A woman was recently denied child custody, partly due to her breast cancer. The judge in the case justified his decision, claiming that it is important for children to spend time with healthy parents. When courts in Georgia are determining child custody there are a number of factors that are considered, including the home environment of each parent, each parent's relationship with the children and each parent's mental and physical health.
While some psychologists support revoking custody based on physical illness, other experts claim that such a decision can do more harm than good. A prominent director at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute explained that attempting to shield a child from a sick parent's condition can cause problems with the child's mental health development. She went on to explain that it is important for children to maintain frequent contact with both parents, even if one of them is terminally ill.
Although the court's decision is backed by the law, some individuals have expressed concern about the outcome of the case. A co-director of a Harvard University-based study that focuses on health law policy argued that denying custody for a sick parent who has no immediate risk of death might constitute discrimination.
Although the mother's stage 4 breast cancer has spread to her bones, her treatment has caused the cancer to stop progressing. She claims she is fully functional, and she plans to appeal the court's decision. We will post more information about her case as it becomes available.
Source: ABC News, "Judge Cites Mom's Breast Cancer in Denying Custody of Children," Courtney Hutchinson, 10 May 2011