Judge Forces Hysterectomy

The audacity of people:

The following story reads like it was lifted directly from the script of a controversial medical drama like Grey’s Anatomy. But those shows are fictional, and, sadly, this heartbreaking story is actually true.

A cancer patient in Montana — identified only as L.K. — refused to undergo a hysterectomy as treatment for her cancer on the grounds that she is deeply religious and wants to have children. That’s sad enough in it’s own right. But no one could have foreseen what happened next: A judge found her “mentally incompetent” based on her “delusional religious beliefs” and ruled she was to have the procedure.

The Montana Supreme Court has halted the surgery to allow for an appeal, but in the interim let’s ponder this question: Since when do we force people to be sterilized in this country?

On one side of the case we have L.K.’s physician and psychiatrist testifying that without the surgery she could die in three years and that her “religious delusions” — namely, that God had cured her — interfered with her ability to make reasoned decisions about her care.

On the other, we have L.K. herself saying that while she did understand that she had been diagnosed with cancer and did understand the risks of dying if she did not have the procedure, she didn’t want it. (She also said that she might change her mind later about following her doctors’ recommendations.) Alas, this wasn’t enough to convince Judge Karen Townsend that she was of sound mind.

To be fair, it’s likely that Townsend acted in what she thought was the best interest of this woman: By ordering L.K. to have the lifesaving surgery, she was potentially saving her life. However, an involuntary hysterectomy — do I even have to say it? — violates a woman’s dignity and autonomy. The court is inserting itself into a very private matter: how a woman chooses to treat her illness. Not to mention the fact that the argument that L.K. was incapacitated because of her delusional religious beliefs is a direct challenge to her right to religious freedom.

In other words, is adherence to strong religious beliefs even in the face of a life-threatening disease a sign of incompetency? I think there are some people — maybe even a lot of people who might call that “faith.”


It is unnerving to see such a decision being handed down by the American judiciary.  This is the very action that makes a mockery of the concept of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The freedom to choose from ones available treatment option (even if that choice is none of them) is fundamental to being a free person.

Further, the reasoning behind the decision, religious delusion, is in direct contradiction with the concept of freedom of religion.  Just because the judge (i.e. “the state”) does not agree with the religious ideals expressed by the lady is no reason to rule against her.  It is unconstitutional.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not favor hyper-religious people and cultures.  I think the lady was making the wrong decision, too.  But that does not give me the right to think that I know what is best for her.

It is audacious, this culture that we find ourselves in.  More and more, people (and government) think that they know what is best for others.  It is something that seems to be related to the timidity and apathy with which our society is finding itself confronting modern issues.  While other, more oppressed peoples are rising up and demanding change, we are just grumbling under our breath and hoping for the best.  Meanwhile, we are seeing record numbers of people taking milk from the government teet.

The majority of the laws in the US deal with victimless crimes.  This means that we are putting people in jail to “protect them from themselves”.  A good example are drug crimes.  And, after the above ruling, it is a long way from the decision of Roe v Wade.  The momentum is seemingly on the side of oppression, with an authoritarian leadership that knows what is best for you, and is willing to punish you to help you.

How much more of this will people stand for?  Have we forgotten what being American means?  Have we allowed it to be redifined, sans a belief in liberty?  I hope not.

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