CLEVELAND, Aug 28 (Reuters) - An Ohio hospital will get another chance to argue for the right to resume chemotherapy treatments on a 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia against her parents’ wishes, a state appeals court ruled.
The decision on Tuesday sends the case back for a new hearing before Medina County Judge John Lohn, the same judge who had previously rejected the Akron Children’s Hospital’s request to intervene.
The hospital in a statement on Wednesday said it would respect Lohn’s decision after the next hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.
The girl’s parents discontinued her treatment in June after she underwent the first of five prescribed rounds of chemotherapy at the hospital. Akron Children’s Hospital then asked Lohn to appoint a temporary medical guardian for her.
Lohn in late July rejected the request, finding that “there is not a scintilla of evidence showing the parents are unfit.”
The appeals court ruled, however, that Lohn neglected to consider the interests of the girl, identified only by her initials “S.H.”, when he denied temporary medical guardianship to Maria Schimer, a former nurse and practicing attorney.
The appeals court said there was no requirement that the trial court find the parents to be unfit or unsuitable before appointing a guardian based on the girl’s interest.
The appeals court had also ruled that her treatments should resume while the legal process continues.
The girl had begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy treatments, which they had said caused terrible side effects, and Schimer applied to be her guardian after that. The family lives near Akron.
The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert McGregor, said the girl was diagnosed in late April with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, which he said has an 85 percent survival rate.
She would have to undergo tests to determine how her disease has progressed since it has been two months since her last treatment, McGregor said in an interview.
John Oberholtzer, an attorney who represents the girl and her parents, Andy and Anna Hershberger, said she has been back once for a CAT scan.
Oberholtzer said the Hershberger’s want to leave the girl’s future in God’s hands and aren’t convinced of the survival rate. They are also worried about long-term side effects including infertility and organ damage.
“They don’t consider that to be much of survival,” Oberholtzer said.
“The Hershbergers have been extremely put off by the aggressive nature of the hospital,” he said. “Parental rights are paramount.” (Editing by David Bailey and Lisa Shumaker)