Last week Reason.com released a video interview (below) with footage and comments from Sarah Hershberger‘s family, filmed in their Ohio Amish community.
Sarah, who in 2013 was diagnosed with a rare but apparently “highly curable” cancer, has for much of the past year been the subject of a nationally-covered battle over chemotherapy and parental rights.
Reason.com is a libertarian website, and the speaker featured most prominently in the video is Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law (an Ohio legal institution “dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse” which represents the Hershbergers). So the video you’ll see below is not so much a media report as it is advocating from the anti-intervention position on the Hershbergers’ behalf.
Still, it is interesting to hear directly from the Hershbergers, and to see the family and in particular footage of Sarah, who, true to her uncle Isaac’s description, looks like a “vibrant” girl. The video also reveals more information such as:
- The family was in Mexico for 3 weeks, fearing that if they remained, “any hospital in the U.S. would report right back to Akron Children’s.”
- Angela Lowther, described as a “health practitioner”, consulted with the Hershbergers on natural remedies. She observes that “natural remedies may not be the appropriate route to replace a medical treatment”, though she says they may be used to complement medical treatment.
- Sarah’s chemo treatments were stopped after phase one of five.
- No information is given on specifics of the alternative treatment Sarah has undergone or medical evaluations of her current state (though her alternative treatment regimen is described here).
- Thompson argues that “Having a free society means that people need to be free to take risks, including risks with their family when they are suitable and loving parents.”
The video below was shot in the Amish community of Homerville, Ohio, at what looks like might be the family’s home or that of a relative.
Obviously, this family loves Sarah a lot, another thing that comes through in this video. The narrator also alludes to “questions surrounding Sarah’s health” while leaving the impression that she is doing well. Hopefully for her that’s the case.
If it’s not, Sarah’s parents have not ruled out returning to chemo treatments (which Sarah’s father actually describes as “really good”), though according to this medical professional “the first shot at treating cancer is always the best shot.”
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Excellent footage-thanks for posting it.
How nice to see a video that is respectfully made and totally without sensationalism. Thanks for sharing, Erik.
My good friend’s grandson (now 6) was diagnosed with leukemia (like Sarah’s) at age 3. I know how hard his family is fighting with him, with chemo, blood transfusions, spinal taps & constant testing, driving hundreds of miles every month to & from Chicago, keeping track of his “numbers”. I know what a toll the chemo has taken on him, watching him endure side effects that would break your heart. His 3 older siblings are impacted, as are his parents, who are both in the medical field (not doctors).
I can see the Hershberger family’s dilemma, with Sarah looking/feeling so well now. I only hope that if her health declines, “traditional” chemo (or drugs, etc.) will work as well THEN, to save her life and make everything they’ve all endured worth it, especially for Sarah. God help them & all involved, pro or con “chemo” and “alternative” treatment.
Thank God I don’t have to make that decision; I don’t know that I could.
Unfortunately, it sounds like chemo is not likely to work as well in the event of a second course of treatment, according to David Gorski, a cancer surgeon who’s been following this case and who I linked above. Gorski says:
“The first shot at treating cancer is always the best shot, with the best odds of eradicating the cancer. Letting cancer relapse through incomplete treatment breeds resistant tumor cells the same way that not finishing a complete course of antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacteria.”
I wonder if the Hershbergers were aware of that when Sarah stopped after phase 1 of 5. The five-year survival rate for this cancer when conventionally treated (chemo) is supposed to be around 85%.
Based on Sarah’s father’s comments, they seem to have mixed feelings about the chemo. I imagine there have been many strong voices advocating in both directions. Sometimes family voices are the strongest of all.
What is most striking for me, is that the health person that consulted with the Hershbergers herself seems to feel that replacing conventional with alternative treatments may not be the right thing to do.
All I can say is that I am praying for little Sarah! Happy to be informed of this video. Thanks Erik!
It seems that this family’s Amish faith and rural way of life is such a red herring in this case! Sarah could just as easily be the child of an inner-city parent struggling to make the best decision possible with a less-than-high-school education but a sincere love for their “baby.”
Chemo can be a horrible experience and even shorten rather than lengthen lives. It can also provide remission and ultimate cure. The short-term horrible part is certain (and they have already experienced it), while the rest is unknowable, so of course the decision is a hard one. The hospital’s stance seems to be that there isn’t even a decision (hard or easy) to be made; always do the chemo. That strikes me as a more simple-minded perspective than the supposedly “uneducated” discernment by this family.
Commont on Hershberger Video
It was so lovely to be able to view a video sans any sort of sensationalism. It was wonderful to see Sarah for the first time (who seems to be healthy, strong and thriving).
I can only imagine the anguish this family must have endured when faced with the inevitable challenges in dealing with a very sick child. But I know had I been faced with the same dilemma as this family, I, too, would have considered the same steps they chose in order to save my child’s life.
I do believe that in a truly free and democratic society, we MUST have the right to take those inherent risks in assuming care for our families. Loving, intact families must be respected and allowed to provide the care they feel is best for their family members.
Of what consequence should this happen to someone under government care, if the individual at risk, dies? Is the government professing that only THEY have the ability to provide sound, safe choices for quality medical care for others outside their realm?
And what if mainstream medicine isn’t always the answer, as we’ve been conditioned to believe and accept?
I think these are questions deserving of more discourse within our medical and governmental institutions.
Thank you so much for providing this update. I’ve been wondering how little Sarah was doing. What an absolutely wonderful outcome!
San Ramon, CA
The government and courts of law need to get out of our homes and take care of the business of taking care of our country.
Good video. While I think the parents made a poor health care decision for their daughter, the video makes clear they are good parents otherwise, and that their refusal of treatment was not a sign of abuse or neglect. I guess I agree with the conclusion, that the healthcare decision is theirs alone to make — it is not proper for a hospital or government to force treatments on people.
I hope for the best for this girl and her family. I also hope not too many others chose to emulate what this family did.
I think what may be lacking in the way of information with some that are commenting here is that the Hershberger family DID initially agree to the chemo/radiation treatments Akron Children’s Hospital deemed necessary to treat Sarah’s condition. However, it was only after they witnessed Sarah’s horrible decline in health after these treatments that Sarah’s family ultimately decided another course of action should be considered.
Sarah’s Grandfather stated in an interview that Sarah could barely function after these treatments. He also stated that the family also found out, through a nurse who visited their family during Sarah’s treatments, that one of the medications administered to Sarah could potentially CAUSE cancer (something the physicians at Akron Children’s neglected to inform the family about).
Understandably, Sarah’s family was horrified when they heard this; when they confronted the physicians at Akron Children’s about this information, a physician reluctantly admitted this information, was correct.
The family was concerned in that they had not been provided with this information and therefore, became even more concerned re: the treatment which had been given to Sarah at that point. They also found out that another round of treatment which Akron wanted to give to Sarah, had NOT been discussed with this family as being an ‘experimental in nature,’ form of treatment.
I think what was missing with this scenario was the obvious lack of transparency provided to Sarah’s family about the treatment being proffered to Sarah. There should have been complete transparency as to any and all side effects which Sarah may have been expected to undergo once her treatments commenced. I don’t blame her family whatsoever for becoming quite alarmed when they discovered they’d not been given full and complete information about side effects, etc.
As the gentleman stated in the above video, loving and intact families – in a true democratically run society – MUST be given the option to decide what healthcare options they deem appropriate for their own family members.
The Justina Pelletier case is an ongoing issue; a family on the East Coast has had their 15 year old daughter ripped away from them by Boston Children’s Hospital and MA DCF SIMPLY because of a difference in diagnosis from one hospital to another.
Tufts University physicians, i.e., Dr. Mark Korson, world renowned specialist in mitochondrial disease, has diagnosed Justina with mito disorder, a disease involving issues with the mitochondria/cells which provide energy for the body. He has been treating Justina quite successfully for several years now.
However, Boston Children’s Hospital’s physicians felt that Justina has somatoform disorder, not mito disorder, and feel that Justina’s health issues are ‘all in hear head.’
What the Pelletier family is going through, in some way, parallels what Sarah’s family could very well have undergone as well. It’s really horrifying to see what has transpired when government and healthcare’s overreach has done to this family. Just as with Sarah’s family, the Pelletier’s family is a loving, supportive family, fully capable of making sound decisions when it came to Justina’s health care.
Clearly, Sarah is thriving and doing extremely well (she was not doing well under AC’s program). Time will tell how she fares in the future.
And if, should the day arise when Sarah’s health may yet again be in jeopardy, I’m certain her parents and extended family members, as loving and caring as they are, will ensure proper decisions will be made regarding her care.
According to the “medical professionals”, the first shot at treating cancer with chemo and radiation is always the best shot. Just look at 8yr old Lacey Holsworth.
I didn’t get to watch the video it wouldn’t play for me. Although I wanted to share something that is proven to cure cancer for Ihave a ffriend that was cured without any pharmaceutical drugs or treatments chemotherapy! he lined up which scriptures in the Bible Genesis chapter 1 word states what God created for all humans and animals to originally eat. he began eating all organic fruits and vegetables nothing packaged as well as staying away from any animal products. he raise the alkalinity in his body and took away the acid content in his body he lowered it. he also found out that sugar feeds cancer so sugar to cancer is like steroids to muscles. now I’m not sure what kind of cancer she has versus the kind that he has but he had stage 4 cancer and they gave him not very long to live so he went and was very aggressive in all the normal natural food and glen does body but having high alkalinity takes away the acid so whoever is in charge of this website if they’re able to get in contact with this deer family and this young lady they’re going for all natural remedy I would encourage them to research this God is a restorer and with his word which is Jesus Christ I believe and I know that she can be healed and delivered from this disease not only physically can the Bible help in the remedy but also spiritually Jesus can deliver us all from sin which will Heal & restore every individual that believes, obeys, and keep His commandments!
How is Sarah doing today? Still healthy? Any remission?