A lack of scientific literacy – and the examples of the extreme danger it poses – isn’t limited to being a U.S. problem. In Australia, a lack of understanding of how cancer therapies work has convinced at least one court to allow a parent to refuse a lifesaving treatment for their child.
Angela Kiszko, the mother of Oshin Kiszko, fought the courts in March. Her son, whose brain tumor spread before surgery could stop it, was likely to die without lifesaving measures. The court, at the time, ruled against the mother, ordering her to take Oshin in for chemotherapy. What was her reason for fighting against chemo?
“I don’t understand [chemotherapy and radiotherapy] and I’ve said it to the oncologist — I would be for it but I can’t understand it,” Kiszko said. “[treatment with] two carcinogenics just doesn’t make sense to me.”
That was her defense. Instead of researching and asking questions and making an effort to understand the life-saving treatment her son needed, she simply refused. She went on to compare chemotherapy to the “horrors the Nazis inflicted on the Jews,” and said in a “60 Minutes” interview that if faced with this kind of cancer herself, she would rather refuse treatment and die, and feels that this should be the decision for her son as well.
Professor Brian Owler, President of the Australian Medical Association, cited that Oshin’s chances of survival raise to 30% with chemotherapy, and could be as high as 80% with additional radiotherapy. The court, in March, ruled in favor of the doctors, and Oshin started chemotherapy shortly after his sixth birthday. Kiszko vowed to appeal the decision.
The good news ends there, though. On Monday, March 20, after two cycles of chemotherapy, the same judge handed down a ruling that Kiszko would not have to take her child in for radiotherapy in addition to chemo. This theoretically keeps Oshin’s chances of survival at 30%, and while this is better than Kiszko wanted, denying radiotherapy still means the odds of survival are against him.
So what does Kiszko want? Ultimately, it would appear that she would rather her son die, than to have his brain “fried with radiation.”
For the record, this is why scientific literacy is so important.
Featured image via 60 Minutes