Bill Would Block State From Interferring in 'Competent' Parents' Medical Decisions

Bill Would Block State From Interferring in 'Competent' Parents' Medical Decisions

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- State Sen. Dave Thomas plans legislation that would exempt "competent" parents from state interference in their decisions on medical treatment for their children.

The South Weber Republican said the Parker Jensen case highlighted the need for a medical exclusion in the state's abuse law.

He said the state should respect parents' decisions on medical treatment.

"We sometimes have the narrow focus that the state knows all," he said. "Loving parents know more about that child than the state does."

Daren and Barbara Jensen who fled the state with their 12-year-old son after he was diagnosed with cancer and they refused to allow chemotherapy for him.

State officials said Monday they would not seek to remove Parker from his parent's care or force him to undergo chemotherapy. However, a juvenile judge still has that option and a hearing is set for Oct. 8.

Under Thomas' proposal, a judge would decide if parents were competent, based in part on any prior abuse or neglect reports. If the judge ruled the parents were competent, the state would back out.

"They would make the choice, and the state could not come back and say we disagree with that choice and charge them with medical neglect," he said.

Parental rights advocates say that while the bill is a step in the right direction, it still leaves too much power in the state's hands.

"We don't need government or any legislators to butt in our business on how we (medically) treat our children," said Connie Roska of the Utah Families Association.

Sandra Lucas of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights said many parents would not be able to afford a court battle.

"I think Dave Thomas may have the right idea, but the competency thing -- I don't think it will go far," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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