Update: Amish Daughter Healthy Despite Health Care “Experts”

In this picture, taken September 24, 2015 at the Hershberger’s roadside stand — Sarah (2nd from right) with her father and four of her nine siblings.

Yesterday I visited the home of Andy and Anna Hershberger to deliver the good news that the Medina County Probate Court had at long last formally terminated the guardianship it had created over their now 12-year-old daughter, Sarah.

A government hospital, Akron Children’s Hospital, sought to establish the guardianship to take Sarah from her Amish parents and seven siblings to force chemotherapy on her, even though all signs indicated that the chemotherapy itself appeared to be killing her, was certain to sterilize her, and would no doubt permanently change her life for the worse, even if she were to survive it.

The parents objected, seeking to treat Sarah’s mild form of cancer with a less invasive alternative treatment that appeared to be succeeding. It was at that time – – June of 2013 – that one of the State’s doctors testified that absent “immediate chemotherapy” Sarah would certainly be dead within six months. The court found this evidence compelling.

As the Amish community was put in touch with the 1851 Center, court battles ensued. Ultimately, those battles resulted in protecting Andy and Anna Hershberger’s fundamental constitutional right to make important health care decision for their daughter.

Two years later, having never undergone chemotherapy, Sarah couldn’t be healthier. Court records disclosed at yesterday’s hearing indicated the following:

  • “[Sarah] exhibits no symptoms of lymphoma”
  • “There are no reports or indications that Sarah cannot keep up with her work or her siblings on a daily basis.”
  • “Medicine is not always right, as evidenced by Sarah’s survival in the face of ‘certainty’ she would die without treatment”
  • “There is no need for Sarah’s health to be on the Court’s radar”

This case exposed the worst of the alignment between health care “experts,” Ohio’s big hospital lobby, and faulty government legislation:

  • The statute at issue, still on the books, gives Ohio judges the freedom to overrule suitable parents when they hold a differing opinion as to the “best interests of the child.”
  • Government hospitals put forth so-called experts to testify that there is only one way to treat a particular ailment, and that “one best way” must be imposed through forced health care, even over parents’ thoughtful objections.
  • Average Ohio parents lack the resources to hire an expert doctor to rebut the so-called “expert” doctor that their government is using against them (funded by their own tax dollars).
  • So long as government locks in “the one best treatment” by forcing all to comply with that protocol, medical innovation and experimentation will suffer.

Fortunately for Sarah, the Amish community is not conventional, and refused to bow to government commands. We at the 1851 Center are proud to have played a role in defending suitable Ohio parents’ moral and constitutional right to make important health care decision for their children.

But this battle continues. Ohio suffers from a cavalcade of health care “experts”, eager to deprive of us of our autonomy in light of their “certainty” that they know what is best for us.

But as this now-closed saga has proven, these experts have no skin in the game, arrogantly pontificate without fear of consequences, and are in fact frequently wrong.

Ohioans cannot afford to trust their health or their children to government expertise. We have already been swept into a system whereby we are forced to fund much of what now passes for health care in our state and nation, whether we use it or not. But the matter of whether we must be forced to use itis another matter entirely.

The Ohio General Assembly – – members of which laud health care freedom, family values, and parental choice while campaigning for office – – cannot justify maintenance of Ohio’s wide-open and highly subjective “best interests of the child” test. This test allows county judges to overrule health care, educational, and other important decisions of suitable Ohio parents. Once overruled, children can be immediately seized from their homes.

In the wake of Sarah’s case, this concept came to be known as “medical kidnapping.”

The Hershberger’s case is a lesson for all of us: we’re not as smart as we think we are. Knowledge is decentralized, and when in doubt, those closest to the situation, families (and not government experts with special designations next to their names) must make life-altering decisions.

Further, Sarah’s good health bolsters the case against forced health care that we supposedly cannot live without (literally, in this case).

It is now time for Ohio legislators to protect Ohio families from wayward judges. This can be done by reforming Ohio’s unconstitutional “best interests of the child” test.

In the meantime, Ohioans must continue to question authority.

Maurice Thompson
Executive Director
1851 Center for Constitutional Law

Watch a 2013 video on the case from Reason.tv:


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