Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bending the rule

Parenting drives you crazy.

I'm just gonna let that sit there for a moment.  Put that on the back-burner of your consciousness for just a few minutes.

In 2001, there was a fifteen year-old boy in Australia.  He was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He, his parents, family, friends, and caregivers all realized his mortality and that his time was short.

He was also a virgin.

The laws of Australia state that the age of consent is sixteen.  This teenager's last wish was to have sex.  To experience the love of a woman before leaving this Earth.

Before I continue, I'll posit the question "What would you do in this situation?  If this teenager were your son/nephew/cousin/brother/patient/friend?"  Clearly, he is asking you to violate a longstanding law of the nation.

But we've all been teenagers.  We've seen and felt the raging hormones (yes, whenever you talk about them, they're ALWAYS RAGING).  Most of us have experienced great sex.  Some of us have had bad sex.  If you asked fifteen year-old me what "bad sex" was, I probably couldn't have told you - I thought it would've all been great.

Cancer is such an ugly disease.  You hurt, you ache, you are constantly tired.  You look bad.  You smell bad.  You bleed and vomit.  You are angry and sad and afraid and confused and frustrated.  You are told to fight each hour of each day without clear reward.  Every needle, every poison, every radiation beam TAKES and you're never really sure what it gives back.

This teenager's psychologist and the teenager's friends did arrange for him to visit a prostitute.  I would have done the same.  Call me crazy.

The Child Psychologist classified the trip as therapeutic.  There are "comfort dog" services for trauma patients which have a significant effect on rehabilitation and healing.  The Dutch have a policy of using sex-workers to help newly-disabled individuals cope with their injuries.  Prostitution itself is legal in Australia and many would say it is safer than in cities where it is not legal.

Another interesting detail of this story is that the boy did not want his parents to know.  I can actually understand this from the boy's perspective.  Sex is a private thing.  We put up these mental-shields separating thoughts of loved-ones from thoughts of love-making.  As a parent, I'd still want to know EVERY aspect of my child's treatment and hopefully convey that nothing would be considered shameful or embarrassing and that we all want him to have the best of life however long or short it is.  But maybe those parents weren't like me.  Maybe they had a more-conservative mindset and would've been against this whole operation.  It puts the child psychologist in an interesting position, though - weighing the benefits of therapy against the parent's need-to-know.

The teenager eventually succumbed to his illness - but he did not die a virgin.  May he rest in peace.

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