Israeli Teen Who Fled Hospital to Avoid Chemotherapy Agrees to Return

16-year-old boy agrees to undergo therapy after rabbis intervene.

The 16-year-old boy who fled Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center last week to avoid chemotherapy returned Tuesday after rabbis had urged him to do so.

The boy’s family has denied that his motives for leaving were religious, and a number of rabbis have recommended that he continue with the treatment. The boy’s uncle told Haaretz he hoped his nephew would stick with his decision, though the family insists the treatment must be based on consent, not coercion.

The dispute raises an ethical dilemma: a conflict between the sanctity of life and a patient’s rights. Treatment is usually given with a patient’s consent, with coercion prohibited.

But the situation is different with minors. Last year, a family court in Tiberias ordered the boy to undergo treatment, appointing a guardian because of the opposition of the boy and his parents. The guardian acceded to the court’s orders, but it is unclear if he has been in touch with the boy recently.

“This is a case of miscommunication and confusion — the patient’s lack of trust in his doctors, with the boy and his family anxious about the treatment,” said Dr. Tami Karni, the head of the ethics board at the Israel Medical Association. “This can be solved by persuasion and the rebuilding of confidence, or by transferring treatment to another location.”

Treatment should not be forced on the boy, she added.

“The boy concluded that he was being treated by court order rather than with compassion,” Karni said. “He needs convincing and support, with the help of his guardian. This is the guardian’s role, and not to serve as a rubber stamp.”