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Ohio Amish family flees so 10-year-old daughter can avoid court-ordered chemo

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The parents of a 10-year-old Amish girl have fled their home in order to avoid court-ordered chemo therapy for the girl who is battling leukemia. The family’s attorney said at one point, the family had even left the country, according to a Nov. 27 report on ABC News.

The girl’s parents decided to stop the treatments because they were making the child sick and they have been fighting the hospital in court over their decision for months. The parents chose instead to treat her with herbs and vitamins in keeping with their faith.

The family left their home in rural northeastern Ohio only days before the court appointed a guardian to oversee medical decisions for Sarah Hershberger, according to family attorney Maurice Thompson. They were fearful their daughter might be taken away from them.

The doctors at Akron Children's Hospital contend that the girl’s leukemia could be treated and that without chemotherapy, she could potentially die. The hospital didn’t seek assistance from the courts until the parents stopped Sarah’s treatments, opting to use herbs and vitamins instead.

The guardian who was appointed is an attorney and is also a registered nurse with limited power that extends only to making medical decisions for the girl. The court stated that her parents’ beliefs and convictions cannot outweigh the state’s right to protect the girl. The family has yet to meet with the appointed guardian. They have filed appeal to the guardianship with both the appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court. They intend to file a separate motion requesting termination of the guardianship.

After the guardian was appointed, a taxi arrived at the family home to take Sarah to the hospital. Someone in the home stated the family was not present. There are no plans currently to locate the family or to force the child into treatment while the ruling is being appealed.

Her doctor says her last treatment was in June and that without further treatment, she could die within a year.

Thompson says the girl is responding well to alternative-therapy treatments and that CT scans indicate those treatments are working.

The decision to stop treatment was not made lightly. Sarah’s father, Andy Hershberger, said the family had agreed to enter into a two-year plan of chemotherapy last spring. When Sarah became extremely sick following the second round in June, she begged her parents to stop the treatments. After a great deal of prayer, the family decided to honor her wishes.

According to hospital officials who say they have a moral and legal obligation to provide proper care for the child, Sarah’s leukemia - lymphoblastic lymphoma - is aggressive but highly treatable. With the proper care, they say it has a high survival rate.

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