Here is a terrible story.
Clicking on the title of this entry will direct you to a troubling article about a 13 year old child with treatable Hodgekins Lymphoma who, along with his family, is refusing treatment (chemo and radiation) in favor of "complimentary" and "alternative" medicine. Were it an older person, say 18, clearly an adult capable of making their own personal decisions, this is a non-story. Foolish to be sure, but not stretching the limits of decent guardianship.
In any event, this story is deeply instructive I think, in that it demonstrates the limits of Gould's pet notion, that non-overlaping Magisteria of religions and science may exist but if they do they are the exception and not the rule. Here it isn't Christian Science, or Jehovah's Witnesses that are causing the problem, as they often do, but a Native American Traition, Nemenhah. They believe that chemotherapy is wrong because it is, "self destructive and poisonous." The boy who is the center of this sad tale is on record as saying, "I want to live a virtous life, not just a long one." If he doesn't acquiece to treatment, he may only get a shot at the former
What I am left wondering is this. At what age we can expect people to make these kind of decisions for themselves, and should we intervene when people are behaving in ways that are clearly not in the best interest of those they are charged with caring for and raising who are themselves to young to act on their own behalf? Is thirteen too young? 15? 10?