An Ohio Amish girl diagnosed with leukemia who had fled the U.S. with her family to avoid chemotherapy has been cured after being treated with natural remedies in Central America, according to her grandfather. Doctors fought the family’s decision to end chemotherapy, saying Sarah Hershberger would die without it within six months.
Issac Keim told the Akron Beacon Journal that his granddaughter Sarah recently celebrated her 11th birthday and seems vibrant and healthy.
According to Mr Keim, blood and imaging tests indicated that Sarah’s cancer is gone.
The family’s attorney said the Hershbergers fled home in northeast Ohio’s Medina County at one point, leaving the U.S. at one point to avoid having to resume chemotherapy treatments.
A state appeals court has appointed a guardian to take over Sarah’s medical decisions.
Keim said the family and their baby sitter have since returned to the U.S. but remain in hiding amid the ongoing legal battle over Sarah’s care.
Meanwhile, the couple’s five other children are being cared for by the family’s tight-knit Amish community, where Mr Keim is a bishop.
Isaac Keim told the paper this week that Andy and Anna Hershberger fled to an unspecified holistic cancer treatment center in Central America.
Sarah is continuing treatments with natural products, according to her grandfather, and is now ‘cancer-free.’
Anna and Andy Hershberger have been fighting a hospital in court for months after they decided to halt the treatments because they couldn’t continue to watch their child undergo the arduous radiation treatment.
It has emerged they left their home in rural northeast Ohio just days before a state appeals court appointed a guardian in October to take over medical decisions for Sarah, according to Maurice Thompson, an attorney with the non-profit firm The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, which has filed a brief in support of the family.
‘They don’t want Sarah to be taken away,’ he said.
County Sheriff Tom Miller said his office has no idea where the Hershbergers might be and is not actively searching for the family.
‘It would take a court order for us to get involved,’ Miller said to the Medina Gazette, ‘and I’m not anticipating a court order.’
Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital believe Sarah’s leukemia is treatable, but say she will die without chemotherapy.
The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.
An appeals court ruling in October gave attorney Maria Schimer, who’s also a registered nurse limited guardianship over Sarah and the power to make medical decisions for her.
The court said the beliefs and convictions of her parents can’t outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.
The family has appealed the decision to both the appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court.
They also plan to file a motion to terminate the guardianship.
They have not had any contact with the guardian since the ruling, said Clair Dickinson, the guardian’s attorney.
A taxi was sent to the family’s home nearly two months ago after the guardian was appointed to take the Sarah to the hospital in Akron, but someone at the home said the family was not there, Dickinson said.
There are no plans to ask the court to find the family or force the girl into chemotherapy while the case is being appealed, he said.
He said Sarah’s last known chemotherapy session was in June, and that doctors have said she could die within a year if treatments don’t resume.
‘I’m very concerned about her,’ he said.
Clair Dickinson, an attorney representing Schimer, said he didn’t know the family’s whereabouts.
‘All I know is that she and her parents don’t seem to be at her house,’ he said.
Thompson said the girl has undergone alternative-therapy treatments and is doing well. The family told him that she has more energy and that CT scans show the treatments are working.
Andy Hershberger, the girl’s father, said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick.
Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemo and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said.
The family, members of an insular Amish community, shun many facets of modern life and are deeply religious.
They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.
Hospital officials have said they are morally and legally obligated to make sure the girl receives proper care.
The hospital’s attorney Maria Schimer, who is also a registered nurse, is now appealed in August to be granted limited guardianship so that she is in charge of making medical decisions for Sarah.
‘The plan presented by Sarah’s parents is almost certain to lead to Sarah’s death,’ she wrote in a letter to the court.
‘Every day that goes by without treatment, Sarah’s chance of surviving her cancer is diminished.’
With chemotherapy, her chances of survival increase to 85 per cent.