April 19, 2014

Partly cloudy

Judge favors Amish family again in guardianship suit

MEDINA — A county probate judge again has upheld an Amish family’s right to stop chemotherapy for their 10-year-old daughter’s cancer.

This is the second time Judge John J. Lohn rejected a lawsuit filed by Akron Children’s Hospital seeking to gain “limited guardianship” over the girl.

The suit asked that a hospital attorney and nurse, Maria Schimer, be given the authority to make medical decisions for the girl, Sarah Hershberger.

John Lohn

Akron Children’s Hospital had appealed Lohn’s earlier ruling in favor of the parents to the 5th District Court of Appeals, which heard the case after 9th District Court judges recused themselves.

The girl’s parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, of Homer Township, originally accepted chemotherapy for their daughter but later refused it in favor of herbs, vitamins and other “natural medicine” after seeing how the chemotherapy affected her, according to court documents.

Hospital physicians have said the girl will die in a year or less without chemotherapy. With treatment, they said she has an 85 percent chance of survival.

A spokeswoman said hospital officials were disappointed in Lohn’s ruling.

“We believe this case is about children’s rights and giving a 10-year-old girl an 85 percent chance of survival with treatment,” she said. “We stand by our doctors, who care deeply about their patients and fully embrace the principles of family-centered care, which includes making sure parents know and understand the risks and benefits of treatment.”

The Hershbergers’ attorney, John Oberholtzer, did not return calls for comment.

Lohn had ruled the hospital failed to show the girl’s parents were irresponsible.

But the appeals court, in ordering a week ago that the case be reconsidered, stated Lohn “failed to even consider” that a person filing for limited guardianship simply needs to prove he or she is acting in the child’s best interest.

Lohn heard the case the second time as a visiting judge, after retiring earlier this year.

In his new ruling, Lohn stated that agreeing to the hospital’s request for a guardian would send parental rights down a slippery slope.

“It would allow grandparents to force a grandchild to attend private school or a hospital to circumcise a newborn baby or a school to put a child in vocational classes — all over the objection of the child’s parents,” Lohn wrote in his Tuesday ruling. “If a probate judge can be convinced such things would promote a child’s interests, the parents would be powerless to prevent them.”

In addition, he said granting guardianship to the hospital would be detrimental to the family.

“If the court establishes a guardianship, it would go against Sarah’s wishes, without her parents’ consent, and in derogation of the Hershbergers’ parental authority,” Lohn wrote in his ruling.

Lohn said the parents said they don’t trust the hospital because they believe officials misinformed them about the side effects of chemotherapy.

“Sarah says her doctors should be put in jail,” he wrote.

He said the girl’s would-be guardian would provide a “poor environment for therapy” because she’s never met the girl, been to her house or spoken with her parents.

If he granted guardianship, Lohn said the girl’s parents would be burdened by Schimer’s medical decisions because they would have to provide transportation, communication and nutrition to the girl as recommended by Schimer.

“If the parents fail to satisfy the guardian in any of the areas, the parents could ultimately be found in contempt of court and put in jail,” Lohn wrote. “If the parents are jailed, they cannot provide for Sarah and her young siblings.”

Lohn also said the media would cover the girl’s progress if he granted guardianship, which would “utterly destroy” the family’s “right to a quiet, dignified life.”

Lohn also said chemotherapy was not guaranteed to cure the girl, and even if it did, she could face permanent side-effects.

“Chemotherapy will cause Sarah pain, abject suffering and incapacitation,” Lohn wrote. “Even if the treatments are successful, there is a good chance Sarah will become infertile and have other serious health risks for the rest of her life.”

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

  • a friend

    This is the right decision. There comes a point when a line is crossed and it must be known that sometimes outside parties do not need to decide the course that a family takes when it comes to matters of this nature. It is about letting go of control when another route is followed. As a former medical professional myself, I came to realize that modern medicine has done a lot. However, when changes are necessary and new discoveries are made, the medical field needs to expand its thinking when it comes to alternate forms of treatment. And, matters of faith and decision, when prayer and a sense of God’s direction goes against “tradition”, that outside advice must step back and allow more discussion with other sources. Chemo is NOT the only solution to healing of cancer folks! It just isn’t! I wish our medical professionals would understand that! nnHere is a good link to discovery and breakthroughs in medicine, including cancer. The knowledge of the truth will set you free, it must be found! I can’t be found if you don’t look for it!nnhttp://www.cbn.com/tv/2650414108001

  • 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.nnnIn this case we are talking about an incrediblly 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.nnnAlso, 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.nnnAs the judge says, the hospital has not proved that the parents are irresponsible because there are other avenues and treatments available in this case.

  • Common Sense

    Yes chemotherapy is dangerous and possibly life threatening, however the other side of that which is guaranteed death kind of puts it into perspective. And as for other treatments, we do not know her exact situation and condition, the other treatments might have already been ruled out if the cancer has spread too far or is in an otherwise untreatable location.nnnAlso the hospital does not want to take a child away from her parents, they just don’t want to allow a child to needlessly die due to someone’s narrow minded view on how things in the world work. Yes what I just said is harsh, but sadly its the truth, and its a little girl’s life that is at stake.

  • Jenny

    The Amish are not narrow minded people. They live a life outside our world and have a right to do as they see best for their children. I am sure this was a very difficult decision for them but they did talk with others in their community as they do. nChemo is still chemo . . . with horrible side affects both short term and long term.nI, too, believe the medical community only knows their way and are narrow minded. You just can’t imagine there could be something alternative that may work. I seem to recall the medical community seeing no value in chiropractic care. I do believe there’s some that still feel that way.nAll the best to this family. God be with you in this ordeal.

  • interesting differences

    Common Sense the judge hit the nail on the head… What if you did not want your child to receive say communion as a catholic or you did not want your child baptised or you decide you do not want your child to receive the HPV vaccine now HPV causes 85 percent of cervical cancers and can cause cancers in males my opinion for this argument as your doctor is it is very dangerous for your child NOT to get this important and life saving vaccine so I go to court to force you to give it to your kids because your kids have a good chance of getting cancer and according to some research giving cancer to others via the virus… Is it OK that I take you to court??? Where does the govt. intrusion stop. how far away are we from some whack job judge saying you cannot home school your kids it is better to send them out of the home or you should not be Jewish or Christian… It is not your job or anyone’s job to give myself or my child a medicine I do not feel will benefit them though it may sound extreme it is not too far from the eugenics and social engineering pioneered by the Natzi’s and unfortunately others in this country as well. Where do we end up next if your blind, a little person, or the wrong color we sterilize you for the good of the govt… DANGER DANGER DANGER!!! It is the little cases like this that over time maybe years leads a people to commit crimes such as the Final Solution…

  • Sean

    Cancer is guaranteed death? Not sure what you are basing that statement on. I have personally known 3 individuals in their early 30′s with late stage cancer who decided not to go with chemotherapy and instead pursue a healthier lifestyle and immuno-boosters. They are all (fingers crossed) cancer free today. I realize this is a small sample and I also know several other people who did and did not use chemo and died from their cancers. However, saying cancer is guaranteed death is short sighted and frankly retarded.nnOften the cons of chemotherapy outweigh and benefits. Also, there is a host of alternative treatments available. Go ask any doctor…nnThis is not like providing penicillin to someone who is dying of a treatable and safely curable disease so don’t try to compare it to that. Otherwise the parents would be irresponsible in their decision (not the case according to the judge).

  • Sean

    As a second argument lets say the 85% success rate with chemotherapy is true. If there is another treatment option available that has a 75% success rate which has no side effects should chemo still be pursued? And in this case should chemo be FORCED upon a patient?nnnWhy do you think the hospital should make that call instead of the patient and their guardians (family)?

  • Alexandra1973

    I like this judge.nnChemotherapy does not cure cancer. I’ve had an aunt and an uncle die of cancer. They had chemo.nnhttp://www.naturalnews.com/036725_chemotherapy_cancer_tumors_backfires.html#

  • Alexandra1973

    They don’t want competition. Money talks, BS walks.

  • OriginalMB

    You are incorrect, cancer is NOT a guaranteed death. But I will provide you with a little secret of life. DEATH is 100% guaranteed. The girl could be involved in an accident and be killed on the way to treatment.nnAnd here are fun side effects of chemo treatments:nnanemia, appetite changes, bleeding problems, constipation, diarrhea, hair loss, infections, brain impairment & brain dysfunction, mouth & throat changes, pain, sexual & fertility changes, skin & nail changes, swelling, urination changes, lung tissue damage, heart problems, kidney problems, nerve damage AND CANCER!