Thursday, 20 December 2012

Tug of war

The English High Court is having to resolve the deadlock between a couple who have totally different views on treatment for their sick son.

This must be a situation every parent dreads - heated disagreement on how to deal with a crisis in their child's life, and no obvious way of ending the dispute. Meanwhile the crisis intensifies and the child is left in a limbo.

Sally Roberts, mother of 7 year old Neon, who has a brain tumour, didn't want him to have either radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a second brain operation, fearing that the treatments would leave him disabled or otherwise damaged.

His father Ben however supports the treatments as without them doctors say Neon could be dead in a matter of months.

The judge ordered that the second brain operation should go ahead, but his mother was firmly opposed and was gathering evidence on alternative treatments. She said she didn't trust British doctors.

I think this sort of parental conflict over their children is much more common than we realise. Not just on medical treatment but on things like schooling, discipline, choice of friends, internet use, religion, diet - any number of issues. If the conflict isn't quickly resolved, a lot of harm can be done.

My own parents were divided on what secondary school I should go to. My father insisted on a boarding school but my mother didn't like the idea. Eventually his view prevailed and I was packed off to a boarding school where I was thoroughly miserable.

I hated the school's emphasis on religion but although my mother sympathised with my wish to opt out my father decided I should go along with it to avoid being an "oddball". Once again his view held sway.

The result of course was me forever resenting my father's obstinacy and insensitivity and ineptness. But at least it didn't end up in the High Court.

Pic: Sally Roberts


John Gray said...

i HAVE SEE THIS SORT OF THING FIRST HAND... AND IT TOOK A TALENTED CONSULTANT to "bollock" one parent involved and bring some sanity ro the situation
sadly now litigation takes over

Grannymar said...

Thankfully I was never in a situation like that. We made a positive decision before Elly was born to work together in her best interest. I know several couples that separated because of conflict on how to raise their children. I always felt sorry for the children.

Secret Agent Woman said...

In y state, when you get divorced you are required to take a parenting class that focuses on how to work together to parent a child. In my view, it would be far more valuable to require every pregnant couple to take it (or everyone looking to adopt). Before we even decided to have kids, my ex and I had long talks about things like religion and discipline. The big issues shouldn't just be blundered through as they arise.

Nick said...

John: Actually I think this sort of litigation is quite rare. Usually the couple manage to find some solution before it gets to the legal stage.

Grannymar: That was very forward-looking, agreeing in advance how to bring up Elly without major conflicts.

Agent: Ditto re your two boys! Yes, discussing the issue during pregnancy is essential. Waiting until the divorce stage is ridiculous.

Eryl said...

You do pick your subjects, Nick! I have no idea where to start here. The conflicts between my parents' values, the conflicts between my own and my (soon to be ex) husband's? Bah, it's nearly Christmas, and being free of all that stuff now I'll just wallow in that sense of freedom. I'm sorry you were miserable, though, and glad you no longer are. Merry Christmas to you.

Bijoux said...

I agree that the time to discuss how you will raise your children is before you actually have them. However, some things you just can't predict (like a brain tumor), nor know how you will react in a situation. What a difficult position those parents have found themselves to be in.

Wisewebwoman said...

Oh lord, that is rough, on both parents and most of all on the child.

Glad I never had to negotiate through those waters.


kylie said...

maybe somebody should ask the child. kids in that situation often have enough maturity to make a decision about how they want their life or death to proceed.

i could say much much more on this topic

Nick said...

Eryl: Well, it's good that you're without all those conflicts now and feeling a lot freer. Merry Christmas to you too!

Bijoux: True, some things take you by surprise despite the best preparations. Who could predict something like a brain tumour? Who would WANT to predict it?

Nick said...

www: It's very rough. Especially when you're dealing with something as delicate as the human brain. How do you decide what's the best course of action?

Kylie: A good point, and nobody seems to have picked up on it. What exactly does Neon think about the situation? Has anyone asked him?

Rummuser said...

I am personally deeply involved in two situations. In both cases the children's interest is of less importance than one spouse's denial of the problem and resentments. All three children involved are going through a harrowing time and quite how they will grow up is a frightening prospect. It is very saddening for the family, particularly where in one instance one spouse has completely washed their hands off the matter. And you are right, this is far more common than we realise.

Nick said...

Ramana: Yes, people forget how deeply children can be affected by these parental disputes. And as you say, one parent can just dig their heels in and absolutely refuse to budge an inch. All very traumatic.

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

What a horrible situation all round. You're right - I think this happens quite a lot. OH and I didn't really disagree on much though, I'm thankful to say. It must really tear the family apart.

Nick said...

Jay: That's lucky that you didn't disagree on very much. Once parents disagree on something and then neither will move a centimetre, it must be a nightmare.