We covered this story at the end of August when a judge blocked the request for an attorney who is also a registered nurse to assume temporary custody and force the child to undergo treatment for leukemia against her parent’s wishes. That decision was sent back for reconsideration and it looked like the hospital would win out and she would resume treatment. But, in another legal flip-flop, she will not.
A judge has again blocked an Ohio hospital from forcing a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.
The order siding with the parents comes just a week after an appeals court sent the case back to the judge and told him to give more consideration to the request by Akron Children’s Hospital.
Judge John Lohn, in Medina County, said in his ruling Tuesday that not allowing the parents to make medical decisions for their daughter would take away their rights. He also said there is no guarantee that chemotherapy would be successful.
“They are good parents,” he said. “They understand completely the grave situation their daughter is in and the consequences of their choice to refuse chemotherapy for Sarah at this time.”
Lohn said also that allowing for a guardian would go against the girl’s wishes.
So the individual parties all have a valid argument, certainly. But the clincher may have been the child’s wishes. She does not want to continue the treatment, presumably with the understanding (along with her parents) that she may very well die. A comparison is made to those who have terminal cancer and choose to die but that’s not the same, this is a child. The parents seem more accepting of death of their child than perhaps the rest of society is.
I can’t say I agree but it is not my choice to make. This essay in Slate provides a thought-provoking other view.
There’s a strong temptation, especially in a story involving a seriously ill young child and a culture that eschews many of the trappings of modern life, to desperately want to intervene. And if this were a story about some self-righteous anti-vaxxers or parents who, out of some superstitious belief, refused to ever take their kid to the doctor, I would be all over it as a tale of negligence. But from all appearances, this is instead a story far more complex — and compassionate. Hershberger’s family began a two-year course of chemo for the girl last spring, but ended a second round in June because they said it was making her too sick. Her father, Andy, says that she “begged” her parents to let her stop. In a statement, the hospital said, “This case is about children’s rights and giving a 10-year-old girl an 85 per cent chance of survival with treatment.” But in his ruling, Judge John Lohn said, “They are good parents. They understand completely the grave situation their daughter is in and the consequences of their choice to refuse chemotherapy for Sarah at this time.”
The ultimate solution is that we find less horrible treatments for cancer. But that won’t happen soon. In the meantime, this is the agony we face.