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:

reason_amish

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Victory for Parental Rights: State Agrees to End Stand-Off with Amish Family over Forced Health Care

Official who had sought to take family’s daughter from home and force chemotherapy on her, despite parent’s earnest objections and Health Care Freedom Amendment, resigns as guardian

Family will continue to pursue alternative treatment

amishColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today accepted the Resignation as Limited Guardian of a state official attempting to, on behalf of the State and Akron Children’s Hospital, force chemotherapy on ten-year-old Sarah Hershberger.

While the resignation still requires the signature of Probate Judge Kevin Dunn, Judge Dunn is expected to approve the resignation sometime next week, effectively ending the two-month stand-off with Sarah’s parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, who, concerned that the chemotherapy was killing their daughter, sought the right to first try a less invasive alternative treatment that the hospital did not provide.

Andy and Anna, after the Court’s order, left the country to pursue an alternative treatment and prevent Sarah from being taken from them. The family reports that Sarah has responded well to the alternative treatment, the cancer is receding, and she is in excellent physical condition.

“We made it clear to our opponents that they were in for a protracted battle over fundamental principles and constitutional rights; and that on each, they were on the wrong side,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center.

“The Judge’s approval of this 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,” continued Thompson. “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.”

On November 19, the 1851 Center announced its representation of the Hershbergers, maintaining:

  • Section 21, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment passed by 67 percent of Ohio voters in 2011 prohibits the compulsion of any person “to participate in a health care system.”
  • Even before Section 21, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Constitution ensures “personal security, bodily integrity, and autonomy,” and therefore “[t]he right to refuse medical treatment” is amongst the “rights inherent in every individual.”
  • The U.S Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly provides protection to parents in the “care, custody, and control” of their children, including the right “to direct the upbringing . . . of children under their control.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition,” and “[t]he statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”

The litigation began when the Hershbergers removed their daughter from Akron Children’s Hospital in July, in favor of a less invasive alternative treatment, after it appeared as though chemotherapy itself was a greater threat to her than her mild form of cancer. The Hospital then moved in court to take Sarah from the Hershbergers and force treatment in July.

The hospital’s move came only after county social services officials found the Hershbergers to be quality parents, and, and despite hospital demands, refused to take Sarah from the family. The Medina County probate court found that the Hershbergers were model parents, explaining “there is no evidence the parents are unfit or unstable,” and “there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit.”

However, the Appellate Court used an obscure Ohio statute intended to address child abuse and neglect to order Sara to be taken from the home and forced to undergo chemotherapy.

The Court made this ruling even though Sarah’s mild form of cancer is a type that can and is being treated without chemotherapy, and despite conceding that chemotherapy may well cause loss of hair, infections, infertility, cardiovascular disease, damage to internal organs, an increased risk of contracting other cancers, and even death.

The case remains pending on a jurisdictional motion before the Ohio Supreme Court and on appeal to the Ninth District; however those appeals are likely to be mooted by the Judge’s approval of the Resignation.

 


October 12, 2015: Medical Daily: Amish Family Wins Chemotherapy Case; Daughter No Longer Forced To Receive Leukemia Treatment

October 9, 2015: Business Insider: Court battle over Amish girl’s cancer treatment ends

October 2, 2015: Medina Gazette: Attorney: Amish girl who fled country to avoid chemo is cancer-free

March 11, 2014: Reason.com: Amish vs. the Courts: Family Speaks Out on Fleeing the U.S. to Save Daughter from Court-Mandated Chemo [VIDEO]

February 14, 2014: Medina Gazette: Judge accepts guardian’s resignation in Amish medical case

February 8, 2014: 6 ABC Action News: Ohio parents fight law over girl’s forced chemo

January 21, 2014: ABC News via Associated Press: Amish Family: Forced Chemo Order Violates Rights

January 21, 2014: Medina Gazette: Attorney: Court had no authority to force Amish girl’s cancer treatments

December 27, 2013: Daily Mail: Court was wrong to appoint guardian to force Amish girl to have chemotherapy, family says

December 26, 2013: Washington Post via Associated Press: Ohio Amish argue against guardian in chemo case

December 6, 2013: Reason.com: Amish Girl in Ohio Won’t Be Forced to Have Chemotherapy

December 3, 2013: Natural News Radio: Joni Abbott hosts with guests Donna Navarro and Hershberger family attorney Maurice Thompson

November 29, 2013: New York Daily News: Amish girl in hiding to avoid Ohio court’s ruling on her cancer treatment options

November 28, 2013: Good Morning America: Amish Girl With Leukemia, Family Flees US to Avoid Chemotherapy

State’s Forced Chemotherapy on Amish Child Violates Parental Rights, Health Care Freedom Amendment

State sues to take Amish family’s daughter and force chemo on her after chemo nearly kills her and family chooses different treatment option   

amishColumbus, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today began representation of Andy and Anna Hershberger, parents of Sarah Hershberger, a ten year old Amish girl upon whom the State of Ohio, through Akron Children’s Hospital, seeks to force an unnecessary and potentially-deadly form of chemotherapy.

The litigation began when the Hershbergers removed their daughter from the Hospital in July, in favor of a less invasive alternative treatment, after it appeared as though chemotherapy itself was a greater threat to her than her mild form of cancer. The Hospital then moved in court to take Sarah from the Hershbergers and force treatment in July.

The case is now pending on a jurisdictional motion before the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Motion for Jurisdiction requests review and reversal of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Ohio which concluded that Ohio children can be taken from their parents and forced to submit to objectionable procedures “without regard to the suitability of the parents.”  The Court used an obscure Ohio statute intended to address child abuse and neglect to order Sara to be taken from the home and forced to undergo chemotherapy.

However, the United States Supreme Court has long emphasized the importance of parents’ rights to direct the upbringing of their children, alongside the right to refuse unwanted medical treatment. The Ohio Constitution does the same even more vigorously. Accordingly, on each front, the 1851 Center maintains:

  • Section 21, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment passed by 67 percent of Ohio voters in 2011 prohibits the compulsion of any person “to participate in a health care system.”
  • Even before Section 21, the Ohio Supreme Court held that the Ohio Constitution ensures “personal security, bodily integrity, and autonomy,” and therefore “[t]he right to refuse medical treatment” is amongst the “rights inherent in every individual.”
  • The U.S Supreme Court has repeatedly confirmed The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly provides protection to parents in the “care, custody, and control” of their children, including the right “to direct the upbringing . . . of children under their control.”
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has also ruled that the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition,” and “[t]he statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”

The Supreme Court has also explained that there is a “fundamental right to refuse medical treatment.” Despite these clear principles, the Court for the Ninth District ruled that “upon a mere finding it is in the best interest of a minor, [the Ohio Revised Code] authorizes a probate court to supplant a parent’s rights and responsibilities through appointment of a limited guardian,” and that it may do so irrespective of whether “the court finds the child’s natural parents to be unsuitable parents.”

The Court made this ruling even though Sarah’s mild form of cancer is a type that can and is being treated without chemotherapy, and despite conceding that chemotherapy may well cause loss of hair, infections, infertility, cardiovascular disease, damage to internal organs, an increased risk of contracting other cancers, and even death.

“This case touches upon the very role of government in a free society: our Constitutions do not empower state government to rip a child from her admittedly competent parents and loving home, and force her to submit to unneeded treatment that may kill or sterilize her, when other courses of treatment are being pursued, and are working,” said Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center. “This is amongst the very things that the 2011 Health Care Freedom Amendment was passed to guard against – – a state that can force health care upon you or deprive you of it can control every aspect of life.”

The hospital’s move came only after county social services officials found the Hershbergers to be quality parents, and, and despite hospital demands, refused to take Sarah from the family. The Medina County probate court found that the Hershbergers were model parents, explaining “there is no evidence the parents are unfit or unstable,” and “there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit.”