Court Backs Hospital in Ohio Amish Chemo Case

From the Associated Press:

An appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

The court ruled that a county judge must reconsider his decision that blocked Akron Children’s Hospital’s attempt to give an attorney who’s also a registered nurse limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger and the power to make medical decisions for her.

The appeals court ruling issued Tuesday said the judge failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl’s best interest. It also disagreed with the judge’s decision that said he could only transfer guardianship if the parents were found unfit.

The article also sheds light on the parents’ decision:

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.

“It put her down for two days. She was not like her normal self,” he said. “We just thought we cannot do this to her.”

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

“Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine, but at some times we have to stop it and do something else,” Hershberger said in a telephone interview.

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.

“We see her every day. We watch her really close,” her father said. “She runs, plays. She crawls up ladders. She’s got a lot of energy, more than she had when she was doing chemo.”

Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children’s Hospital if Sarah’s health worsens. “We told them if it gets to the point that we cannot do anything for her, we would come back,” he said.

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    1. AmyJo

      This situation is a little upsetting for me. Last night, after hearing about the research on the rbap48 gene on the evening news, I decided to do a little search to see if I could find any links to what the report was saying and the effects of nutrition on the situation. I came across this article from 2008 which is linked in a slight way but does address nutrition (in relation to mother’s nutrition on developing fetus, etc.). Then I got to thinking of that place in Mexico that utilizes nutrition and other behaviors to address cancer (I can’t remember names but the doc was USA born I think and they were ‘run outta town’ because of promising/practicing the anti-cancer stuff or something like that).
      Anyway, ‘ramblings, rumblings and wonderings’ of an old gramma who hates to see too much interference of courts and governments in anyone’s life but understands the state’s stance. I just don’t completely agree with the courts in this case, at least from what I’ve read. One other article I didn’t cite is the recent research about the long term effects on individuals treated with chemo/radiation for cancer as children.!po=51.0870

      1. Marcie

        Courts back hospital..

        There is a documentary on Netflix called The Gerson Miracle. It talks about how a nutritionist and a doctor got their heads together and found how to cure cancer (and many other ailments)with high doses of vitamin C and other vitamins. I wonder if that is the clinic you are speaking of?

        …if only the medical drug companies didn’t get to decide what is considered real medicine. I believe they could really help her!

        …and I hate it that the government can just step in and rule someone’s life. That is wrong!

        …oops, off my soapbox!

        1. Ed

          There is a very useful website called “QuackWatch” that provides objective information about “alternative” treatments and their actual effects. This particular article is specifically about alleged cancer cures, and the Gerson therapy is specifically examined.

          Summary: Gerson Therapy never cured anyone. It has sent lots of people to the hospital with toxic sepsis.

          Sadly, there are some people who will prey on those suffering disease, perhaps offering kind words but seeing dollar signs. Whenever someone makes a fantastic claim (such as claiming they can cure cancer) we need to exercise careful of discernment.

          1. Eli S

            Who do you trust?

            There are lots of people who distrust the medical profession and spread stories of conspiracies by doctors to get you hooked on their drugs. The story is that drugs don’t cure, they control the symptoms. Sometime that may be true, because given a chance the body may heal itself. Usually alternative medicine is lifted up as the better choice. Which too wants your money.
            Very few people stand up to these “experts”. You cannot successfully rebut what someone really wants to believe. No,the medical community is not perfect, but I will trust a surgeon when the chips are down and the alternative is a painful death. Lots of people have died because they believed a lie. The question here is who do you believe?

    2. Alice Mary

      As a mother & grandmother, this is such a hard call. Perhaps the parents weren’t made aware of just how devastating the affects of chemo could be, before they started treatment. If they truly knew how Sarah would likely suffer (at least during the “active” treatment phase, and for days/weeks afterward), maybe they could have better prepared themselves and Sarah. But it’s also heart-wrenching to see a child suffer. There are no guarantees, even with chemo—and compromising her immunity (in a farm setting, with all it involves) is more troubling, because if she catches even a minor illness, it could become much more serious (and she couldn’t have chemo then, anyway, until she recovered).

      Amy Jo and Marcie, is there room on that soapbox for me, too? Big Brother is growing exponentially these days. So much for our “freedom”, huh?

      I’m praying for the best outcome with the least possible suffering for all involved—if that’s even possible.

      Alice Mary

      1. AmyJo

        Alice Mary, et al – there is always room for more on that soap box – a place we can also join together in prayer!

    3. Erin Black

      Court Backs Hospital in Ohio Amish Chemo Case

      I have two points that concern me. First, the fact that the court can come in decide what happens to you and your children. They are not considering the parents or the child’s wishes in any way. We have a lawyer who has decided that she knows better than anyone. Each time this happens, more and more family rights are be eaten away. Where does it stop? Think about this when the court decides it has the right to make decisions about you because someone decides that you are wrong. The courts should not have to right to take away your choice of quality over quantity of life.

      Second point. My mothers cousin died a few months ago. She was in her eighties. She was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer over forty years ago. It was so bad that her family was called in because they said she would not last more that a few days. She went home, got her affairs in order. She heard about a alternative cancer treatment and started immediately. She went from having a few days to living forty more years. It may not work for everyone but you must be allowed the chance to try. Even chemotherapy does not carry a guarantee of remission.

    4. Dali Castillo

      Government: How much power should they have?

      This is a difficult situation, but, just like some have already commented, how can the government/courts step in and make such a decision? Whether we agree with the parents or not isn’t the real issue. The real issue is others stepping in and making decisions that aren’t theirs to make. Anyway, that’s how I look at it; my opinion.

    5. annmarie

      I feel we all must have a chance to choose the type of care we would like to have. For no one market has the monoply on curing cancer. My dad had Non-Hodgkins lymphoma..had chemo and still died. That cancer is classified as a very treatable cancer..not so for my dad. Anyway, he could have still had the same outcome with alternative meds too. However, he deserved and everyone else does too..The RIGHT To choose how they want to treat their sickness.

    6. Linda

      My nephew also had lymphoblastic lymphoma. He took chemo and went into remission, which is not a cure. Then it came back as leukemia. He passed away at age 10. He lived three years after his first diagnosis. He was in and out of the hospital many times. One heartwarming story I remember is that the parents received amazing support from friends and church family. One time they opened an envelope from the mail containing eight $100 bills, with no return address; it was an anonymous gift. Church brethren encouraged them to be faithful spiritually, and they would help financially. Chemo costs a lot of money. It’s too bad there is not a money-back guarantee if the patient doesn’t survive. Does the hospital expect the parents to pay if Sarah receives chemotherapy? God is the one who controls life, so it is a very hard decision, because we don’t know the future.

      Another relative had a different kind of cancer, and did take chemo and radiation, and is a child survivor. I suppose treatment gets more complicated when it involves the health of a child under age 18.

      An adult friend had surgery for stomach cancer, but did not subject himself to chemo. He went to Mexico for metabolic therapy, and read everything he could on the subject of cancer. He changed his diet and is doing very well today. When a survival rate of 5 years is claimed, sometimes the cancer returns in the sixth year.

      It makes me smile when I think back to what I read in a conventional medicine book, and in alternative treatment literature. Both claimed that the other one was a high-dollar industry; I forget if it was millions or billions of dollars. Unfortunately, many physicians are taught very little about using food as medicine. Maybe some natural remedies could help lessen the side effects of chemo if both were used together.

      A CANCER BATTLE PLAN, by Anne and David Frahm, is a favorite book of mine.

      May God give wisdom and guidance to the Hershberger family and to all involved.

    7. Lorraine

      First, ditto what Erin Black and many others commented about the interference of the government in people’s life decisions.

      Out here in the midwest, we have a “Cancer Treatment Centers of America” which advertise that they use a multi-faceted approach to treating cancer – nutrition, radiation, spiritual guidance. I wonder if a place like this would help this family – it might not be exactly what they want to do, but it might be gentler than straight chemo and it might get the courts off their back. The closest one to them is probably Philadelphia, and the website is

      Personally, I have experienced amazing results for myself and my 5 children using herbal remedies. None of them were quackery. For what it’s worth, most herbs are superfoods and simply have concentrated nutrition that our bodies can easily use. If anyone out there is curious, there is a book out there called “Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs” by Mark Pedersen which gives not only the folk history and use of each herb but also contains a nutritional profile of each one.

      It seems like we should all be praying for this family. Amish or not, this has to be such a tremendous struggle for them.

    8. Diane

      I think they should have taken the Girl to that childrens hospital in Memphis to get her help. They are coming up with many different ways to cure cancer with out Chemo. Chemo is actually poison. It doesnt always work. It sounds like the parents were not told that chemo makes people very very very sick. If a child has a form of cancer that is not treatable then why give a child chemo anyway. Who wants to be sick all the time when you only have short time to live.

    9. Looks like this is the latest update (Sep 4) on the case. The original judge has responded to the appeals court ruling:

      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.

    10. Christine McMahon-Chase

      Prayers for all involved with this issue. I am also wondering how the new “heath care” being implemented in the U.S. will affect the Amish as citizens…I personally find it frustrating to have it mandated instead of widely offered at reasonable prices.

    11. Charlotte


      My child also had cancer at 8 months old. She had chemo, which made her sick as well, but we persevered. She is now 40 years old and very healthy. But, I think that someone that is old enough to say “No” to certain medicines/treatments should be allowed to say no. On the other hand, I think everyone should give their children the best care available so that they can live a long and healthy life, even if those treatments make them sick for a period. Life is worth fighting for.

    12. Linda

      Sarah Hershberger update

      -Sarah Hershberger’s case has ping-ponged back and forth. On October 9, a guardian was appointed to make medical decisions for her. Akron Beacon Journal Online had an article titled, “Guardian appointed in case of Medina County girl ordered to receive medical treatment”:

      -“Schimer will retain guardianship until Feb. 1, 2016, when the girl is expected to complete treatments.”

      -This 15-page document is from the Medina County, Ohio, Court of Appeals:

      “After examination and testing, it was determined S.H. has a type of leukemia, T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, Stage III.”

      “Dr. Prasad Bodas testified that S.H.’s chemotherapy treatment has five separate phases: Induction (5 weeks), Consolidation (seven weeks), and Interim maintenance (eight weeks), Delayed Intensification (six weeks) and Maintenance (90 weeks). The total duration of the therapy is two years, three months.” In re S.H., 2013-Ohio-3708, ¶ 13 (PDF).

      -Now on Oct. 27, an article was written, “Amish Girl and Parents flee United States to Avoid Court-Mandated Chemotherapy” :

      “Sarah’s parents have stopped speaking with the conventional media because, according to Sarah’s Grandfather Isaac Keim, a bishop in the Amish church, Andy said, “after the news media took only a part of my statements and twisted them, I wasn’t going to talk anymore”.

      -It’s hard to know what is accurate that we read, but here is a different viewpoint: