Judge blocks bid to force Amish girl to have chemo

Akron Children's Hospital wants registered nurse to take over limited guardianship of 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia.
Associated Press
Sep 4, 2013


A judge has again blocked an Ohio hospital from forcing a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

The order siding with the parents comes just a week after an appeals court sent the case back to the judge and told him to give more consideration to the request by Akron Children's Hospital.

The hospital wants a registered nurse to take over limited guardianship of Sarah Hershberger and decide whether she should continue treatments for leukemia. The hospital believes Sarah's leukemia is treatable and says she will die without chemotherapy.

Andy Hershberger, the girl's father, said 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.

Judge John Lohn, in Medina County, said in his ruling Tuesday that not allowing the parents to make medical decisions for their daughter would take away their rights. He also said there is no guarantee that chemotherapy would be successful.

"They are good parents," he said. "They understand completely the grave situation their daughter is in and the consequences of their choice to refuse chemotherapy for Sarah at this time."

Lohn said also that allowing for a guardian would go against the girl's wishes.

The hospital did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

The judge ruled in July that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her, but the appeals court said Lohn failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl's best interest and ordered him to re-consider the decision.

Sarah's father said she begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life. They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.

They opted to consult with a wellness center and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, and see another doctor who is monitoring their daughter, Hershberger said.

Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children's Hospital if Sarah's health worsens. The hospital has said the girl's illness — lymphoblastic lymphoma — is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.




No, nothing is 100% guaranteed. But 85%-90% odds are pretty darn good. This judge is allowing this girl's parents to kill her.

JudgeMeNot's picture

They are Amish. They get treated differently than other folks.


Thankfully, the judge is allowing the parents to make the best informed decision for their child.
I want to make the decisions for myself, not the government making them for me.


But the problem is that they aren't making the best informed decision for their child. By making this decision, they are signing her death certificate. If they were making the best informed decision, they would be doing the chemo because she has an 85-90% chance of survival with it.


It's not your business. Take care of your own children. Whatever happens has no effect on either of you. Would you want anyone to tell you how to raise your kids? NO, so MYOB!


I would hope that if I were making a stupid, foolish, selfish decision that allowed my child, who had close to a 90% chance of survival if properly treated, to die, that someone would step in and do the right thing for that child. Children are not property.
This isn't about raising kids. This is about getting proper medical treatment for a child who is otherwise going to die.
Remember your comment the next time an article about that Vermilion family who starved their kids to death comes up. This is no different.
Protecting children from abuse and neglect is EVERYONE'S business. Not getting proper treatment for your child is neglect.


“I would hope that if I were making a stupid, foolish, selfish decision that allowed my child, who had close to a 90% chance of survival if properly treated, to die, that someone would step in and do the right thing for that child.”

Who are you to decide what is the right thing for that child?
She made the decision to stop treatment.

“Children are not property.”

Exactly. She decides what she wants to happen to her. Not her parents or you or a judge. Your statement above makes her merely property. Pick a lane.

“This isn't about raising kids. This is about getting proper medical treatment for a child who is otherwise going to die.”

She is getting the treatment she desires. Who are you to decide what is proper?

“Not getting proper treatment for your child is neglect.”

Again, who are you to decide what is proper?

The judge made a sound constitutional decision. The child is not property and can make her own informed decision.

Who do you work for? From your post I would say you work for Erie county Child Protective Services and that makes you the ultimate God to decide what is best for everyone else's children. Well the judge said the constitution says different.




No, I do not work for CPS. And a 10-year-old cannot make medical decisions for themselves. Of course she is going to want to stop treatment--it's making her feel sick. A child will almost always pick what seems better in the short-term over what is better in the long-term. It is up to a responsible adult who has their best interests in mind. Letting this child die is not in her best interests.
The next time a child dies because all the parents did was pray instead of get the child treatment, you will all be eating your words.


I won't be. I'll be sad, but I won't let emotions override consistent application of the principle involved here.

In the aggregate, parents do a better job of making decisions in childrens' best interests than does the government.


Judges also send children home to abusive parents who then kill them.


And yet, you want those same judges to be in charge rather than parents.


Nope, a judge wouldn't be in charge, and is never in charge--judges do not have custody. However, in this case, no one is talking about removing this girl from her parents. They simply want a medical professional, in this case a nurse, to be appointed to make medical decisions regarding this life and death situation because the parents' decision is killing this girl.


The judge gets to make a decision that can overrule the parents and/or the doctors. That's the epitome of being in charge.


"The judge made a sound constitutional decision."

I agree


Parents do not have a constitutional right to kill their children by withholding life-saving treatment.


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"


Except when it threatens the life of another. That has been ruled in court over and over again. You can believe and practice whatever your faith dictates, until it harms another.


Through action, not inaction. Many religions' views on pacifism would require them to stand by while someone was murdered, and the law does not require them to do anything.


No, that is not true. There have been many cases with Christian Science (or similar faith) parents have not gotten medical treatment for their child, and instead just prayed or whatever, resulting in that child's death, and they have been found guilty and sent to jail.
We are not talking about some outsider standing by while someone is being murdered. We are talking about child neglect, which is, by definition, inaction.


"Children are not property."

Except that, according to you, they ARE the property of the state, which kills more children each year than exist among the Amish.


Nope, they aren't property of anyone. But someone has to intervene and do what is best for this child. Allowing her to die is not what is best. And any parent that allows that is committing child neglect.
This child has an 85-90% chance of survival with treatment. Without it, she will almost certainly die. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand what is in this child's best interest.


Oh, and btw, there is a considerable amount of child abuse, including incest, among the Amish. So, while they may not kill their children, they often sexually abuse them.
Do you have any idea how many children's lives are saved each year because of "the state"? You seem to think that children who are abused and neglected should be left at home to suffer and possibly die at the hands of their parents without any intervention.


"I would hope that if I were making a stupid, foolish, selfish decision that allowed my child, who had close to a 90% chance of survival if properly treated, to die, that someone would step in and do the right thing for that child."

I'm curious, informed, DO you have children?


Yes, I have two grown children. What difference does that make?


Why not there kids we have to help the kids in Sadusky that the parents are too lazy to go to work And support.


You people that will let a child die turn my stomach. You think parents' rights to control their children are more important than a child's life or death. This isn't about the state, the government, or any other term you want to use. This is about no one willing to step up and do the right thing for this child. I hope that judge can sleep at night when this little girl dies because of his decision and that of her selfish, foolish parents.
ALL, the kind of cancer this girl has, is highly treatable. It is one of the cancers where the survival rate has increased dramatically in the last 40 years, to where it is close to 90% with treatment. Without it, she will die.
So please tell me, when that child died in Vermilion because he didn't get proper medical treatment for his disabilities, which led to starvation, why wasn't that okay?


Informed, you're focusing narrowly on this one child, but there is the larger question of the overall cost to society of the policies neccessary to save this one life. That cost can take many forms, including other deaths. MANY children die, and are abused, sexually or otherwise, in state custody (e.g. the foster care system.) Studies have found the mortality rate to be up to 5 times as high in government custody as in parental custody. Add to that the fact that many children are taken from their parents by the government because of false information, out of political motivations such as unpopular parental beliefs, etc., and robust parental rights becomes more than just an abstract idea; it becomes a matter of life and death.

The last few decades have shown that this power WILL be abused for political purposes. Kids HAVE been taken from their parents because the parents' worldview was not politically correct, and authorities deemed teaching that worldview to the children to be abuse. The end result of such a trend is a world with a government imposed one-size-fits-all, top down template for parenting and the acceptable beliefs to teach to children. THAT is far worse than the death of one or two children per year in a nation of 300+ million people, because it means the complete loss of freedom of conscience within a few generations.

You can't prevent all deaths, and trying to do so often carries very bad tradeoffs. Parents withholding medical care out of religious conviction may kill a handful of kids each year in this country. More kids are killed by line drives in Little League games, but that doesn't mean we ban baseball. We can save far more if we define allowing your child near a swimming pool as abuse worthy of seizing the kids, but to me, it's not worth a nation full of people who can't swim. We can save even more if we mandate governors on all cars limiting them to 5 mph, but it's not worth the economic and social upheaval such a limitation on transportation would create. There's empirical evidence that eliminating child protective services and government power to take kids from their parents would reduce one set of child deaths by 80%. This sort of balancing question comes up every time a child is shot - those of us who support the 2nd Amendment aren't naive enough to think we can ever drive such events completely to zero in a society that allows an armed populace, but we see the larger picture alternative as unacceptable. Your approach to the situation is the beginning of a road that ends with laws that every kid is raised in a plastic bubble.

Parents are going to take a lot of different approaches with their kids. Neither you nor I will approve of all of them. Some of them will result in lethal failures. However, if we clamp down on parents, we also risk the loss of wildly non-conforming approaches that could bring untold benefit. Pasteur was overwhelmingly considered a quack by the mainstream medical community, and the mother of the child to whom he administered the first rabies vaccination was condemned just like you are condemning these parents. Freedom is messy, and sometimes tragically risky, but it beats the heck out of the alternative.

One of the primary tools used by those who seek to curtail our freedoms in this country is the phrase "think of the CHILDREN." We DO think of them, enough to try to leave them a free country in which to live. So, we're not denying the very high probability that, in this one instance, this one child will die. We see that as an unavoidable cost of living in a free society. There's always some benefit to be had by curtailing freedom, if only that the trains run on time - that doesn't mean the benefit is worth the cost.


Again, the studies you talk about have nothing to do with Ohio. All states have very different systems. In fact, until recently, in the state of Indiana, child protective services caseworkers weren't even required to be college educated--they only had to pass a civil service test. And the fact that you believe any study that advocates doing away with all child protective services is laughable. Please cite that study, because I would like to know what wingnut or anarchist wrote that. Children's lives are saved everyday by being removed from abusive homes, and there are many wonderful foster parents out there. Is the system perfect? No, of course not. Working to improve the system is a much better alternative than abolishing it. And any foster parent who abuses or neglects a child should be punished to the max.
In 2011, there were approximately 1,770 child death in the U.S. due to abuse or neglect. In Ohio, between 2006-2010, there were 165. Just imagine how many more there would be if there were no child protective service agencies. And this doesn't even count the number of children who suffered non-lethal injuries, including sexual abuse.
It is very rare for a child in Ohio to be removed from a home without substantiated abuse or neglect. Of course, it should never happen. Again, we should work to improve the system, not do away with it.


I never said any study advocated anything; I pointed out the logical consequence of the findings of a study done by mainstream social scientists who, for all I know, probably support CPS.

For the majority of this country's history, no such department existed, and yet, the streets did not run red with the blood of slaughtered children. In fact, most of our societal problems have increased in lockstep with the influence of social scientists, who generally are strong advocates of a statist, it-takes-a-village thinking, upon policy.


Actually, child protection laws and agencies were put into place because of the horrible abuse so many children were experiencing. In fact, the very first cases had to be tried under animal cruelty laws because there were no laws to protect children. People looked the other way, there was no mandated reporting, and children suffered in silence. Are you actually advocating for no one in authority to protect abused and neglected children?
Are you blaming psychologists and sociologists for child abuse, something that has been in existence throughout history?
Regardless of any sociological bent you may have, this girl will die without treatment, and will most likely live with treatment. Her parents are letting her die.


The difference between those examples you give (swimming pools and little league) is that the risk of dying is small. This girl will die without treatment.
I do not think a child has to pay her life for us to live in a free society.


When contemplating matters of public policy, risk is measured differently.
One has to consider the overall risk nationally, not the risk to one isolated individual. The metric of concern is how many deaths does a public policy prevent. In those terms, swimming pools, bicycles, cars that exceed 5mph, hot dogs, trampolines, and most active outdoor sports are a FAR greater threat to children's lives.

In fact, by crusading for this ONE child when you could be devoting your energy to advocating for the banning of bicycles or pools, assuming you believe your advocacy is effective, you're choosing to sacrifice hundreds of nameless, faceless kids to save this one about whom you've read.

Every year, thousands of kids pay with their lives for the freedom we have in this country. With UK style gun control, at least a hundred of the children shot each year could be spared. Our justice system, with its presumption of innocence, due process, and other protections for the rights of the accused, allows a lot of people to go free who go on to kill kids. Hundreds of kids are killed by gang activity which many private venues exclude from their premises through policies that, if the government enacted them, would violate the 1st Amendment guarantee of free speech, to say nothing of all the kids killed by people inspired by espressions in the media. Some of the lowest crime rates in the world are in countries governed by Sharia law. Yes, freedom has tradeoffs.

Here's the crux of the issue - you aren't advocating a Huxleyan situation where the state makes ALL decisions for ALL children, and you're not (at least yet) endorsing the removal of kids for parents teaching them politically incorrect beliefs, so you clearly believe parents have SOME right to make decisions for their children and raise them according to their beliefs without state interference. Thus your position boils down to proposition that there's a level of risk of death that renders our rights null and void. I could go on all day with the negative consequences of that proposition.

Truth or Dare

The point here is rather than continue w/chemo, the parents and their child made the decision to stop, otherwise choosing an alternative form of healing. They call it Integrated Medicine Evidently A.C.H. doesn't think much of the choice, nor is it their right to push the matter. My guess would be this child has already been through enough w/the chemo treatments. She doesn't need her parents, nor herself, the patient, being second guessed by anyone. Personally, I would say the nurse they want to appoint as the Guardian, maybe, just maybe she's overstepped proper boundaries?


She's had two treatments. I don't know how anyone could say she's been through enough when it will probably save her life. I guess by dying she won't be going through anything.

Vitamins and herbs do not cure A.L.L. They can call it whatever they want, it won't save this girl's life.