Ohio Amish girl will not be forced to renew chemo

IN GOD’S HANDS::The fight to force the treatment on the 11-year-old was dropped after the girl and her parents left their home. They feared the side effects

AP, TOLEDO, Ohio

Sun, Dec 08, 2013 - Page 7

A court-appointed guardian is dropping her attempt to force an 11-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy after she and her parents fled their home to avoid treatment.

The move filed in court on Friday will likely bring an end to a months-long fight between Sarah Hershberger’s family and a hospital that began when her parents decided to halt the treatments because they were making the girl sick.

The guardian, an attorney who is also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah after an appeals court ruling in October said the beliefs and convictions of the girl’s parents cannot outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

However, the guardian, Maria Schimer, decided to drop the effort because she does not know where Sarah is now and it has become impossible to monitor her health or make any medical decisions, said Clair Dickinson, an attorney for Schimer.

“It didn’t make sense to drag this on any longer,” he said.

Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital believe Sarah’s leukemia is treatable, but say she will die within a year if she halts chemotherapy. The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

Sarah’s father said the family does not oppose modern medicine and that they did not make their decision based on religious reasons.

They ended chemotherapy because it was making her too sick and they feared it could end up killing her, the family’s attorney, Maurice Thompson, said.

Sarah and her parents left their home in rural northeast Ohio just days before the state appeals court allowed the guardian to take over medical decisions. The family left the country in late September, before returning to an undisclosed location outside Ohio.

Schimer’s attempts to meet with the family were rebuffed, Dickinson said.

The guardian’s decision to withdraw from the case still needs final approval from a county court.

“The judge’s approval of this resignation will pave the way for the family’s return home, which will allow Sarah to receive the family’s preferred treatment under the best possible conditions,” Thompson said.

Andy Hershberger, the Ohio girl’s father, said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring, but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick and she feared the treatments would make her infertile.