June 30, 2016

Partly cloudy

Another appeal filed in Amish girl’s cancer case

MEDINA — Akron Children’s Hospital attorney and nurse Maria Schimer filed another appeal in Medina County Probate Court last week seeking limited guardianship of an Amish girl with cancer.

Judge John J. Lohn rejected for the second time last week a lawsuit filed by Akron Children’s Hospital seeking to give Schimer the authority to make medical decisions for 10-year-old Sarah Hershberger.

The 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.

Hospital officials said they were disappointed with 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,” a hospital spokeswoman said.

Lohn ruled the hospital failed to show the girl’s parents were irresponsible, but the appeals court said that 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, who retired this year, heard the case the second time as a visiting judge.

In his new ruling last week, he 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.”

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

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