The court-appointed guardian for an Amish girl who fled with her parents to avoid being forced to continue chemotherapy at Akron Children’s Hospital has resigned, according to the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.
Maurice Thompson, executive director of the nonprofit legal center that is representing the parents, said he expects Medina County Probate Judge Kevin Dunn to accept the resignation next week, “effectively ending the two-month stand-off.”
Clair Dickinson, the attorney representing guardian Maria Shimer, confirmed Shimer’s resignation.
“She was appointed guardian to make medical decisions, and you can’t make medical decisions for someone who is in hiding,” Dickinson said.
Ten-year-old Sarah Hershberger was diagnosed with lymphoma in April and underwent a successful initial round of chemotherapy at Children’s that caused few side effects.
But parents Andy and Anna Hershberger decided to stop a second round of chemotherapy this summer when the treatments made Sarah extremely ill.
The hospital took the parents to court seeking to continue Sarah’s course of treatment.
The Hershbergers left their Amish community in rural Medina County in October and went to a natural cancer treatment center in Central America to pursue an alternative treatment and prevent Sarah from being taken from them.
According to a grandfather, blood and imaging tests have shown Sarah, who is continuing treatments with natural products, is cancer-free. She recently celebrated her 11th birthday.
During the family’s absence, the court appointed Schimer, a Portage County attorney and registered nurse, as guardian for the limited purpose of making medical decisions for Sarah.
Dickinson said he doesn’t know what Schimer’s resignation will mean to the case and “I learned long ago not to assume what a judge will do,” he said.
Sarah’s condition will no doubt affect the standing, he said.
“The medical testimony was that without treatment, she would die in six months to a year. We don’t know what her condition is. The grandfather says she is all better. Or maybe the cancer has progressed to the point that chemotherapy wouldn’t make sense. We don’t know,” Dickinson said.
Thompson said in his statement that he believes the judge’s approval of the resignation will “pave the way for the family’s return home, which will allow Sarah to receive the family’s preferred treatment under the best possible conditions.”
“We hope that this resignation also seals one of the darkest moments for parental rights and health-care freedom in the state’s history: a court ordering a little girl to be ripped away from her loving and competent parents, and forced to submit to procedures that could kill or sterilize her, simply because her parents sought to first pursue a less invasive treatment option, one the hospital disagreed with because it did not itself provide it,” he said.