November 18, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
15°F

Nurse relinquishes guardianship of Amish girl

A court-appointed guardian filed Friday to give up her power to make medical decisions for an Amish girl with cancer whose parents may have fled the area to avoid chemotherapy.

Maria Schimer tendered her resignation as “limited guardian” of 11-year-old Sarah Hershberger, of Homer Township, in Medina County Probate Court, attorney Clair Dickinson said.

“We don’t know where the little girl is,” said Dickinson, an attorney for Schimer. “We’ve kind of inferred that we’re not going to see her again, so it doesn’t make sense for this to continue.”

He said her family is saying she’s cancer-free as the result of natural treatments, including vitamins and herbs.

“If she is, that’s great,” Dickinson said.

“On the other hand, the undisputed medical testimony was that she would die in six months to a year without treatment.

“If she’s not cancer-free, it may be too late for chemotherapy to help her.”

The girl has not had chemotherapy that officials are aware of since June, Dickinson said.

Schimer, an attorney and nurse affiliated with Akron Children’s Hospital, fought for guardianship through a months-long battle in Medina County Probate Court, 9th District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court.

Dickinson said Schimer’s resignation isn’t final until Probate Judge Kevin W. Dunn accepts it. Once Dunn does, Dickinson said he plans to file a brief with the Ohio Supreme Court to say the case is moot.

“Maria’s purpose and the hospital’s purpose was to do anything we could to assist this little girl,” Dickinson said, “and we wish her well.”

Medina attorney John Oberholtzer, who represents the family, and Akron Children’s Hospital could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

The case began in April, when the girl was admitted to Akron Children’s Hospital with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare form of cancer.

Her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, initially accepted chemotherapy treatments for their daughter, according to court records, but stopped them once they saw the side effects they had on the girl. They instead began natural treatments.

Schimer and Akron Children’s Hospital responded by filing a suit in probate court that asked the judge to appoint Schimer as limited guardian.

The case bounced between county and appellate courts several times before Oct. 9, when Dunn obeyed an order from the 9th District Court of Appeals to grant the guardianship. The Hershbergers responded last month by asking the Ohio Supreme Court to take jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, the county Sheriff’s Office and Job and Family Services have been unable to locate the family. They’ve been missing from their Homer Township farm since at least October.

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