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Cancer-Stricken Amish Girl Sarah Hershberger to Restart Chemo In Spite Of Parents' Wishes, Says Appeals Court

In the battle involving a 10-year-old girl’s cancer treatments between an Akron, Ohio, hospital and the girl’s Amish parents, an appeals court yesterday cleared the way for the hospital to start chemotherapy on the girl again, despite the parents’ wishes.

Sarah Hershberger, who suffers from leukemia, began a two-year course of chemotherapy in the spring for her illness, which doctors say is highly treatable. But after two rounds of the treatments, she begged her parents to stop because it was making her too sick.

The Amish religion largely shuns modern technology and medicine but not completely.

"Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine,” said the girl’s father, Andy Hershberger, to the Associated Press. "But at some times we have to stop it and do something else.”

The Hershbergers put their daughter on a course of herbs and vitamins overseen by a different doctor. They fought the hospital’s attempts to force Sarah back into chemo.

Hospital Chief Medical Officer Robert McGregor said last week that with continued chemotherapy, Sarah would have an 85 percent chance of surviving her lymphoblastic lymphoma.

"We really have to advocate for what we believe is in the best interest of the child," he said.

In July, a county judge sided with the parents, saying that unless they were shown to be unfit, for which there was not, he said, “a scintilla of evidence,” there was no legal justification for taking her away from her parents' care.

The appeals court disagreed, sending the case back to the lower court with the order to consider appointing a qualified guardian — one with training as a registered nurse — to make medical decisions on Sarah’s behalf.

The guardian, if appointed, would not take custody of the child, but only be empowered to decide on Sarah’s medical treatment.

The hospital is not contending that the parents are unfit, only that chemotherapy gives Sarah an excellent chance of beating the disease. The dispute is solely about “a disagreement between providers and parents over what course of treatment is best for their child,” the hospital said in a written statement.

SOURCES: CBS News, News Channel 5


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