Ohio Amish Girl Now Reportedly Cancer-Free

An update on Sarah Hershberger, an 11-year old Amish girl who was recently the focus of a public battle over child welfare and parental rights.

Sarah was diagnosed in 2013 with a form of leukemia described as “highly curable.” After undergoing conventional chemotherapy, Sarah’s parents elected to remove her from the treatment due to the adverse side effects.

Sarah Hershberger and family, September 24. Sarah is second from right. Photo by 1851 Center For Constitutional Law

In lieu of a conventional approach, they used “natural medicines” to treat her. The Hershberger family ended up fleeing the country after the court approved a limited guardianship to force her to undergo chemotherapy.

A recent article in the Medina Gazette provides an update on Sarah’s condition, which thankfully appears to be good:

A Columbus attorney has announced that a 12-year-old Amish girl is cancer-free, despite courtroom testimony last year from doctors that she would be dead in six months without chemotherapy treatments.

Maurice Thompson, the executive director for the libertarian nonprofit 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, said the girl, Sarah Hershberger, shows no signs of cancer and appears to be healthy.

“She had MRIs and bloodwork, and the judge over the last year helped facilitate at least one trip to the Cleveland Clinic. The MRIs did not show any cancer,” Thompson told The Gazette on Friday.

He said the family will continue to treat the girl with less-invasive, alternative medicine.

Sarah’s case became a flashpoint for the conventional-versus-alternative treatments debate. At the time, hospital attorneys suggested that removing Sarah from conventional treatment would be “almost certain to lead to Sarah’s death” within a year.

I assume this news will be taken as support for the alternative medicine approach. But the most important thing that all can agree on is that Sarah is apparently well, over two years after her diagnosis.

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    1. Osiah Horst

      Cancer Free

      It is great to hear that Sarah is cancer free after two years. However, does anyone know what method of alternative treatment she used? We are quite concerned about some of the alternative methods which we accept will work but the overall cost of healing may be too great.

      1. Steve Farkas

        Natural treatment

        I would like to know what natural treatment Sarah used to stay Cancer free and if it may be helpful to prevent Cancer.
        God Bless
        Steve Farkas

      2. I agree with you in full about Sarah being healthy Osiah. That is great news. It sounds like it comes from the attorney side, but I assume it is accurate…though I would hope people wouldn’t conclude that one example proves or disproves anything, in terms of what treatment she used being superior to conventional treatment.

        If there is something she did which possibly helped, I would hope that it would be studied in a clinical setting to gather a collection of data beyond a single example.

        However, having had someone very close to me die recently of cancer, despite conventional treatment in top medical facilities, I do understand the desire to explore whatever alternative methods might be available. I hope Sarah’s good health continues.

      3. Karin


        Friend of family told me it was Zija.

    2. Steve

      I have always believed that modern medicine is doing more to destroy our immune systems than they are building them up. I also believe that the root cause to most of the sicknesses today is all the crap they put into our food, both animal and plant, to make it grow bigger and faster.

    3. Anne, the mom

      Yay Sarah!

      I’m so glad to hear this! And what an incredible overreach of our government to think they have the right to interfere with the attempts of a loving family to get the best treatment for their daughter. Problems abound in our country, and this is a sad example of that.

      As for the stats on our own country’s success treating health issues with traditional meds, we must remember that the second (or maybe third?) leading cause of death in this country is medical error. And though many doctors know that diet and exercise trump the genetic component in treating or preventing disease, they are not allowed to “prescribe” such, due to liability concerns. I personally know several doctors who have left the big organizations to focus on bringing real health to their patients. They do not practice “alternative” medicine, but sometimes anyone who leaves the establishment looks suspect. Instead, it’s the establishment that’s suspect (my opinion).

    4. kalrose v.

      cancer free

      That’s great you’re Cancer free, but it sounds like the treats did u more harm.So i’m glad your parents dis what they think was right&welfare&C.P.S can keep there ugly noses out of other parents decicisons.god bless you sara.

    5. Diane Paulson

      God Heals His Beloved!

      Oh, Sarah, I have tears in my eyes as I look upon your and your family’s smiling faces, rejoicing in God’s love and mercy. He is faithful. He loves you so. Glory to Him!

    6. Dirk

      Sadly it is highly recommended that the attorney or some group sue the doctors responsible for all the mental and physical trauma they put this poor family through with their false outcomes diagnoses and legal threats.

      It will only be by taking legal action against such know it all doctors that others will learn to back off and not abuse the Amish.
      It’s easy to abuse people if one thinks there will be no consequences for one’s actions, these doctors need to learn that there are and will be, and next time an Amish person wants to decide what treatment their child, parent or spouse should receive, the doctors will be more respectful and hopefully more supportive.

    7. Alice Mary

      I’m very glad for Sarah’s current state of health. I wish her and her family a productive, joyful life together for decades to come! I hope there’s no recurrence in the future, as current status (like my frend’s 6-year-old grandson who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3 & has been in remission about 18 mos. after numerous transfusions, chemo, etc.) doesn’t mean “cured.” My pastor’s wife had breast cancer, was in remission for MANY years, only to have it recur with a vengeance & ultimately take her life. Same for my cousin’s husband (lung cancer returned recently, after many years of remission, and killed him, too, just 2 weeks ago).

      Pray for a cure for ALL cancer, so that no one has to weigh “traditional vs. alternative” treatment for ANYONE, anymore.

      Since we’re ALL “ONLY HUMAN” (including the doctors who predicted Sarah’s demise), I hope no lawsuits add more stress to the situation. I feel certain that the doctors were truly concerned for Sarah’s life and health. The Amish forgive willingly…can we Englisch do the same?

      Alice Mary

    8. Beverly

      Ohio Amish Girl Now Reportedly Cancer-Free

      Wonderful news no matter how it came about!
      I have been thinking about her lately..Kinda weird that it was just updated in relation to the timing of my thoughts! 😉

    9. Monty

      This is wonderful news!

      And now for a completely off-topic question: Eric, do you know if/when the Elizabethtown Amish studies website is going to update their population stats?

      1. RC

        They seem to have changed their website, from 2.etown.edu/amishstudies/ to groups.etown.edu/amishstudies/. For a while, you could access both sites, so I didn’t realize they had posted a population profile for 2015 until quite recently, but now typing in the old site’s address takes you to the new site. Interestingly, the new population profile states that there is now a small settlement in the Canadian province of New Brunswick. Does anyone know anything more about this? I’d read speculation about Amish moving to Prince Edward Island, but nothing about New Brunswick.

        1. RC thanks for pointing that out, the numbers are usually out a bit earlier in the year but hadn’t gotten any word yet. I wasn’t aware of anything happening in New Brunswick, so that’s interesting. On a post 4 years ago Magdalena left a comment about a previous attempt in that province:


          As for Amish in new Canadian provinces, there was news dating to last year about Prince Edward Island but I assume that hasn’t happened yet: https://amishamerica.com/amish-prince-edward-island/

    10. Judith

      Sorry this is long, but it bugs me...

      I can understand the feeling of helplessness of the parents in wanting to treat their child in the way they thought would be best to save her life. But that wasn’t the only factor – from what I read. I understand they refused treatment because they thought it would make her barren. Which makes one wonder about the strength of purpose for women in the community. I personally side-eye their priorities. I also get scared when people make life and death decisions without education on the science of the matter. But that aside – I can understand how the parents would want to make the medical decisions for their children.

      I also understand the doctors – these doctors didn’t require the treatment for the daughter because they were Amish. The medical establishment according the laws of the state would have to do that regardless of whether they were Amish, or Catholic, or Jewish – it doesn’t make a difference. If parents refuse to treat a minor in a way that will save the child’s life – the state will come in and save the child’s life. I am in full agreement with that. And I might even say I would tolerate an erring on the side of caution.

      And barring a misdiagnosis, if the daughter received some treatment – it could have put the leukemia in remission. If she didn’t complete the treatment, but received some of the chemotherapy, maybe even one treatment – yes, she has a good chance of it recurring. But also – she also has a chance that might never come back.

      This is where I get angry at the media – I am POSITIVE that the doctors did not say “She will be dead in six months” because – no oncologist in their right mind would say that. Oncologists have a series of stages to cancer and leukemia that they painstakingly observe and calculate – and even then there is always a chance a patient will recover, or live with the cancer longer, or go into a prolonged remission. Someone is not quoting those doctors correctly because no oncologist in the US of A will talk like that.

      Now they could have said – with no more treatment, she has a 80% chance of dying in the next 6 months to 5 years. They always give a percentage of chance. There is no 100%. People survive stage 4 colon cancer, stomach cancer, acute myeloid leukemia every single day – it’s rare – but it is not 100% a death sentence. And Oncologists know this.

      That said – if that leukemia comes back (and it’s likely it will if they used alternative medicine) – it will be directly the cause of the parents. Alternative medicine for AML or any stage cancer has been proven over and over and over – to be extremely lethal. Like 99% lethal. Science is science, it does not have emotions, faith, or an ordnung and cancer does not listen to parents. It kills on a regular basis – and pretending alternative medicine might work is ignoring centuries of science and empirical evidence. It’s like playing Russian roulette with 5 bullets in the chamber.

      1. Geneiene


        Thank you Judith
        I’m not into venerating the medical profession. They do make mistakes and need to be viewed with some degree of skepticism. But mistakes do get made on the alternate medicine side of things. Several years ago a young burn victim died after the parents didn’t seek conventional treatment. They first treated him with some Amish invented salve. Unfortunately the trauma of burns stress many components of the human body and the treatment they sought wasn’t capable of monitoring and addressing those needs. Having government agencies intervene in these cases makes me very uncomfortable, but there is plenty of cause for humility on the other side of things.
        It wasn’t so long ago when, each time a serious disease swept through a community, the hucksters would follow. Frequently by the time a real Dr. showed up, the people had already given all their money to the hucksters.

      2. Ed from NY

        Thanks for stating this Judith.

        I too am tired of seeing hucksters tout bogus cures, usually invoking divinity as they do so.

        I think Sarah’s family was incredibly lucky. They also aren’t giving credit to the original leukemia treatments for curing the disease.

      3. Jan

        “pretending alternative medicine might work is ignoring centuries of science and empirical evidence.”

        Umm no. There are not centuries of empirical evidence suggesting chemo works. Chemo isn’t that old. “Alternative” medicine is what has centuries of use and evidence to review.

        Did you know Aspirin uses willow bark as an ingredient? Native people knew for centuries that it eased headaches. When I’m nauseous, I eat ginger, even though it’s not in a pill form or prescribed by a doctor or covered by insurance. Yet it still works.

        Eating all-natural and organic has been the “alternative” diet for a century now, but we’re learning it’s probably a lot better for us than the chemical-filled crap we’ve been eating lately.

        No, cancer doesn’t care about religiosity, but nor does it care about doctors’ egos or insurance companies’ profits.

        You say the parents refused treatment that “will save” their child’s life. Yet you also say, correctly, that we have no way of knowing an actual prognosis. Even stage 4 cancers can be survived, rarely. And not every case or treatment is the same, so how can you say what would or would not have saved her?

        When my Amy was told they expected her to live a year or two (and yes, they do tell people that), they gave her some options: chemo, an experimental treatment (I believe it was to do with genetics), or just live her remaining days to the fullest and not receive traditional treatment at all. They GAVE HER that choice.

        This is a complicated issue, no one can say, “This will save her, that won’t.” There is no cure for cancer. If someone wants to explore other options, they should be able to.

        A few years ago, I was on a medicine that created a slew of nasty side effects, I mean severe enough to land me in the hospital. But my doctor refused to believe the medicine was the cause. So I went to another doctor, who changed me to a different medicine, and guess what, all the side effects stopped. A few months later, that first doctor was arrested, as they discovered he had been forging other doctors’ signatures to prescribe himself controlled substances.

        Doctors are not demigods, and sometimes we have to listen to our own common sense and experience, even in their face of their almighty degree hanging on the wall.

        1. Judith

          I just saw your reply, Jan

          I’m sorry Jan – I don’t think you understood my intentions in my comment. I thought I made it clear that oncologists do their best with the evidence at hand. And yes, medical empirical evidence stretches back through the middle ages all the way back to medicines used for the ancient Egyptians. We know what worked and more importantly, what did not work for medicine through out history – that is the definition of empirical evidence. Today’s medical and pharmaceutical students and scientists study this.

          With regards to alternative medicine’s efficiency – you should talk to Steve Jobs about that. With his limitless resources, he chose to have the best alternative medicine on the planet to treat his cancer before trying traditional medicine. A cancer that had a high rate of cure with traditional medicine. See how that worked out for him.

    11. Stacy

      I was just thinking about this case, and wondering how the little girl was doing. Glad to hear she is doing well. It was an interesting dilemma, private right vs state power.

    12. Jack Mitchell


      I’m so pleased to hear that this young girl is back to good health. I guess the old adage “don’t put all your eggs into one basket” can be true at times, because quite often a combination of things can work together in curing an illness. I too, would be interested in knowing what alternative medicine the parents used.

      1. Margaret Dunson

        Leukemia survivor

        Jack,back in Oct. of 1972,my young son,not even 4 years old,was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia.Doctors’ here in my town had no earthy idea what was wrong with him and his main told me,”The only thing wrong with his child is his mother.” That hurt deep. I, as his mother had been observing him go down hill and eventuall got to where he couldn’t walk.Was taking him to the physician almost every day.
        Finally the dr’s partner sent my son to the Children’s hospital in Birmingham,Al.Within 24 hours they diagnosed Rick’s condition.Dr. Moreno started him on a very strict regime.He had invented this wonderful cancer med called Vin Christine.He combined it with metrexate.Eleven days later he went intovremission.Months of radiation,blood work,bone marrow tests,etc.Then it turned into years until his 13 th birthday and the dr. said no more visits up there,but regular check-ups for rest of his life.That fear never leaves my mind,but I have to have faith and put my son in God’s capable hands,the greatest physician.Wecwere told the cancer was in remission,butcwas sitting there on a shelf and could topple off at any time.I sincerely believe that my God gave this physician the knowledge and tools to help my little son.My family and church members spent hours on our knees asking God to guide the physicians hands and mind and to bless our son.
        My little Rick will be 45 this coming Dec. Works every day and sometimes seven days a week at Lowe’s in delivery.
        It took God and the knowledge ,He gave to Dr.Moreno to bring my son through.,
        So don’t anyone question this family’s faith,UNTIL,you walk in their shoes.Faith can perform miracles.
        Ohhh,yes.We were given pleanty of advice from others as to his treatment.Peach seeds to kill cancer cells.Some kind of herb that grows wild called Rabbit tobacco,put garlic on four corners of our home,send money to this tv preacher,etc.Advice from everyone and his brother was in plentiful supply.

        1. Ed from NY

          Great post. Glad things worked out so well for you and your son.

          Vincristine is an example of a folk remedy that, after rigorous testing and development, has become an accepted chemotherapy treatment.

          Wikipedia link:

    13. Jan

      Wonderful news!

      This is such happy news! The looks on their faces say it all.

      I don’t understand how the government thinks they can force people to accept a particular medical treatment. Don’t we have the right to choose that?

      This brings to mind the recent experiences of two people close to me…

      First, I had a friend named Amy who lived near Boston. She had just beaten cancer once when I met her. Shortly after that, about a year ago, in fact, she found out it was back. It was a particularly aggressive, low-survival-rate cancer. She was given a year or two to live. She underwent chemo, but she wanted to use every weapon possible to fight it, so she also tried a “clean diet.” This involved cutting out sugar and casein, which are huge aides to cancer’s growth, as well as most meat and bread, leaving a diet of mainly fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and the like.

      It was not easy, but she was determined and very faithful with this diet. Even a little “cheating” could undo all that hard work (although her doctor said she should go ahead and enjoy normal holiday foods). Blood tests showed her tumor marker had plummeted. And the tumor itself had not grown at all. The oncologist was shocked. He said, “Whatever you’re doing besides the chemo, keep doing it.” We honestly thought maybe she could actually beat it.

      But on May 8th, she found out it had metastasized to fill her abdomen. On May 21st, Amy passed away at age 26.

      Today when I think about it, I think that ending was inevitable. However, her “clean diet” obviously did make a difference, and that has stuck with me.

      The second thing is, I have an Amish friend in Wisconsin who is going through a sad situation because of the government… Her husband has worked in a cheesehouse there for years. Recently, the cheesehouse’s executives decided to go along with more government regulations than they really needed to, according to my friend (I don’t know the details). The government wants to make the cheese “sterile,” according to my friend. We all know how poorly the government manages to “watch out for us” with food and drugs, so I don’t put a ton of stock in these particular regulations. I’d rather have food made the Amish way any day.

      And she says they could have continued to make it the Amish way, at least in some regards, but they chose not to. As a matter of conscience (and, I’d assume, in the spirit of their church’s teachings), my friend’s husband felt he could not continue working there. I can imagine that was a tough decision. He gave them a YEAR’S notice (I wonder if they realize that the standard for us English is two weeks!). I would imagine that part of the reason he gave them so long a notice is partly for his own sake, as it must be hard to find work within a few miles (we English take for granted how easy it is to commute with a car), especially when they are not farmers (well, they have a few livestock for personal use, of course, but not to make a living from).

      Of course, the English executives of the company chose to terminate sooner than the time my friend had given them. So they only have another month left, and then what? It seems so cruel, and all because the government has to poke its nose in areas it should not.

      I had read her letter with this news in the parking lot of the Social Services office, where I had just reported my income change so they can take away more benefits. I am working part time, as I’m partially disabled, and I am living on a LOT less in the end by working than I was by living off assistance 100%. How stupid is that!

      From my understanding, a government’s role is to protect and serve its people. But they do a poor job of it! It seems like, more often than not, they make things harder instead of easier. Maybe I made the connection more because of the timing, having experienced my own frustration and then reading her news. But reading Sarah’s story here has only strengthened my feeling that the government’s attempts to help us actually do more harm than good. (Obviously not all of the time, but a lot of the time.)

    14. Randy


      Eric – please accept my condolences for the recent loss of someone very close to you. And please know, at this time of Thanksgiving, how your work on this blog is so greatly appreciated.

      Alice Mary – as usual, well said!

      Everyone else – I’m thankful for your comments. Especially because they express varying opinions, different experiences and, in some instances, viewpoints with which I disagree. I often learn things from what you impart – and I believe this helps me be more open-minded and better understand my neighbors.

      Best wishes to all as Christmas draws nearer.

      1. Thank you Randy, really kind of you. It’s appreciated 🙂 Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.