What age is old enough to decide your fate ?

hannah jones“I know I decided I definitely didn’t want this but everyone’s entitled to change their mind.”

Meet Hannah Jones. She’s 14, and is recuperating at home having had a heart transplant.

She’s spent most of her life in and out of hospital because she had leukeamia, and that in turn caused her to develop a hole in her heart.

When she was told she would ned a transplant – that the operation was risky AND  she’d need another heart in ten years, she decided she’d rather die at home.

A decision that  led to legal action and a lot of praise from around the world.

Here’s what her father Andrew said at the time :

Hannah made that decision consciously on her own, a bit like a grown up, even though she was only 12 at the time and she has maintained that decision.How she coped with it, what her mind was thinking at the time, I’ve got great admiration for her in that and, as I said, we have to support her and her decision.”

But Hannah changed her mind , as she is entitled to do, but some have argued that this is why decisions like this should be made only when people are older.

here’s the story of 13 year old Daniel Hauser and also this one about  Dennis Lindberg, which may provide further food for thought.

When are you old enough to decide to refuse treatment ? Should it always be a decision made by adults ?

23 Responses to “What age is old enough to decide your fate ?”

  1. 1 Deryck/Trinidad
    July 30, 2009 at 11:56

    When are you old enough to decide to refuse treatment ? Should it always be a decision made by adults ?

    It depends on the context of the situation and the situations and contexts can be innumerable. Every case is different, every child and parent are different so it would be injudicious of me to give an answer.

    “What age is old enough to decide your fate ?”

    There is no absolute answer to this question as the same issues of context and the individual case or situation arises.

  2. 2 Rob (UK)
    July 30, 2009 at 13:16

    It’s easy to argue with a cut off at a certain age, but if a person refuses treatment then it would be a bit difficult to impose that. A two year old crying over an injection is one thing, but it would be a bit odd to force a 12 year old into a heart transplant operation.

  3. 3 Tom K in Mpls
    July 30, 2009 at 14:15

    We need to put the ‘poster child’ aspect of this aside. Children commonly make well considered decision. Sometimes it’s just a lucky fluke, others are consistent. You have to know the person to know the case. Also I have know several parents over the age of 30 that are still children when it comes to responsible decisions. The experience of age clearly helps, but is no guarantee.

    People change their minds. The reasons are to many and too diverse to debate. We just need to acknowledge that they have the right to. Since it is impossible to judge who is responsible on an individual basis, industrialized societies have adopted an age of joining the majority. Failures are then judged individually. Sometimes this age gets moved based on observations.

    In this case, as in any with children involved, the responsibility falls on the parents. They can choose to follow the wishes of the child or not for any reason they choose. If they act within the law they are not accountable to anyone. I see nothing to debate here.

  4. 4 patti in cape coral
    July 30, 2009 at 14:29

    I thought the parents were responsible for a minor’s decisions until the age of 18, legally? In any case, I would hope that even if the parents made the decision, they would take their own child’s character and wishes into account .

    • 5 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 11:34

      Parents do make decisions for their children.But at 12 a child knows pretty well what is going on.Sick children who have dealt with treatments for years understand very well what their situation is.If your reasonable and intelligent child decided they did or didn’t want something very important you have to believe their opinion counts very much.At 12 they could also be affected very badly if you forced a dangerous operation on them with no thought for their wishes.If only the interests of medicine would realize the wishes of the peoplle who are actually IN the situation matter the most!

  5. 6 Venessa
    July 30, 2009 at 14:30

    Just because we have medical science that prolongs life or allows those to live that otherwise would not, it does not mean people should be forced to use it. Mind your own business people, this is a private matter for these families and no one else’s business.

    Don’t you think its better for you to decide what is best for your child; not your neighbors or would you want them poking their nose into your private business?

  6. 7 Anthony
    July 30, 2009 at 15:57

    Yeah, at age 12 I’d make a decison that might be different at 14, just like at 18 I made decisions that are totally different now at 28, which will be very different when I’m 50. I don’t see what the big hoopla is?

    And forget about age, let’s look at people I.Q.’s and maturity.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 8 Helen
      August 3, 2009 at 11:52

      In America the doctors and courts get involved when you don’t do what they want you to do for your child.We should look at the IQ and maturity of those people,too,don’t you think?And I bet they’d be screming Invasion of Privacy at the infringement of their civil rights;like in Orwell’s Animal Farm,”some people are More Equal than others.”

  7. 9 John in Salem
    July 30, 2009 at 16:00

    It’s a tough call because everyone can have an opinion but only the patient can tell the doctor how he or she feels. It just isn’t possible to set a one-size-fits-all rule.
    But I think that Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act can provide a good framework for such decisions. Patients have to be diagnosed by at least two separate doctors and evaluated for mental instability or depression no matter what age they are. If parents want to be respectful of their child’s wishes and be comfortable with their choices it would seem like a good place to start.

  8. 10 archibald
    July 30, 2009 at 16:37

    If a child has been living with a disease or debilitating condition for most of their lives, chances are that they know what they want to do about it, if given options. Parents are the legal guardians and ultimate decision makers (under current laws), but, as we have seen with the recent acquittal of faith healing parents who allowed their child to die needlessly, not all are qualified.
    Leave the fate up to the one that must face it, unless they are unable to cogently decide, age is not always indicative of awareness.

  9. 11 Jennifer
    July 30, 2009 at 17:19

    I am going to say that at 18 a person has the legal right to make their own choices as an adult. However, that doesn’t mean that they will be the best choices…

  10. 12 steve
    July 30, 2009 at 19:08

    I think she should be able to sue those who forced her to undergo the treatment. It’s not a walk in the park to have your heart transplanted, and then need another one done in 10 years, let alone being on the antirejection medications that weaken your immune system and susceptible to other illnesses. Sounds like a life of hell, and she should be compensated for it.

    • 13 patti in cape coral
      July 31, 2009 at 00:33

      Did I miss something? It doesn’t appear that she was forced to undergo the heart transplant. She changed her own mind, that’s what the article said. She said that she was given a better prognosis at this time because she had grown since they gave her the last prognosis, so she was stronger, and the transplant would lessen the amount of medications she was taking now, so she decided to go ahead and have it. It sounded like an informed decision to me, and her parents supported it, as they supported her first decision.

  11. 14 steve
    July 31, 2009 at 13:21

    @ patti

    Do you think the original choice was really hers to make? Remember that kid in the US that tried chemo, then switched to alternative methods, and the government forced him to go on chemo again despite his and his parents’ objections because of the side effects of chemo, which are horrible?

  12. 15 patti in cape coral
    July 31, 2009 at 17:01

    @ Steve – I don’t know for sure, but the way the article said it, it seemed like both choices were hers, and her parents supported both of them. Maybe it is easy for me to believe at least that the first decision was her own, because I think it would be hard for a parent to make that choice. I could be wrong of course. She just gives good reasons for both decisions, made with the information she had at the time.

  13. August 1, 2009 at 12:05

    Given this life worldwide, I have no problem with anyone who wants a fast track to the afterlife without taking anyone else with them against their will. Cures to illnesses not exits from them should be the global priority. It isn’t.

  14. 17 byonabz peter
    August 1, 2009 at 14:14

    i believ the right to make decision should be left to adults because most times children may
    not make the best choices.
    Ignorance being a major factor

  15. 18 Helen
    August 2, 2009 at 23:56

    Adults also make bad decisions and decissions they regret(look at the divorce rate).That she changed her mind is an event in-flux with the situation around her decision.That she was afraid or resigned to go without more pain and die,or face the risk and maybe die anyway is also a decision an adult might make.My thinking is that a child shouldn’t make the choice,but it is also not up to others outside the family to make a child suffer with horrible treatments;forced medical treatments are unreasonable because “medicine”has an interest in promoting medicine and treatments;it should not be allowed to dominate the landscape,the way it does.

  16. 19 Dennis Junior
    August 3, 2009 at 04:54

    I support the idea, that the decision of what age to decide your fate: Is if you are MATURE (age notwithstanding) to know the consequences of your actions….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  17. 20 Katharine Rutherford
    August 4, 2009 at 20:06

    Your fate is already decided.

    August 6, 2009 at 13:35

    It depends on the child and the circumstances. I was 16 years old when I quit smoking marijuana after barely a week after initiation by ‘friends’. My parents did not know about it because these things work like faint watermarks at the background of parental guidance and yet they have a profound impact on individuals well-being. I was not a ‘prophet child’ but I realized that I could not handle the new feeling that well.

    Looking back, I am very lucky this decision came to me. I doubt that I am all that pure by avoiding it for ever, but I doubt it would have a added a moon or a star in my universe. No regrets as well; in fact am happy about that today even though I became a cigarette smoker; a habit that I would advice young people to avoid.

    Children should be encouraged to make decisions on their own. However, some decision need parental vetting because they can negatively impact a child’s future.

  19. 22 scmehta
    August 10, 2009 at 14:03

    Who are we to comment on fate!
    And who are we decide or specify the age for providence!
    Let’s not encroach upon God’s territory.
    All the hopeless & the helpless must look upto the Almighty for deliverance as per His choice of ‘ time & manner’.

  20. 23 Bill
    August 10, 2009 at 18:44

    The trouble is that societies set rules (based on age or marital status or killing a lion) that identify when children graduate to adulthood.
    These societal decisions are the cost of living in a group that has rules.

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