April 19, 2014

Mostly sunny

Hospital battles Amish parents in court

MEDINA — Akron Children’s Hospital plans to file an appeal over the case of a 10-year-old Amish girl whose parents refused her chemotherapy for leukemia.

Probate and Juvenile Judge John J. Lohn denied the hospital’s application for limited guardianship last month. Lohn retired July 1, but continued to serve as a visiting judge until his replacement, Kevin Dunn, was sworn in earlier this month.

Limited guardianship would grant Maria Schimer, a hospital attorney and registered nurse, the right to make medical decisions for the girl, Sarah Hershberger, instead of her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, of Homer Township.

Lohn wrote in his July 31 judgment entry that guardianship can be established only if parents are deemed unfit.

“The court cannot deprive these parents of their right to make medical decisions for their daughter because there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit,” Lohn wrote.

“There was no basis in law and no basis in fact to file this action.”

He said the girl’s parents were “caring, attentive, protective and concerned.”

The girl was taken to Akron Children’s Hospital in April with tumors on a kidney and visible ones on her neck and chest, according to court records. Her parents at first consented to chemotherapy, but later rejected it in favor of “natural” medicine — including various herbs and vitamins.

During chemotherapy, the girl’s tumors shrank, but she did not enter remission.

Her parents said they stopped chemotherapy because its effects on their daughter were “horrible” and “terrible.”

“Sarah begged her parents to stop the treatments,” the judge wrote. “Anna said she and Andy could not stand to watch what was happening to their daughter.”

They believed the therapy was killing her, Lohn wrote, and the girl’s mother “prayed for wisdom to discern God’s plan for Sarah.”

Records show the girl told the court during an interview that she didn’t want chemotherapy because it makes her feel ill, it can damage her internal organs, and it will make her infertile.

Schimer’s attorney, Nicholas Capotosto, said the hospital plans to appeal the judge’s decision, but declined to say more.

According to court records, Schimer said the girl continuing to go without chemotherapy could be fatal.

“The plan presented by Sarah’s parents is almost certain to lead to Sarah’s death,” her attorneys wrote. “Every day that goes by without treatment, Sarah’s chance of surviving her cancer is diminished.”

If she undergoes chemotherapy, the hospital said her chance at survival reaches 85 percent.

The attorneys warned the court that without chemotherapy, the girl would be dead in a year.

“While the short-term side effects like nausea, lack of energy and loss of hair, and the potential long-term side effects like organ damage and infertility, cannot be minimized,” hospital attorneys wrote, “the question of Sarah’s treatment is life and death.”

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.

  • Smarter Than You

    I never whined like this going through chemo! Suck it up and do what your hospital caregivers tell you!!! Chemo is awful, but not as awful as dying a slow, ignorant, painful death from cancer!nnnIdiots…

  • a family friend

    Dear “smarter than you” : your comment is why unless you have compassion and understanding, you will never earn the right to speak into someone else’s life. You have no idea what the circumstances are for this family. And to the hospital: since when do you reserve the right to interfere with this? I have seen God heal people of cancer through means other than chemo. Do not assume that your treatment is the only solution or you will miss new things.

  • Medina resident

    Dear “a family friend”: your comment is why your parents should have been sterilized before they have conceived you. You have no idea what being sane means.

  • Mr. Buck

    Here is a case of unintended consequences. If parents learn that they can have their dying children ripped from their arms because they stopped a painful, ineffective treatment, how much more likely that parents will not take their sick children to the doctor in the first place–when treatment still has a chance of being effective?

  • fredsmith

    I have been on both sides of cancer. As a medical care giver and as a family member. Cancer is an awful disease. Chemo is an awful choice to have to make a decision about. It ravages everything about you. If the cancer doesn’t kill you the effects of chemo will eventually. Chemo brain is the first that comes to mind. The medical costs are outrageous. Constant blood tests, etc. It is a personal choice or in this situation, the parents decision. Who are these people at the hospital who want to play God? It is all about the money and now these unnecessary court costs.

  • Ricardo Olivieri

    My wife had terminal cancer (metastized) back in 2000. Her cancer started in the ovaries and spread to the liver, lungs, stomach, and brain. She went to Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico for an alternative health treatment with raw foods, which included wheat grass juice. She stayed in that diet for several years. This treatment was effective and her faith in God (Mathews 17:20:If you have faith in God like a mustard seed…) was the main ingredient in her health restoration. She has been cancer free for the past 13 years. This Amish family are free to contact my wife Nelsy (210-481-0222), if they desire need a counsel and life experience information.

  • interesting differences

    Where does it stop if the govt or a private group can force you to take a treatment you do not want. How about forced sterilization OH it has happened already in our history. For the folks who do not know there was a US supreme court case in the late fifties or early sixties specifically the govt was trying to force the Amish to send their kids to public schools against their religion and the court ruled by a significant majority that the govt CANNOT force the amish to send their kids to school against their will and cannot force them to get vaccines etc etc etc… Medina Resident you are what is wrong with this country you have no logical arguments you go straight to name calling which means you automatically lost this argument… Lets change the rules lets say you are a VEGAN for the libs or better yet a Muslim and the only way you child would live was for them to receive a pig organ say a heart valve or you have to eat animal protein for some reason would you still be all for forcing you views on them… Now here is how this will play out the Amish are tight. This kid and maybe the family will be in Wisconsin or PA and out of the jurisdiction of the local courts before you can say spit and good luck finding them NO SSN No credit cards and the Amish do not talk… Then like said before the entire childrens hospital network will be shunned the bishop will issue a decree and they will be lucky to see another Amish patient again and if a kid is taken there they will be signed out ASAP AMA… In fact you take an Amish kid and they probably wont even go to English Docs again and what you going to do about it there is no proof an Amish ever lived and none they died it is handled in the community. Nice job Akron Childrens then you have all the English families reading this I can bet you my kids and my siblings kids are not going to Akron Childrens or any affiliates if they will go after the Amish they will go after us too… If the kid is not being beat if they are being fed then they are way ahead of 95 percent of the inner city kids and with the amish 8th grade ed they can probably read, write, and add better than 80 percent of the public school kids out there today!!!!

  • Peggy Woods

    Dear Medina resident, where do you get off saying something so terrible to a family friend. You do not know them or the family. The hospital has no right to force this child to get chemo just to run up a big bill, the parents are acting in the best interests of the child. You do not know the whole story, just what this report chooses to tell you. I have lived among the Amish for many years, taken them and their children to the hospital and all over the place to find the best treatment for their children, they spare no expense if there is hope of saving their child. I recently sat every day for nearly 2 weeks with a family whose 2 yr old was dying of a genetic disorder, the Dr was there every day monitoring the little girl. So sick of morons who know nothing about them making judgement calls.

  • Ricardo A. Olivieri

    Dear “a family friend”: Doctors gave my wife 2 months to live back in 2000 because cancer was methastized. My wife never received chemotherapy and has been cancer free for 13 years. Could you contact the Amish family and let them know that we are supporting their decision. We pray for their daughter and may God mercy intervene in this situation so everybody could realize that we have a God that is real and nothing is impossible for Him and His glory. If they wish, my wife Nelsy (210-481-0222) could provide them some helpful information for their daughter’s health condition.

  • Diana

    The real issue here, it seems, is “Quality of life”. In addition to the supposed “short term” effects which may resolve themselves, the long term effects definitely affect her long term quality of life. Perhaps infertilitynand organ damage (no specific organs are mentioned) seem like the end of life to them.

  • Ily Michael

    I agree with you but I see that you forgot one thing. The “person” you were responding to should change their name because it seems to be a very poor one ;).

  • Another Family Friend

    Sara is doing great, she is going to school and playing with her cousins and siblings.n Akron Children’s Hospital is partly responsible for the family stopping the Chemotherapy. When the Hematologist and Oncologist were initially approached about a balanced treatment plan that included homeopathic and holistic treatments in conjunction with the chemotherapy, they did not even want to examine the Homeopathic treatment protocol for possible drug interactions, they sent in a nutritionist. I know, I was there. The day that the Family stopped the chemotherapy, this was not their original intent, they went in to ask for a couple of weeks off of chemo to help her to get strong enough to endure more. I can personally attest that I have never seen anyone decline so rapidly from chemo as Sara had. The moment that the Family asked for time, Akron Children’s sent in a social worker to “discuss” this decision. Even after discontinuing Cemo, the family continued to take her there, they continued to take her there until the hospital appealed Judge Lohn’s decision. It is my understanding that the family will not be taking Sara back to that Hospital for chemotherapy anytime in the immediate future, but are not against continuing to consult with doctor’s there, they do want what is best for their children.n Now having said this I can not help but to wonder if Akron Children’s Hospital is fighting this so hard because they lost a “control” subject for one of their research studies. Due to the vastly different lifestyle that the Amish lead when compared to the mainstream American lifestyle, most hospitals jump at the chance to enroll Amish patients in research studies. It is a great tragedy that this hospital has chosen this course of action involving an Amish Family, because Akron Children’s Hospital will be viewed with a suspicious eye by the entire Amish community in the future, and other children may not receive treatments that could make a difference in the quality of their lives. It could also lead to the Bishops forbidding the members of their congregations from seeking help there. It is a mixed blessing that Akron Children’s Hospital is located so near, they do wonderful work with children, but somewhere along the line they forgot that they are treating a person, not a disease.

  • She’s in my Prayers

    Have they considered Saint Jude Hospital?An Amish family on 175 had a good outcome with their son thanks to Saint Jude.They work with the family by helping with transportation as well as someplace to stay while they are there.Sarah deserves the best chance at getting better and there is no better place to take a sick child.If they haven’t already ask them to talk to the Shetler’s,I am sure they would be more than willing to help in any way that they can.

  • a family friend

    This is exactly why as a society we need to examine our hearts and seek God’s wisdom. His wisdom goes against our limited thinking. The concern I have is at what point should an outside agency decide the course of action when they do not know the heart and lives of the individual or family. Our society has gotten way too “legal action” driven when disagreeing. Perhaps some individuals at the medical facility are truly concerned about Sara’s welfare, but it could be marred by a distorted control or like was said “using this child” for research. We have a huge need in our society for “good judgement”. Know the “right” thing to do based upon background and people and prayer. There are other options other than traditional methods such as chemo. It works. But our medical field has been very hardheaded about change. I try not to judge the intentions of the hospital but pray for God’s hand to heal Sara with the best means. We get into trouble when we feel we have the right to speak into someone else’s life without knowing the situation. “The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.” There are other solutions that God s given for us to discover. To all who are medical professionals please don’t limit. To the legal people: you don’t know everything.

  • The

    Holding this child and her community in the light in NC. Prayers, too, for the hospital.

  • Michael W. Perry

    Ethicist Arthur Caplan is right, “If this family and child aren’t on board with what’s happening, no one wins.” Perhaps too much attention is being focused on what the hospital wants a court to force these parents to do and too little on what the hospital should have done to keep the family and child “on board” when the child pleaded with her parents to stop this treatment. This girl is at risk of dying without chemotherapy, but she is also at risk if her will to live is broken by this nasty dispute. That’s particularly true for a child from a close-knit Amish family.nnI know what this means. For 16 months I worked nights caring for children with various cancers at one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. I saw a situation similar to this one but with far better results. Why? Because the hospital took the time to explain in all its unpleasant details what chemotherapy really meant to two parents very much into natural remedies. It also gave them an extra day to decide and allowed the mother to give her daughter herbal remedies. The result was no nasty court squabble and that otherwise healthy child breezed through her chemotherapy.nnFor those who’d like to understand this better, particularly the emotional and ethical issues that surround the treatment of childhood cancers, I just published a book on my experiences called My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Leukemia. I wrote it for nursing students in particular, but everyone from specialists to health-conscious parents should find it helpful.

  • She will stay in my prayers!

    I agree with you,this family needs support!I too have seen the results of what can happen when a child has the support of family and community.I know of two such cases where both Chemo & natural remedies were used together.The outcome was nothing less than miraculous in both cases.But in neither case were the cancer patients forced to do chemo.Two different hospitals were involved , both were compassionate and never tried to force the families to do anything they weren’t willing to do.Both patients were Amish,one a child ,one an adult.I believe the hospital does have the well being of the child in mind but have gone about getting treatment without compassion for the people involved.I hope the family will go to another place for treatment.Saint Jude is excellent as are many other Cancer treatment facilities.They will stay in my prayers and I will hope that like the Amish child I know.Sarah will be doing well seven years after she was diagnosed !!

  • A MD

    The hospital only discussed SHORT TERM SIDE EFFECTS and ignores the real LONG TERM DAMAGE caused by toxic chemicals. nRaw foods can cure cancer. Vegan diets prevent and reverse cancers. The drug makers and medical industry are profiteering from illness and have literally outlawed all effective (and scientifically proven) alternatives to chemo and radiation. By the way, chemo and radiation are failures by any measure. They only provide short term treatment of SYMPTOMS while damaging the body systems that are necessary to heal the cause of the cancer. The whole war on cancer is a fraud and a lie in search of profits. We already know how to prevent and reverse cancer but those treatments are not permitted in the US because of corporate greed (and that’s a fact). Only about 2% of cancers are genetic in nature and untreatable / irreversible (esp when caught within a reasonable period of time). Those who still perform radiation oncology and chemo should be ashamed of themselves!

  • VeganMD

    Please ask them to explore a vegan diet – it is proven to reverse cancer. She will need a specialized, power packed, plant based plan that delivers concentrated amounts of specialized phytonutrients to her body. There is A world renowned Onocologist who the family can consult in Yuma, AZ. He’s a MD who uses an INTEGRATED APPROACH, which is what the family seems to want. He is trained in traditional medicine and also is an expert in alternative therapies that are PROVEN TO REVERSE CANCER. He is a world renowned expert in reversing cancer with diet–which has been proven but is not profitable to the powerful medical establishment. lf chemo is indicated, the goal would be to remove it as soon as possible (or not use it if that’s an option, etc). His name is CARL MYERS, MD 816-858-2200. He believes so much in the power of food that he has a restaurant in his office called Nature’s Express and several locations. He’s an oncologist and his patient reviews are online (5 stars). If the family cannot travel to Arizona, they can still consult him and obtain a treatment protocol from him which can be carried out locally. nnBest to you.

  • Sean

    Normally I would side with medical professionals in cases like these. If there is a safe treatment or medication readily available that is being refused for a child in place of ‘faith healing’ that is unacceptable in my eyes (for example, deadly fungal infection not being treated with penicillin).nnIn this case we are talking about an incredibly toxic treatment (chemotherapy) that includes numerous risks and side effects and could in extreme circumstances result in death. There is a reason many people choose not to undergo chemotherapy and there are other treatments available (even natural ones that I dont take much stock in). 85% success rate is bogus.. those numbers are always extreme estimates, especially when we are dealing with a child.nnAlso, in this case we are not just talking about forcing treatment – we are talking about giving guardianship (ownership) of the child to the hospital. This rarely happens and is a breach of common practice.nnAs the judge says, the hospital has not proved that the parents are irresponsible because there are other avenues and treatments available in this case. Why should the hospital be in charge of deciding the best treatment option for a patient?

  • Alexandra1973

    Chemotherapy can make cancer worse.nnhttp://www.naturalnews.com/036725_chemotherapy_cancer_tumors_backfires.html#nnnThose parents are doing the right thing. What they need to do is find an alternative (why’s natural “alternative”?) remedy.nnnI

  • Alexandra1973

    Big Pharma wants its money. You make money in treatments, not in cures.nnnAnd veganism is very bad for you. If you don’t want to eat meat, fine, but please don’t push off the fallacy that meat is bad for you. Lots of times it has to do with what the animal was fed. Grass-fed is best.