The legal saga between Sarah Hershberger’s family and the state of Ohio continues.
In October, an Ohio court granted attorney and registered nurse Maria Schimer the legal right to make 10-year-old Sarah’s medical decisions. Schimer wants Sarah, who has leukemia, to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Doctors say Sarah has an 85% chance of survival if she undergoes chemotherapy but will almost surely die if she doesn't.
The Hershbergers, an Amish family, don’t want Sarah to undergo chemo treatments because they believe the medicine was making her too sick. In response to the courts ruling, they went into hiding. They are opting to treat Sarah’s leukemia with herbal remedies instead.
Understandably, the family doesn’t want to be in hiding forever. But because of the court’s previous ruling, they feel they cannot return home. If state authorities were to find the Hershbergers at their house, they would legally be allowed to bring Sarah to the hospital and administer chemo treatments.
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In November, court-appointed guardian Maria Schimer said she no longer wanted to force Sarah to undergo chemotherapy. Her decision was not made because she no longer feels Sarah needs chemo, but rather because there was no way to treat Sarah while she was on the run.
Yesterday, the family’s attorney announced that the family is filing an appeal to the court’s limited guardianship ruling. If the appeal is successful, the family will be allowed to return home without fearing of Sarah being taken to the hospital for treatment against their will.
Attorney Maurice Thompson said the court’s ruling "affects the parental rights and health care freedom of all Ohio parents.”
“Any parent could have significant decisions second-guessed,” he reasoned. “…Any parent could lose the right to choose the doctor, hospital and course of medical treatment of their choice.”
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Schimer hopes the court rejects the Hershberger’s appeal because she claims the family never raised the issue of their constitutional rights being violated in court. Thompson rejected this rational, saying that constitutional rights can be invoked at any time regardless of whether they were explicitly stated in a previous hearing.
Thompson argued that "fundamental and constitutional rights that implicate matters of great public importance and constitutional significance cannot be forfeited."
It has not been announced when the court will make a decision on the family’s appeal. Check back with us in the coming weeks for an update.