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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Parents Versus State: Control Over a Child's Healthcare

     In Ohio, doctors at Akron Children's Hospital in April 2013 diagnosed 10-year-old Sarah Hershberger with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The Amish girl's parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, when told that 85 percent of the patients treated for this illness survive, agreed to a two-year chemotherapy program. After the first round of the chemotherapy, the tumors on Sarah's neck, chest and kidneys were diminished.

     In June 2013, after a second round of chemotherapy treatment made their daughter extremely ill, the Hershbergers decided to stop the treatment. They took this action against the advice of cancer doctors who warned them that without the chemotherapy Sarah would die.

     The hospital authorities, believing they were morally and legally bound to continue treating the girl, went to court to take away the parents' right to make medical decisions on their daughter's behalf.

     Andy and Anna Hershberger, in September 2013, took Sarah to an alternative cancer treatment center in Central America where doctors put the girl on a regimen of herbs and vitamins. When the family returned to the United States hospital scans showed no signs of the lymphoma.

     On October 13, 2013, an Ohio appellate court judge granted Maria Schimer, an attorney and licensed nurse, limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger. The guardianship included the power to make medical decisions on her behalf over the objections of her parents.

     Shortly after the court ruling, the guardian sent a taxi out to the family farm near the village of Spencer, Ohio to fetch Sarah and take her to the hospital in Akron for additional chemotherapy. When the cab arrived at the Medina County home located 35 miles southwest of the Cleveland metropolitan area the family was gone.

     A few weeks later, pursuant to a welfare check on Sarah Hershberger, deputy sheriffs went to the farm and found the place still unoccupied. And no one in the Amish community seemed to know where the Hershbergers had gone. If members of this Amish enclave knew the family's whereabouts they weren't cooperating with the authorities. Attorneys for the Hershberger family appealed the guardianship ruling to the Ohio Supreme Court on issues related to religious freedom.

     If Sarah Hershberger's fate remained in her parents' hands and she died from cancer, Mr. and Mrs. Hershberger could face negligent homicide charges. Moreover, people who helped them avoid the authorities could be charged as accomplices to the crime. The right of religious freedom did not match the right of a child to receive life-saving healthcare. Being given vitamins and herbs as a cancer cure, while less painful than the immediate aftermath of chemotherapy, did not qualify, in the eyes of the medical profession and the law, as adequate healthcare.

     On December 6, 2013, according to media reports, the court appointed guardian decided not to force Sarah Hershberger to undergo further chemotherapy treatments. The family's whereabouts were still unknown.

     In October 2015, MRIs and blood work performed at the Cleveland Clinic revealed that Sarah Hershberrger showed no signs of cancer and appeared to be in perfect health. As a result of these medical tests the family judge ended the court-ordered guardianship of the Amish girl. 


  1. People do die from chemo. Sarah H did chemo until it began to harm her and her parents withdrew her. Hospitals and doctors often overreach and have massive financial interests that conflict with what a more scientifically capable and informed person might choose.

    Additionally the girl's parents are claiming that she was subjected to treatments experimental in nature without informing them. If so, the hospital should be completely severed and sanctioned severely.

    These aggressive chemo regimens are no mere 1-7 days retch, but rather can truly destroy you. That determination is when the parents quit. Also some alternative treatments do have substantial benefits, including immune control of residual disease. No pharma is going to sponsor 5 and 10 cent pills, nutrients, or even $10 per daytreatments.

  2. Maybe she will find Lorenzo's oil

  3. It appears that the parents' decision led to their daughter being cured. Why threaten them with jail for that? If they'd continued with the chemo, and she'd died, would you be calling for the arrest of her doctors? Even the court appointed guardian says she no longer needs chemo. This whole thing is nothing more than the medical establishment getting embarrassed by someone without a US government approved license.

    And on the completely unrelated subject of religious freedom, your argument is incredibly short sighted. You plainly favor relieving the parents of their rights, in order to protect their child. What are the limits to that concept? Should the state take custody of a child if there's a gun in the home? Should the state take custody of a boy who's allowed to play football? A girl with a body mass index higher than 30? Should parents with unfavored political views lose their children? That appears to be your position, in this case. Their actions were successful. The girl was cured. The parents even allowed the proscribed treatments, until they judged the cure to be worse than the disease. Your only complaint is that they're Amish. Should all Amish children be removed from their homes? That's the plain inference you're making.

    Government is not common sense. Government is brute force, constrained only by mindless bureaucracy. If they're allowed to imprison us for our personal beliefs, we're all slaves already. There's no middle ground. The state doesn't allow middle ground. Every power they claim inevitably becomes absolute, and usually arbitrary.