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Re: “Holistic Debacle” (12/20/96): I am astonished that the D.C. authorities, when confronted with a case of a child whose need for intervention includes the necessity for extensive surgery and chemotherapy, assign him to a foster home composed of devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, who schlep this sick kid on their door-to-door missionary expeditions.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are already well known for their refusal of all transfusions, and since this child was already slated, by the same D.C. authorities, for extensive surgery and cancer therapy, there was a distinct possibility that he might require a transfusion (or plasma or bone marrow) as his condition progressed. Additionally, the damage done to his frail health by dragging him along to confront strangers on these missionary outings was significant. Child-custody cases in which only one parent has joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to be rather predictable. We have here the additional twist that the child’s own mother is clearly not a Witness, and the foster parents, although not in line for a permanent adoption, were obviously brainwashing the kid (can it be that this is the secret agenda of some who volunteer to be foster parents?).

While the D.C. authorities are blaming the mother for the child’s death from cancer, it remains a fact that he was struck with a relatively uncommon (in a child) form of cancer, and so a delay in his diagnosis and his mother’s preference for less-invasive treatments (from bona fide MDs) is understandable. Hindsight works remarkably well, but it should be admitted that his form of cancer is often fatal, even with conventional treatments and even if D.C. General hadn’t bungled its opportunity at early diagnosis. Also, her straitened financial circumstances dictated something less than the full-tilt medical binge that the D.C. government was willing to purchase, but only after it plunked the child into that foster family.

Bernard J. Sussman,

J.D., M.L.S., C.P.

Bethesda, Md.