The story of Danny Hauser began here in Minnesota, but in the last week or so has become an item in the national news. The story raises a number of questions and issues about refusing necessary medical treatment and the use of complimentary therapies in the treatment of life-threatening diseases.
In January, 13-year old Danny Hauser was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of cancer that is usually survivable with treatment. In February, Danny had his first chemotherapy and radiation treatment. However, he felt so ill from the side effects, that his family sought two second opinions. Both doctors felt Danny’s cancer was treatable and recommended continued chemotherapy.
In April, when Danny failed to show up for his chemotherapy appointments, the county was alerted, and a legal battle ensued, with a judge ruling on May 15 that Danny must resume treatment. Later that week Danny and his mother failed to appear in court, and Danny’s father testified that the pair left their home, presumably heading to Mexico for some kind of alternative treatments.
The Hausers belong to the Nemenhah movement, which uses Native American healing methods such as herbal remedies. They told the court that they would deal with Danny’s cancer using alternative medical therapies.
It would seem that the Hausers are making a common assumption that non-traditional healing therapies are mutually exclusive with Western medicine, which is not the case. In the past, modalities such as acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, herbal medicine, and visualization have been called alternative therapies. However, they have taken on the new designation of “complimentary”, with the idea that many of these therapies work well with and enhance Western medical treatments.
It would make sense that anyone diagnosed with cancer would want to use every tool available to them to survive the disease and ease their symptoms. In Danny’s case, taking ginger capsules and having acupuncture prior to his treatments could have greatly diminished his side effects. Ginger, a common Chinese herb has recently been documented to help with chemotherapy related nausea, if taken a few days before the drugs are administered.
Similarly, I have direct experience with patients going through chemotherapy in which acupuncture has diminished or eliminated their symptoms, especially those of nausea and fatigue. The key is in the timing and the commitment to use all the resources available without compromising chances of survival, which unfortunately, seems to be lost on the Hauser family.