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Guardian ends bid to force Medina County Amish girl into chemotherapy

By John Seewer
Associated Press

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A court-appointed guardian can drop her attempt to force an 11-year-old Amish girl from Medina County with leukemia to resume chemotherapy, a judge has ruled.

The decision Thursday is a big step in bringing an end to a months-long fight between the family of the girl, Sarah Hershberger, and Akron Children’s Hospital. The struggle began when her parents decided to halt the treatments because they feared chemotherapy was killing her.

The family fled their farm in Spencer Township and went into hiding four months ago to avoid having the treatment forced on the girl.

Maria Schimer, an attorney who is also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah after an appeals court ruling in October said the beliefs and convictions of the girl’s parents can’t outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

But Schimer said she decided to drop the effort because it became impossible to monitor Sarah’s health or make any medical decisions for her after she left home. Medina County Probate Judge Kevin Dunn accepted her resignation as guardian Thursday.

Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital believe Sarah’s leukemia is treatable, but they said this past summer that she would die within a year if she halts chemotherapy. The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

Maurice Thompson, the Hershbergers’ attorney, said the family returned to their home in an Amish community.

The girl and her parents sought treatment outside the United States and had been staying out of state, Thompson has said.

Like most Amish, the Hershbergers shun many facets of modern life and are deeply religious. They have said they stopped chemotherapy not for religious reasons but because it was making Sarah too sick.

Sarah’s last known chemotherapy session was in June, but she responded well to alternative-therapy treatments and is doing well, her attorney and family have said.

Andy Hershberger said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy. The family’s attorney said the girl’s parents made their decision after researching the effects of chemotherapy.


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