An Ohio Hospital is fighting to appoint an attorney as the limited guardian of a 10-year-old Amish girl with non-Hodgkin lymphoma whose parents have opted to discontinue her life-saving chemotherapy.
The young girl has gone without treatment ever since her deeply religious Amish parents were horrified by the difficult side-effects of the painful therapy, according to the Associated Press. Rather than professional care, they have chosen to rely on natural medicine, such as herbs and vitamins. But Akron Children’s Hospital maintains that the girl will die without proper care.
"We really have to advocate for what we believe is in the best interest of the child," said Dr. Robert McGregor, the hospital’s chief medical officer.
Since the parents’ polarizing decision to withhold chemotherapy, the hospital has been fighting to force treatment by moving to extend limited guardianship to an attorney. The attorney, who also works as a registered nurse, will make medical decisions for the girl until the matter is resolved.
However, the limited guardianship was blocked by Medina County Probate and Juvenile Judge John Lohn, who said that it could only be bestowed if the girl’s parents were deemed unfit.
"The court cannot deprive these parents of their right to make medical decisions for their daughter, because there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit," he wrote in his decision.
The 10-year-old girl testified in favor of her parents’ decision to take her off chemotherapy, noting that the treatment made her ill and that it can impair fertility as well as organ function.
In an appeal filed earlier this month, the hospital's attorneys rebutted that the consequences of chemotherapy were negligible compared the consequences of foregoing treatment altogether.
“While the short-term side effects like nausea, lack of energy and loss of hair, and the potential long-term side effects like organ damage and infertility, cannot be minimized, the question of her treatment is life and death,” they write. “The plan presented by her parents is almost certain to lead to her death.
“Every day that goes by without treatment, her chance of surviving her cancer is diminished,” they added.
According to Dr. McGregor, the girl’s illness is lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The condition is very curable, and she has an excellent chance of recovery if she continues with the treatment.
Since last week, an injunction upholding treatment has been in effect, and the girl will continue to receive chemotherapy until the matter is resolved in court.