Ohio Court Rules Hospital Can Force Chemo Treatment On Amish Patient Sarah Hershberger

| by Jonathan Wolfe

In August, we told you the story of Sarah Hershberger, a 10-year-old cancer patient whose parents want to deny her chemotherapy treatment because of their Amish values.

Last spring, Hershberger’s parents agreed to let their daughter undergo two years of chemo treatments at Akron Children’s Hospital. But after several months of treatment, Sarah, in a great deal of pain, pleaded with her parents to stop the treatments. The Hershberger’s told the hospital to stop treatments immediately, and told the medical staff that they would pursue homeopathic treatment instead.

But the hospital’s staff, who said Sarah would die without chemotherapy, challenged the parent’s decision. A legal battle ensued in which the hospital sought to gain temporary, limited guardianship over Sarah so that they would be able to make medical decisions for her.

Last week, an appeals court ruled that the hospital would be granted limited guardianship of Sarah. She will soon resume chemotherapy, which doctors say has an 85% chance of sending her leukemia into remission.

“While we respect the wishes of the parents and believe them to be honest and sincere, we are unwilling to adhere to the wishes of the parents,” the appeals court judges wrote.

The ruling said that children to not retain the same rights as adults to refuse medical help regardless of the circumstances. Further, the court ruled that while parents are the primary legal decision makers for their children, the state may intervene on the child’s behalf if the parent’s decisions are neglecting a child’s best interest in matters of life and death.

Sarah and her parents are part of a Medina County, Ohio Amish community that rejects many modern technologies. In August, Sarah’s father, Andy Hershberger, tried to explain the family’s position on modern medicine to the Associated Press.

"Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine,” Hershberger said. "But at some times we have to stop it and do something else.”

Sources: Daily Mail, Detroit Free Press