are far too many examples of it in the news everyday. No sane person would say that a parent ought to have the right to beat or molest his or her child. Most people would agree that the State should take children out of such an abusive environment. Sometimes, deciding whether a parent’s actions constitute neglect is an even more difficult question.

In Arizona, the two most common causes of death among children reported in the news is drowning and ‘baking’ in a vehicle. These stories particularly anger me because far too often, the parents are let off the hook. More times than not, the reason a child drowns is because the caregiver is not paying attention.

The stories that anger me even more are those where the caregiver LEAVES A CHILD IN A HOT VEHICLE. Anyone who has visited Phoenix, Arizona knows that temperatures routinely reach between 100 to 118 degrees F in the summer. Now, think about adding another 20 to 50 degrees on top of that! A child in a hot car has no chance of survival if left in a vehicle at these temperatures for any length of time.

There are even ad campaigns warning parents about leaving a baby alone in a car. I am amazed that there are adults that do not understand how dangerous this is. The PSA’s tell parents to LEAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT IN THE BACK SEAT (like a purse or a cell phone). Take a minute to let that statement sink in: ‘something important.’

Denying Medical Treatment
I think most of us can agree that allowing a child to drown or leaving a child in a hot car should be prosecutable offenses. Now here’s the part where I expect to get some hate mail: risking a child’s life because of one’s faith or belief system.

It sickens me to think that there are parents out there who will deny life-saving treatment for their child because of some moral or religious belief. Some will not take their child to the doctor because some faith healer used his or her mystical powers to rid the child of the affliction. Others believe it is sinful to be treated with blood transfusions and organ transplants. Their defense is one of two things: 1. ‘Doing so would violate my freedom to practice my religion’ or 2. ‘It’s my child and I have a right to decide what’s right for my child.’

I say both arguments are total b.s. Your child’s right to have the life-saving treatment trumps your right to practice your religion – period (save your demonstrations of faith on your own life, not your child who has no say in the matter). Secondly, once again, you do not own your child. Any parent who would deny critical medical treatment FOR ANY REASON (assuming it is not a Terri Schiavo type situation) should be prosecuted.

Next: Part III of this series I will be discussing a child’s fundamental right to be educated

4 Comments:

Blogger Mindwyrm said...

Health and safety are not rights for any individual, be it a child or an adult. Does the parent have an obligation upon them to protect the child? To a certain extent, yes. But it would be inane to say a child's right to safety had been violated cuz they skinned their knee learning to ride a bike. And getting the state involved is a bad idea when it comes to children in almost any situation. We live in a country where discipline, not beating, but a spanking would be considered abuse and SRS would take the kids away.

As for health, no one has the right to health. You don't. I don't. The children don't either. Lets face it, is sounds really silly to say your rights have been trampled on by a cold virus, now doesn't it? Do the parents have an obligation to care for their child? Yes they do, but how they do so is up to them. The parents are responsible for that child until it's age of consent so how they execute their responsibility is their choice. The parent who abuses their child is is not living up to that responsiblity. A parent who refuses to take a child to the doctor due to religious reasons is doing so, but in a way you or I wouldn't agree with. The way they see it, modern medicine endagers the child's soul and that has a far higher importance than the body. do I agree with that? Absolutely not, but it is the parents call to make, not yours or mine and most definitely not the states.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous A.L.L. said...

I would like to say to Mindwyrm that is seems like you are missing the point. This isn't about skinned knees and colds. When a parent puts their religious beliefs ABOVE the safety and well being of their child, they are endangering their childs health. If the parent doesn't want to seek treatment for themselves, so be it, but don't make a child suffer. If that child were to die due to their negligence, why should they get to hide behind their religion, while some parent who just negligent gets sent to jail? 'Because its against my religion' is a an excuse, and should not be tolerated. Children do not have the voice to say, 'Hey, I would like to be treated with western medicine so I can have a chance to live instead of being wrapped in a blanket, pretend to be born again, and possibly suffocate'! Why should parents get to make that kind of decision for the child? Let me ask you this... If a child whose parents don't believe in medical science to cure, end up with a child who has cancer, you don't think the state should step in to give that child a fighting chance? Because you know without proper treatment, that child would die. And in turn if that were to happen, those parents should be prosecuted and put in jail.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Rhymes With Right said...

You realize, of course, that your position here effectively denies the right of a parent to raise a child within his/her relitious faith, and furthermore subjects the practice of religion by both parent and child to the regulation of the state. Based upon your arguments, i also suspect you would insist on the state being permitted to override the religious scruples of the minor child, even if said child had reached the age of reason. What's more, your argument makes the state the arbiter of "appropriate" medical care -- sort of like the case we had here in Texas, where stating a desire for a second opinion was grounds for child-snatching by CPS.

You have an incredible trust in the goodness and benevolence of government, and a clear desire to allow it to intervene in the lives of anyone with whom you disagree. Not only do i think someone should take away your Libertarian card, I think there needs to be an investigation (perhaps by the government which you want regulating s much of live?) as to how said Libertarian card was issued in the first place.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Patri Friedman said...

I don't think these comments are fair at all. This doesn't deny the right of parent's to brainwash their kids to follow their stupid religions (can you tell I'm an atheist?), just the right to risk their health.

What is the difference between deliberately infecting your child with a pathogen, and refusing to give them antibiotics? I see none. In both cases the parent is taking action which directly causes the kid to be sick.

It is certainly true that having state enforcement is problematic, and likely to be bungled. But that doesn't mean it can't still be a win - just that the pre-state-incompetence goodness of the policy has to be high so that it can still be a win after being enforced by the govt.

As for "intervene in the lives of anyone with whom you disagree", that isn't true at all. The question of whether antibiotics are good for bacterial infections is not simply the posters opinion, but well-established medical fact. If we limit intervention to such situations, I don't see why it isn't libertarian. Is it unlibertarian to stop parents from murdering their kids? What is the difference between murdering them and letting a nasty disease spread with only prayer to help?

12:22 AM  

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