October 31, 2014

Medina
Rain
42°F

Nonprofit backs Amish girl with cancer

An appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court regarding a 10-year-old Amish girl, who was forced by a court order to continue chemotherapy to treat her cancer, has drawn the attention of an Ohio nonprofit.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, headquartered in Columbus, has filed a brief in support of the family, who stopped treatments for their daughter in favor of alternative medicine — like herbs and vitamins — after seeing the negative side effects of chemotherapy.

The center urged the court to take the case, arguing the lower court’s ruling was unconstitutional.

“The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly provides protection to parents in the ‘care, custody and control’ of their children,” center attorney Maurice Thompson wrote in a Nov. 15 brief, “including the right ‘to direct the upbringing … of children under their control.’ “

The girl, Sarah Hershberger, was ordered in October to continue treatments at no cost to the family after a back-and-forth legal struggle between Medina County Probate Court and the 9th District Court of Appeals.

She and her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, of Homer Township, oppose the chemotherapy because they believe it will kill the girl, according to court records. They have not been seen by authorities since at least Oct. 30.

Attorneys said the girl hasn’t had treatments since June, and physicians warned she will die within a year if she is not treated.

Thompson, in his brief, argued that Ohio law forbids the state from forcing medical treatment on someone who doesn’t want it.

“The family was asserting their rights under the Ohio Constitution in choosing to pursue other treatments,” Thompson wrote, “instead of continuing with invasive, debilitating chemotherapy for their daughter.”

Sarah Hershberger’s case began in April, when she was admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital. The hospital sued after she stopped treatments, asking a court to appoint attorney and nurse Maria Schimer as the girl’s “limited guardian,” which would grant Schimer sole authority to make the girl’s medical decisions.

In the October ruling, Schimer was appointed as guardian.

Akron Children’s Hospital representatives declined to comment.

Thompson said in his brief that the Supreme Court should step in because the case sets serious precedent.

“The outcome of this case will affect many Ohioans and their families,” he wrote. “Parents make decisions on behalf of their children each and every day without considering whether the state or a third party will assert an interest in their decision.”

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