Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio is going to appeal a judge’s decision refusing limited guardianship of a 10-year old Amish girl to hospital attorney Maria Shimer — the girl’s parents elected to suspend their daughter’s chemotherapy treatments against medical advice (AMA).
Sarah Hershberger was diagnosed with leukemia in April; soon after, rigorous chemotherapy began. Although tumors on her neck, kidney and chest shrank, she did not go into remission. The child testified in court that she begged her parents to allow her to discontinue chemo because it made her so ill.
Had it been granted, limited guardianship would have allowed Shimer to act on the girl’s behalf regarding medical decisions, circumventing the Hershbergers’ parental rights to do so.
In rendering his decision, the judge stated that parental rights can’t be terminated unless parents are deemed unfit. On the contrary, he found the Hershbergers to be “caring, attentive, protective and concerned.”
It should be noted that this isn’t a case about religious freedom, it’s about parents’ rights to decide the best course of treatment for their child. The Hershbergers consented to chemo at first, but the child didn’t go into remission and the chemotherapy took a “terrible” toll on her. Rather than put her through another round of therapy, they decided on a more natural approach, utilizing various vitamins and minerals.
Hospital officials say that if chemo continues, her chances for survival could climb to 85%, while foregoing treatment will mean she will be dead within a year.
This is a tough one. Do parents have a right to forgo traditional treatment for a terminally ill child, if doing so means certain death? What say you?