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Court to rule on boy’s case this week

May 10, 2009
By Kurt Nesbitt - Staff Writer

NEW ULM - A judge will decide this week whether or not order a Sleepy Eye boy to undergo chemotherapy treatments.

Testimony concluded late Saturday afternoon in the child protection case involving Daniel Hauser, 13, of Sleepy Eye, who has nodular sclerosing Hodgkin's Lymphoma and is the subject of the child protection petition that Brown County District Court Judge John Rodenberg will decide.

At the close of the trial, Rodenberg asked attorneys for all four parties in the case to have their final written arguments submitted by the end of the day on Tuesday.

The request ended a second full day of testimony. The court heard from more doctors, many of whom practice the same kinds of natural medicine that the Hausers use, as well as testimony from a Sleepy Eye family physician, from Daniel himself, from Daniel's mother Colleen and from the county guardian ad litem.

The case centers around the boy's refusal to undergo chemotherapy that four doctors recommended. Brown County filed the child protection petition after one of those doctors expressed concern about the possibility of medical neglect.

The court day Saturday began with a request from attorney Tom Sinas, who represents the guardian ad litem, to add testimony from the Sleepy Eye family physician that saw Daniel Hauser earlier this year. Sinas said he had asked the doctor about some testimony Colleen Hauser gave Friday concerning a second visit and that the doctor had said Colleen Hauser's testimony was untrue.

Sinas also asked the court to exclude the testimony of all of the witnesses offered by the defense attorneys, arguing the doctors who were going to testify did not have licenses to practice medicine and had not actually seen or treated Daniel Hauser.

Attorney Calvin Johnson, representing Hauser's parents, argued the court must take into account the right to establish a foundation for the case. He said the state legislature has recognized naturopathy, an alternative medicine system that focuses on natural remedies and the body's ability to heal itself, and that one of the witnesses has been practicing a cancer care system that is also recognized.

Rodenberg said Sinas' motion had merit because both sides could "inundate" the court with testimony, which would drag the case out. The judge took both motions under advisement.

Dr. James Joyce, a family physician in Sleepy Eye, saw Daniel Hauser twice - once in January and again on May 8. Joyce has stayed in contact with them regularly.

He testified Colleen first brought Daniel in because he had shortness of breath. Joyce was the first doctor to identify the mass in Daniel's chest. He referred Daniel to Children's Hospital in Minneapolis on the same day the mass was identified. Joyce testified he felt it best that Daniel be treated early because of the possibility of the advancement of the disease. Joyce said he would not have recommended Daniel see a naturopathic doctor.

Joyce said during his testimony that Daniel's diagnosis was not the same as Daniel's aunt's, who died after having chemotherapy.

When Joyce saw Daniel again on Thursday, he found Daniel had not developed any more problems and told the boy he looked better than the last time Joyce saw him, but did not mean to imply anything about Daniel's cancer. Joyce said he performed an X-ray to check a low-grade fever Daniel had.

Joyce said he recommends alternatives to his best recommendations, such as hospice care, supportive care and pain management. He testified that as a member of the Catholic Medical Association, he believes in miracles.

"Usually in conjunction with conventional therapy," he said.

Joyce said he also believes in what he called "guided autonomy" - a person making their own decisions with guidance - and that respect for autonomy is the "foundation of medicine." But he does not believe that 13 is an age where a person has enough of a "grasp on longevity."

When she returned to the witness stand Saturday afternoon, Colleen Hauser said she has not been allowing the Nemenhah's chief medicine man in Minnesota, Dan Zwakman, to test Daniel. She said he is "watching the case" for the chief of the band and helping with support for the case. She said she has never used any kind of machine on Daniel, although she received a book from a friend that has devices in it that were patented in the 1920s. Zwakman later refused to comment.

Dr. Clyde Norman Shealy, a neurological surgeon specializing in chronic pain, said he has treated people who have not responded to "traditional methods".

"You couldn't pay me a million dollars to have chemotherapy. When you look at the total range of chemotherapy, it's killed more people that it's cured," he said.

He said he believes "four months of life is not worth six months of chemotherapy." He said chemotherapy will "clobber cancer" but will also lower a person's white blood cell count, so infection can become more common.

Shealy said he is not an oncologist or trained in oncology and does not provide cancer treatments, although he treats people who have cancer.

He said he values his patients' beliefs and that he believes "there is a spiritual and moral law forcing us never to give therapy to a patient without consent."

He cited some examples of people who have beaten diseases using only natural remedies, including a man who used Vitamin C injections and beat bladder cancer. He said "natural treatments" have no negative effects.

He said the University of Cologne has studied the kinds of treatments he prescribes, particularly in relation to chemotherapy.

He said most cancer studies are funded either by the National Institute of Health, by foundations or by drug companies. He said studies done on Vitamin C are not done "because they're not pushed by the pharmacological mafia." Studies have been done on Vitamin C with respect to cancer treatments in Germany, Switzerland and England.

"It's criminal to force therapy on a child when the parents object to it," he said, when asked if he would ever do so.

Shealy said he has never seen Daniel Hauser and didn't review any of the doctor's reports except for a summary of them provided by Calvin Johnson, the parent's attorney.

While Shealy would not take chemotherapy himself, he said he believes patients have the right to choose their treatment. He said chemotherapy and radiation are the standard treatments for cancer.

Shealy said he would allow a child of at least 12 years of age to make the decision about medical care because a child of that age "has enough maturity to make the decision."

Shiree Oliver, guardian ad litem, was the last person to testify in the case. She said she reviewed doctor's reports and spoke with three of the doctors who have seen Daniel Hauser. Oliver met with the Hausers on their farm on April 21 and they talked about Daniel's cancer treatment. She said Colleen told her the symptoms were gone and that she did not want to continue with the therapy because of how sick Daniel became.

She said Daniel was "very quiet and shy" and "looked to his mother often for answers before he answered me."

Oliver said she doesn't believe Daniel Hauser understands the situation. She said she doesn't believe Daniel understands "because he doesn't feel sick now."

Oliver spoke with three of the doctors who testified in the case - Dr. Bostrom, Dr. Kotulski and Dr. Joyce - to get opinions as to the best course of treatment. She said none of the doctors she spoke with thought Daniel understood the severity of the situation.

Oliver said her opinion, "based on conversations with Daniel's doctors, parents and school personnel, it is in the best interest for this petition to be adjudicated."

Oliver said she thinks Daniel's fear is caused by his aunt's death and said she would recommend he see a counselor.

Oliver said she doesn't fully understand the Nemenhah's religious beliefs and doesn't believe Daniel Hauser fully understands his religious beliefs or has the capacity to make decisions on his medical care by himself. The naturopathic doctors who testified had not conducted tests, she said, and because she did not think their information was tested, she didn't consider the information by the defense' doctors to be reliable.

Before adjourning, Rodenberg told the court, "I'm sure we all had plans for Saturday different from this."

He told the gallery, which was not as full as on Friday, that he appreciated their attention to the case and said "there are people who have strong feelings about this case one way or the other. I seldom see this large a group of people this courteous or respectful."

 
 

 

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