Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Case of Justina Pelletier Still Requires Nuance

It's not all that regular that I venture away from the topic of vaccines. I should do it more frequently (and there is one topic I really want to write about if I find the time), but for the most part, I stick to immunizations and the anti-vaccine movement. Now and then, though, I do venture onto other, rather more nuanced subjects. There are certain areas of medicine and ethics that are far less clear cut than whether or not vaccines are safe and effective. For instance, what happens when parents and doctors disagree about a treatment plan for a child? What rights to the parents retain? Can there be questions about who is acting in the best interests of the child? Can a parent's wishes trump their child's preferences?

Two years ago, I wrote about the rather complex case of Justina Pelletier (please read that post for a more detailed discussion of the case at the time). This was a case involving a teenage girl caught between two competing, and controversial, clinical diagnoses: mitochondrial disorder and somatoform disorder. Her story is back in the news, but before I dive into the new developments, some background is in store.