Libertarianism: For Adults Only?


Last month, Tina Carlsen was arrested last month for kidnapping her infant son, Riley Rogers. Her crime? Sneaking Riley out of a Seattle hospital in order to prevent surgery ordered by his doctors and a judge. Riley suffers from a congenital condition which is causing his kidneys to fail and the doctors want to install a catheter that would prepare him for eventual dialysis. Carlsen wanted to try alternative homeopathic treatments including ionic footbaths.

Doctors performed the surgery on June 30 and Riley was released into the custody of his father. Carlsen, who is out of jail on $500,000 bond, is being allowed state-supervised visits.

Just how bone-headed must parental decisions about a child's welfare be before the government should intervene is one of the toughest questions for philosophical libertarians. Generally I tend to bow to medical expertise (especially when the "alternative" is bogus homeopathic treatments), but medicine is not exact, so there are plenty of gray areas. It is true that Carlsen violated a court order, but is justice really being served now by prosecuting her?