Cancer. The word, spoken in reference to a medical condition, is one of the most frightening utterances a person can hear from their doctor and that goes double for a parent hearing it about their child. We still know so little about what causes it and how to fight it that it is, in many case, akin to a death sentence.
What if I were to tell you that a virus is responsible for a common type of cancer? Further, what would be your response if I were to tell you that there’s a vaccine for this virus? If I were to assert that there’s a vaccine you can give your kid that would provide nearly complete protection (yes, nearly. Nothing in medicine is absolute.) from this common type of cancer for the rest of their life, how would you reply?
This is not a hypothetical, folks. There is a virus that’s responsible for a common cancer type and there is a vaccine for it. HPV, the human papilloma virus, has been conclusively shown to cause or permit several types of cervical cancer in women. A vaccine against this strain of HPV is now available and there are government agencies who are recommending that all girls be vaccinated before they’re 11 or 12, presumed to be well before they begin sexual activity. I’ve written about this before and I’ve written about the resistance to this vaccine being offered by the more socially conservative side of the conservative side because – and I’m not making this up – they think that offering such a vaccine would promote premarital sex. I think that’s ridiculous and that they’re being incredibly irresponsible in their parental duties by knowingly leaving their daughters vulnerable to this disease.
That said, I’m not sure I disagree with the notion contained within the bill passed by the Virginia House yesterday that gives parents more say in whether or not to vaccinate their daughters with this drug. The amendment is to a bill that has passed both the State House and Senate that would require girls to be so vaccinated before entering the 6th grade. The amendment would permit parents to review information about the vaccine and exempt their daughters if they wished. There are already exemptions available for religious or medical reasons. I can’t think of a good reason to exempt someone other than a medical or religious reason, but that’s just me.
The issue is also part of a wider debate embodied in the passage of “Abraham’s Law” that would permit parents to refuse a medical treatment regimen for their children. Named after a then-16-year-old boy named Starchild Abraham Cherrix, it would permit parents to refuse a specific treatment and not face neglect charges under specific circumstances. Abraham-Cherrix was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to refuse another round of chemotherapy. His parents agreed and his doctors took them to court to force the treatment. The courts initially agreed with the doctors and ordered the treatment but a higher court overruled them.
While I’m sure they mean well, I think doctors should always – and I mean in every case – come in behind parents in deciding what medical treatment a child must undergo. I find it disconcerting that we even need a law to protect parents in that regard, but it’s apparently necessary.
What do you guys think?