Sarah’s leukemia is very treatable

One good thing. Wait, though, no, it’s not really a good thing – it’s just the avoidance of a bad thing. I keep noticing how often a bit of good news I’m pointing out is actually just a bit of bad news reversed or prevented or stepped around. More actual good news that isn’t just the negation of previous bad news would be nice.

One bad thing avoided.

An appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

Yeh that’s a pretty minimal, routine thing to greet as good news. Girl with leukemia continues chemotherapy; wow.

The hospital believes Sarah’s leukemia is very treatable but says she will die without chemotherapy.

The judge in Medina County in northeast Ohio had ruled in July that Sarah’s parents had the right to make medical decisions for her.

If refusing medical treatment for a fatal disease can be called a “medical” decision at all.

Andy Hershberger, the girl’s father, said 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.

“It put her down for two days. She was not like her normal self,” he said. “We just thought we cannot do this to her.”

Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious.

So that could be part of the problem. Perhaps they don’t trust “modern” medical science enough to trust the doctors when they explain that the chemo will make her much sicker in the short term but has an 85% chance of success in curing her in the longer term.

It’s a sad story. Obviously watching a treatment make your child much sicker must be horrible, and the temptation to avoid the short-term misery must be overwhelming. But the Amish don’t equip themselves well to overcome that temptation.


  1. Anthony K says

    I really hope her parents take the time to understand the nature of both the leukemia and the chemo. Survivors of childhood cancer often have lifelong health complications as a result of the treatment. Certainly not unmanageable, and better than death, but something than needs to be understood. If her parents were willing to take her to receive chemo in the first place, let’s hope they’re willing to follow up with her care throughout her life.

  2. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    In one article, the parents said their plan was to use the other remedies until/unless she got sick again, then go back to the hospital.

    They obviously didn’t understand the “hit it early and hit it hard” approach to leukemias. You don’t let it get the upper hand.

  3. sydmidnight says

    I live near this area, and have been to hospitals that cover rural Amish areas, and I find it rather surprising… the hospitals usually have many Amish in them as patients/visitors, and even have a special shuttle bus for transporting Amish families. The Amish there seemed rather pragmatic about it and did not seem to have any objection to medical treatment as long as they played a passive role in it, technology-wise.

    I’m going to guess that the “wellness center” mentioned is part of the problem. “Wellness” is a red flag word to me.

  4. gwen says

    The thing I don’t get about this chemo issue, is that in my 30 years of nursing, I have never once heard a family say, after their child was in a horrific but survivable accident, “stop, stop, you must not do that, it is too painful” or “please don’t do rehab so she can regain her facilities as much as it is possible”. Nor do I hear this when a child comes down with other serious illnesses like menigococcimias, or any other of the bad luck illnesses a child may get. Many children (believe it or not) go through cancer treatment without many side affects. One of my children’s friends went through treatment for a serious cancer (as a child) without missing more than a few days of school. The big ‘C’ word instills fear of the treatment. Treatment which is quite often successfully life saving. That is the tragedy.

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