I think anyone reading about this will have a knee-jerk reaction that the judge in the case made the wrong decision. The AP quotes judge Meyer as saying that the boy understood the consequences of his decision, which may well be true, in an analytical sense. Young Mr. Lindberg probably understood that he would die, but there are very few 14-year-olds, let alone 14-year-old boys, who have a good appreciation of what that means. Death isn’t something you understand unless you’ve spent some time around it, brushed up against it. And think of the teenagers you know. Would you trust any of them with life-and-death decisions? Hell, we don’t trust 14-year-olds with cars. It’s also true that the boy’s parents, who did not have custody of him, wanted him to take the transfusion—could his relationship with them have played a role in his decision?
So Meyer can be justly criticized on the grounds that Lindberg was not competent to make that judgment, or that it wasn’t Lindberg’s judgment to make. However, it should also be pointed out that this was not some one-off transfusion that would instantly cure the boy. The treatment under discussion was a long course of transfusions that would run alongside the chemotherapy. And according to the doctors the prognosis was that he had a 70% chance of surviving the ordeal, with all the discomfort and side effects to boot. Being forced to undergo the treatment against his will would certainly make this harder on the boy, and on his doctors.
That said, I personally feel that Meyer should have erred on the side of curing the boy. Lindberg’s decision was dangerous and self-destructive, and this should have indicated the opposite ruling. However, I wasn’t present for the hearing, and the decision Meyer did make wasn’t groundless. Maybe there was something in Lindberg’s demeanor suggesting greater maturity than his age would typically indicate.
You’ll note that I didn’t say anything about the religious sensibilities. That is because I give them no weight at all. Lots of people dislike the Jehovah’s Witnesses for a variety of reasons, but I’ve never been bothered by them; certainly not to the degree that I am bothered by other odious “Christians” living a life of hatred at maximum volume. So this is not a statement emerging from a blanket dislike: their attitude towards transfusion reeks of ignorance, superstition, and flat-earthism. The soul, if it exists, is not bound up in any bodily organ or fluid. Certainly people who have received massive blood transfusions have not absorbed someone else’s soul—or at least I’m sure that didn’t happen to me.
There is a bright line with religious beliefs, especially laws of practice: they’re fine as long as they don’t hurt anyone. We in America do not allow cannibalism or polygamy, although these are both religious practices with long histories. Nor are we tolerant of female genital mutilation, stoning people to death for violations of the laws of Leviticus, or human sacrifice, religious practices all. This indoctrination against lifesaving medical procedures is just as dangerous and fatal, especially when the subject is a teenager lacking in perspective and a diversity of life experiences. Judge Meyer made a mistake by allowing Lindberg to finish the deed, but it was the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their purity practices that killed that boy. That ought not be allowed.