A hard truth: When parents fail to protect their children

An Ohio couple was sentenced to eight years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter for denying their 8-year-old son medical treatment.  Their son suffered—and ultimately died from—Hodgkin lymphoma, a highly treatable form of cancer.

Attorneys for Monica Hussing, 37, and William Robinson Sr., 40, argued the parents had financial problems and could not afford check-ups for their son Willie.  Willie had suffered for months from undiagnosed swollen glands before collapsing in the family home in 2008.  According to prosecutors, he had begged his parents to take him to a doctor, but they rejected him.

Hussing’s daughter Lillian said Hussing and Robinson repeatedly tried to get help from social services and even visited a free clinic—though they left when told they would have to pay $180. Meanwhile, prosecutors said the couple did pay $87 to have a pit bull treated for fleas around the same time period.

This tragic case really has no winners.

Certainly not the child who died because of the negligence of the parents, and now with the sentencing, the parents are going to jail and leaving behind other children. But it brings a very important point: parental responsibility. There is no excuse for these parents not to have brought their child for medical evaluation. The argument that they had no health insurance is a reprehensible one.

There are plenty of places where this child would have been evaluated, and he would have received service under charity care. There are teaching hospitals that have extensive clinic service, and there are federally funded clinics that receive funds to see charity patients—especially if a child is seen with a major Hodgkin lymphoma.

Yes, I know that our health care system is not perfect, and abuses happen on both sides. But I want to make it clear there are services parents can utilize in order to take care of a child with major health problems.