MEDINA COUNTY, Ohio-- Should an Amish child be forced to get chemotherapy to save her life? An appellate court has now ruled in the case which started last spring.
Akron Children’s Hospital took a Medina County Amish family to court in a last-ditch attempt to treat the child for a lethal form of leukemia. The girl was diagnosed last April and doctors found tumors in her neck, chest and kidneys.
The family began the first course, but then stopped all traditional treatment, and opted for a holistic approach, when they saw how sick she became from the chemo.
“They just decided no more… we can’t…we’re not going to allow our daughter to go through this,” said Medina attorney, John Oberholtzer, who represents the girl’s parents.
In court documents, the parents expressed concerns about long term effects like “infertility and damage to her other organs.”
The family also said they prayed on it and consulted family, church elders and friends.
“Although there are these dire medical predictions, they would refute that saying this is a matter beyond the province of mortal man,” said Oberholtzer.
The predictions from doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital have not been encouraging.
They say with chemotherapy, there is an 85% chance of survival, but without it, she will die within a year.
“It's uniformly fatal,” said Dr. Robert McGregor, chief medical officer at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The hospital contacted Medina County Job and Family Services, but they “refused” to file neglect charges.
In July, a registered nurse with the hospital filed a motion for “emergency temporary focused legal guardianship” to deal only with the chemotherapy.
“I feel obligated to offer what we can for this family to move forward and hopefully what will be an appropriate therapy for her,” said Dr. McGregor.
But Medina County Judge John Lohn denied the motion saying, “There was no evidence the parents are unfit.”
The hospital appealed and Tuesday August 27, 2013, the case went before Appellate Court Justices with the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Canton, on behalf of the Ninth Appellate District.
Judges in the Medina appellate district had recused themselves from the case because they had a personal connection to the hospital.
The Appellate Court “reversed” Judge Lohn's decision, basically saying that parental suitability is irrelevant “if the minor’s interests will be promoted by the appointment of a guardian.”
The case has now been sent back to Medina County Probate Court to be heard again.
In a statement, the hospital said they are hopeful the court “will decide it is in the best interest of this child to award limited guardianship." However, “The hospital will respect the court’s ruling.”
A new hearing in Medina could take place as early as next Tuesday, according to Oberholtzer.
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