The little girl was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma in April 2013 and was being treated with chemotherapy, when she begged her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, to terminate the treatment. Her parents were advised by doctors that with extensive chemo, over a two-year period, their daughter had an 85% chance of recovering from her illness.
This cancer is highly aggressive and when diagnosed the child is usually at stage 4.
Torn by their daughter’s pleas and the debilitating side effects they observed, they terminated the treatment in June and ended up defending the State’s court application to appoint as a temporary guardian, Maria Schimer, a former nurse, who is also an attorney, to make medical decisions in the child’s best interests.
The couple told the judge they were using holistic and herbal remedies together with the power of prayer. Medical experts testified that without treatment the girl had less than a year to live.
After hearing the evidence, Medina County Judge John Lohn ruled there was not a “scintilla” of evidence that the girl’s parents were unfit or incapable of making appropriate decisions for their daughter and dismissed the guardianship application.
However, an appeals court saw it differently, holding that it did not matter if the parents were fit and capable of making a reasonable decision, the only issue was whether the appointment of a guardian was in the child’s best interests.
The case will now go back to Judge Lohn for a new hearing. In the meantime, the chemo treatments have been resumed, pending a fresh ruling.
From an ethical perspective, the debate centers on the tension between respect for the parent’s wishes and religious beliefs, on the one hand, and the life of a young child, who may not survive without the treatment recommended by her doctors. The child’s desire to stop the chemo is understandable, but a child of ten is not capable of understanding the ramifications of her request.
In the child’s best interests, her parents must choose Life.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang