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What is Informed Consent?

OPB | Jan. 20, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:12 p.m.

Faith healing is back in the news.

We’ve talked about faith healing twice in the last year: once when the Ava Worthington case first came to light and then again when the verdict was released. (Carl Brent Worthington, fifteen-month-old Ava’s father, was found guilty of criminal mistreatment in the second degree and sentenced to 60 days in jail; her mother, Raylene, was acquitted on all counts.) For both shows, we mainly focused on how this particular case would fare as the first real test of Oregon’s 1999 faith healing law.

Neil Beagley’s death brings up a related but different constellation of questions. The 16-year-old — who was Ava Worthington’s uncle — died in June 2008 of complications from a blocked urinary tract. Beagley had said he didn’t want to see a doctor, and was given a faith-healing session. A state medical examiner later found that the blockage could have been fixed with a catheter.

Under Oregon law, children 15 years of age and older can seek medical care independent of their parents. But there is some legal disagreement about whether that also means they can refuse care. Opponents of faith healing have also called into question an individual’s ability to give informed consent if he has never had experience with the medical system. In other words, can you give meaningful consent for or against a particular treatment if you don’t know really know what you’re getting… or turning down?

What experience have you had with Oregon’s informed consent laws — as a healthcare provider, or a first responder, or a lawyer, or a patient?

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