Friday, December 26, 2008

Amish Boy to Have Surgery Thanks to Very Smart Judge

Sometimes judges do the most foolish things, e.g., the judge in Douglasville who demanded a Muslim lady remove her headscarf in order to remain in the courtroom. Goofy. And unconstitutional. That judge has been referred to an ethics board by the GA attorney general for his egregious misconduct. (Click here for link to that story.)

But every once-in-a-while, a judge does something that is so amazingly brilliant that I stand in awe. Such is the case with Barbara R. Potter, a Family Court judge in St. Lawrence County, NY. That lady is so intelligent that she =must= be Baptist.

Here's the dilemma that came before her. An Amish boy, Eli Hershberger, was born in April 2007 with a hole in his heart. The only way to save the boy's life was to have surgery. The parents' faith, however, demanded they not seek the surgery.

So what do we do? The parents' religion won't allow the surgery lest their version of faith say they sinned against God. The county social workers have to look out for the welfare of Eli. The judge has to follow the law that protects the religious freedom of the parents while also serving the best interest of the child. Eli has no say, despite it being a life or death matter --- so that is why the judge has to rule.

And what a brilliant ruling she made.

The judge ruled that it is obvious the parents cared for the child & were in every regard good parents. The issue was the parents' faith. So while protecting the child's life & the parents' religious beliefs, the judge issued a very narrow ruling, saying the child had only been 'medically neglected." That means the parents may retain custody of the child but are not required to sign the consent form for the surgery. Thus the ruling took the parents out of the decision making process regarding the surgery but retained all other parental rights & responsibilities.

Think of the challenge this was for the Amish community. Think of the challenge it was for the social workers. But the judge --- wow. What a lady. I'm certain she =must= be Baptist. Must be. A genius ruling like this =must= be Baptistic ... She just has to be ...

A narrow ruling like that is a win-win-win for everyone.

Here's a snippet from the Watertown Daily Times.

"I don't think it was a compromise as much as it was a way for them to avoid giving their consent," said William J. Galvin, the county's conflict public defender representing Mr. Hershberger. "Their religion doesn't allow them to consent to the surgery, so what we asked today is that the court make a decision such that they would essentially be taken out of it."
The neglect case could be dismissed, providing the Hershbergers comply with the conditions of the judge's ruling. Those conditions include taking Eli to all medical checkups and providing doctors with his medical information.

Thanks to Howard Friedman for this info. Religion Clause: Court Issues Finely-Tuned Ruling In Ordering Surgery For Amish Boy

1 comment:

Georgia Mountain Man said...

Yes. That judge put her "thinking cap" on, and worked out a magnificent compromise. Great story. Thanks for posting it.