December 18, 2014

Medina
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Appeals court favors hospital again in Amish girl’s cancer case

An Ohio appellate court has ordered a hospital representative be appointed as guardian for a cancer-ridden 10-year-old girl whose Amish parents stopped her chemotherapy.

It was the second time the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Akron Children’s Hospital in the case.

The Fifth District judges, in Canton, heard the case in place of Akron’s Ninth District judges, who were assigned the case because Medina County is in their district but recused themselves.

In the court opinion issued Tuesday, the judges said Medina County Probate Judge John J. Lohn’s rulings weren’t “based on competent, credible evidence.”

The judges appointed Medina County Probate Judge Kevin W. Dunn to replace Lohn, who retired for medical reasons, effective July 1, but continued to serve as a visiting judge.

Lohn ruled twice — in late July and early September — in favor of the girl’s parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, of Homer Township. Akron Children’s Hospital appealed both decisions.

The appellate ruling grants the hospital’s request that Maria Schimer, a registered nurse and attorney, be given “limited guardianship,” granting her the power to make medical decisions for the girl, Sarah Hershberger, in place of her parents.

According to court documents, the treatments would be paid for through government programs.

The girl’s parents stopped chemotherapy after they saw the harsh effects it had on her daughter, according to court records. They opted for natural medicine — like herbs and vitamins — instead.

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

“While we have no doubt that the parents are acting in according with their principles, beliefs and honest convictions and that their goal may be a laudable one,” the appeals judges wrote, “it does not justify or nullify the right of the state and the probate court to protect the health and wellbeing of a child.”

Attorneys for neither the hospital nor the girl’s family could not be reached for comment Friday.

John Oberholtzer, the family’s attorney, said in August that his clients view the case as a religious matter. They believe the situation is in the hands of God, he said.

He also said his clients weren’t properly warned of what would happen to their daughter under chemotherapy — which has potential side-effects of infertility, physical weakness and organ failure.

Hospital officials argued the girl deserves treatment and stressed the hospital isn’t claiming the Hershbergers are unfit parents.

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