Monday, January 5, 2009

A Preventable Death?

America is known as the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” Are we brave when we put our children at risk because of our beliefs? Certainly personal liberties are part and parcel of the American way of life. But, what is the cost? I have been somewhat following the news related to the untimely death of John Travolta’s son Jett in a Bahamian bath tub. The Travolta’s have kept their personal life fairly secret—except for their belief in Scientology. As more is learned, Jett Travolta evidently had several medical conditions including a seizure disorder and Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease is a somewhat enigmatic disease that affects 19 out of every 100,000 kids. It is readily treated and seizures have not been reported. But, evidently Jett was treated with a Scientology-prescribed course of "detoxification" that included a regimen of diet and saunas that the church claims is purifying. He evidently never received the prevailing therapy of gamma globulin.

As more is starting to emerge, it appears that Jett may have suffered from autism. Seizures are certainly more common in autistic children when compared to those who are not autistic. But, the “church” of Scientology does not recognize autism as a disease. Instead, Scientology doctrine states that people with disabilities, like autism, are classified as "degraded" and capable of curing themselves by working harder on the church's teachings (ask any parent of an autistic child if they have seen self-healings).

Likewise, Scientology discourages the use of medications—especially medications that act on the central nervous system (including anticonvulsants). How can one forget the rantings of Tom Cruise in regard to Brooke Shield’s confession that she was treated for post-partum depression? Thus, Jett may not have been taking medications that would have theoretically saved his life (this statement is based upon a New York Post article posted January 4, 2009). Mark Twain’s daughter Jean died of a seizure while taking a bath. Twain grieved over this until his death four months later. Jean Twain died in 1909—100 years before Jett Travolta. Yet, they were both provided the same level of care for their seizure disorder—apparently nothing.

Many “stars” have touted the “risks” of vaccinations. Jenny McCarthy has spoken out against vaccines. On the other hand, Amanda Peet has spoken out for childhood vaccinations—almost militantly. But, because of this, she has incurred the wrath of the liberal, green Hollywood community. She stated to ABC News, “"I don't think parents should be taking medical advice from actors. I take medical advice from several pediatricians, other doctors, the CDC, and the American Academy of Pediatrics." What a smart young lady!

The death of Jett Travolta is sad. What may be sadder is that it may have been totally preventable. I certainly respect cultures, traditions, and religions. But, I am more inclined to support those who have spent their life immersed in a culture. In other words, that is all they know. The Hmong act of “coining” comes to mind. Many western practitioners thought it child abuse until they understood the belief system and found it was actually an act of love. Now, for the Travolta’s, Scientology is a learned belief system. Many would call it a cult. How does a Scientologist’s practice of withholding needed medical care differ from those of Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses? I have seen courts order treatment for children of Christian Scientists and transfusions for Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why have they not stepped in on Scientology?

In terms of vaccinations, they save lives. But, with every endeavor there are the outliers. For example the child who dies following a vaccine or the child who dies in a car seat after being strangled by the strap. These events are sad, yet unpredictable. Withholding vaccines will kill many more than giving vaccines will. The act of withholding vaccines from a child not only puts the child at risk—but also other children.—an elitist attitude at the least. I have seen children with German measles, hepatitis B, pertussis, mumps, and similar childhood diseases. They are quite sick and no child should suffer these afflictions.

In regard to Jett Travolta, I hope the family and friends find peace—and eventually wisdom.

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