An Amish family is speaking out after being forced to flee from the United States to Mexico in order to keep a hospital and a court-appointed guardian from forcing their daughter to undergo chemotherapy.
Andy and Ana Hershberger took their daughter Sarah to Mexico for three weeks after a state appeals court stripped them of their right to make medical decisions for their daughter. They rode a bus to get there.
Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio had disagreed with their decision to end chemotherapy and seek natural treatment for Sarah’s lymphoblastic lymphoma. The hospital went to court to have the couple stripped of their rights even though the local social services agency disagreed.
“We knew we had to leave the country because if we stayed in the US we knew any hospital in the US would report back to Akron’s Children,” Isaac Hershberger, Sarah’s uncle, told Reason TV.
“The Amish don’t drive and they don’t take airplanes, so when the Amish have to go a long distance it’s a really big deal,” the Hershbergers’ attorney, Maurice Thompson, said.
Said Sarah’s mother, Anna, “We were pretty sure we were going to lose her if we kept doing the chemo.”
The family made the drastic move after an appeals court ruled in favor of the hospital and appointed a guardian to look after Sarah’s best interests. They returned from Mexico after the guardian resigned.
Disturbing Ruling from Appeals Court
“Akron Children’s Hospital originally tried to have Sarah Hershberger taken away from her parents and Medina County Children’s Services flat out refused to do that,” Thompson said. “They (Children’s Services) said these parents are suitable parents, they are high quality parents, they are loving parents.”
The Hershbergers decided they would have more rights in Mexico after the ruling from Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals in January. The ruling was based partially on this disturbing argument from an attorney for Akron Children’s Hospital:
A finding of parental ‘suitability’ does not end a probate court’s inquiry. Parental rights, even if based upon firm belief and honest convictions can be limited in order to protect the ‘best interests’ of the child.
“That just seems crazy on paper but this is actually what this Ohio statute allows is for any person to step in and say, ‘I deserve to make these choices for the family and for this person’s daughter,’” Thompson said of the ruling.
Thompson also noted that the ruling could affect others.
“Any parent could have significant decisions second-guessed, any parent could lose the right to choose the doctor, hospital and course of medical treatment of their choice,” Thompson told the Associated Press.
An Ongoing Battle
The Hershbergers’ battle with Akron Children’s Hospital has been going on for some time. In January Off the Grid News reported that the family was in hiding because of the court ruling.
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The Hershbergers let Sarah undergo the first state of chemotherapy but – with her health deteriorating — decided to end the treatment and try natural medicine. They said they would resume chemo if that course of action was ineffective.
Doctors at the hospital disagreed and contended that Sarah would die within a year unless she completed five stages of chemotherapy.
Sarah is currently healthy and full of energy, her family told Reason TV.
Amish Family is not Alone
The Hershbergers are one of a number of families that report losing custody of children or medical rights after seeking treatment at a hospital. Their flight to Mexico seems justified after the experiences of Linda and Lou Pelletier who were barred from seeing their daughter Justina by Boston Children’s Hospital, as Off The Grid News has reported.
Justina was taken from the couple because doctors at Boston Children’s didn’t like the treatment she was getting from a different hospital. The Pelletiers even were escorted out of the hospital by police.
Given the Pelletiers’ experience, the Hershbergers will probably not be the only family to flee the United States to keep a hospital from taking custody of their children.
Who do you think was right? The hospital or the family? Let us know in the comments below.