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Abraham’s Law

In August of 2005, Abraham Cherrix and his parents received the news that every family dreads. Fifteen-year-old Abraham was sick with Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer. For the next several months, the Virginia teenager endured conventional chemotheraphy. By February, his cancer remained. His doctors then recommended a more aggressive therapy, consisting of a higher dosage of chemo, radiation, and stem cell treatment. If he endured this treatment and its miserable side effects, his odds of survival were placed at below 50 percent. Facing such odds, the young man and his parents decided to pursue an alternative “natural” remedy.

But the Virginia Department of Social Services would have none of it. With all the characteristic arrogance of petty bureaucrats, DSS sought to wrest control of Abraham’s treatment. Abraham’s parents faced neglect charges, losing custody of their sick son, and imprisonment, while Abraham was threatened with having to submit to the higher dosage of chemo. In what were likely to be his last month’s of life, DSS sought to increase Abraham’s sufferring while withholding from him the thoughtful care of his own parents.

On August 16, 2006, Accomack Circuit Court Judge Glen Tyler cleared Abraham’s parents of all charges of medical neglect and allowed Abraham to pursue alternative treatment under a doctor of the family’s choice. He is now receiving the treatment he and his parents prefer.

This horrific story of bureaucratic overreach spawned Abraham’s Law, a bill that passed the Virginia Senate last week and would allow parents to refuse medical treatment under some conditions without facing neglect charges. A similar bill had already passed the House.

The Virginia legislature has done a good thing. But it’s outrageous that a law is needed to protect parents’ right to pursue the best treatment, in their judgment, for their sick children.

The legislature’s next step should be a thorough-going purge of every DSS bureaucrat who presumes to worsen a family’s nightmare.

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