After courts ordered 10-year-old Sarah Hershberger to continue cancer treatments for her leukemia, the Amish girl and her family have apparently fled their home to find alternatives to chemotherapy.
Sarah Hershberger and her parents, Andy and Anna, have not yet contacted a court-appointed guardian assigned to them two months ago, Fox News reported. The family, which had been fighting in court to stop the 10-year-old’s chemotherapy and begin a regimen of herbs and vitamins, reportedly left their rural home in Homer Township, Ohio, back in October, the Associated Press reported.
“They don’t want Sarah to be taken away,” attorney Maurice Thompson said.
The family fled in October, days before a state appellate court appointed “limited guardianship” to registered nurse and attorney Maria Schimer, who can now make medical decisions for the girl instead of her parents. The family has appealed the decision to both the appeals court and the Ohio Supreme Court.
While doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital say Hershberger’s leukemia is treatable -- with an 85 percent chance of surivial -- she will die without chemotherapy. Authorities discovered the family had fled when a taxi was sent to Hershberger’s home two months ago to take the girl to the hospital. Someone at the home said the family was not there, the Medina Gazette reported.
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The family’s whereabouts continue to remain unknown.
“All I know is that she and her parents don’t seem to be at her house,” Clair Dickinson, an attorney representing Schimer, said, adding that the last time the 10-year-old received a round of chemotherapy was in June.
Hershberger’s parents initially accepted chemotherapy treatment for their daughter but changed their minds when they saw its side effects. In September, the family reportedly left the U.S. to seek alternative treatment for their daughter.
David Augenstein, who publishes the online Journal of Natural Food and Health, said he has spoken to the family and says they are back in the United States.
“I can’t tell you where they’re at, but they’ll call periodically from an undisclosed location using someone else’s phone,” Augenstein told the Medina Gazette.
The family are members of the Amish community, which are inherently insular, shunning most aspects of modern life, including electricity. But health care practices vary across Amish communities. As the Bible prohibits the use of the latest medicines, some Amish use modern health care services more than others. They do not object to surgery or other high-tech measures, although they are less likely to user life-saving technologies than non-Amish patients, according to research at Elizabethtown College.
Dickinson said there are no plans to find the family or force Hershberger into chemotherapy. Hershberger, who was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, could die within a year if she doesn’t receive chemotherapy.
"I'm very concerned about her," Dickinson said.