85% versus zero

Orac, as he indicated in a comment, has been following the Sarah Hershberger case. He has a very informative post from October 28; very informative and very sad.

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on the story of 10 year old Amish girl in northeast Ohio with cancer whose parents, alarmed by the side effects of chemotherapy, had decided to stop the chemotherapy and treat their daughter with folk medicine instead. As a result, alarmed at the likelihood that Sarah Hershberger would suffer and die unnecessarily at a young age, the hospital treating her, Akron Children’s Hospital, went to court. It lost the first round, but earlier this month the original ruling was overturned, and it was ordered that Hershberger undergo chemotherapy to save her life. The odds of her survival with chemotherapy were estimated to be on the order of 85%. Her odds without chemotherapy? About as close to zero as you can imagine.

Given those odds, I take back what I said about their decision being – though wrong – not totally irrational. I didn’t realize her odds with chemo were that good.

Sadly, but not entirely unexpectedly, the Hershbergers have apparently taken their daughter out of the country to avoid chemotherapy. The longer they do that, the more likely it is that their daughter will die a horrible death, and it will be her father Andy Hershberger’s fault. I realize that he has nothing but the best intentions and believes he is doing the best thing for his daughter, but he is wrong, so very wrong. If his decision is not reversed, his daughter will almost certainly pay a very unpleasant price.

It’s a wretched story.




  1. John Morales says

    Ibis3, though it’s clearly unlawful and by all indications an exceedingly bad thing to do to their child, I can’t imagine it being “kidnapping”.

    (I think that’s a very loaded and misleading term for this event, unless the child being forced to it against her will, which I very much doubt)

  2. says

    Well, if they’re Amish, it’s not like they went to expedia.com and ordered airplane tickets to Sweden. “Taking it on the lam” Amish-style in a horsecart?

    The really pathetic thing about this is that the Amish strictures are not based on “god hates technology” as much as that “god wants you to be able to depend on yourself” (which is why the fruits of our integrated technological civilization are evil to the Amish) – if the idiot elders of that idiots parish of idiots weren’t idiots they’d have cooked up some reasonable revelation along the lines that the chemo would be OK as long as the parents administered it themselves or something goofy and independent like that.

    The Amish: our own little taliban, tax-free, nursing at the public teat.

  3. says

    @John Morales

    From Ophelia’s earlier post:

    a state appeals court appointed a guardian in October to take over medical decisions from Sarah’s parents

    He’s interfering with the medical decision of a court appointed guardian. Sounds like custodial interference at the very least. Transporting her out of the country is abduction. Also, there might be charges that could be laid in whatever jurisdiction he’s in for withholding necessary medical care. And. She’s 10 and indoctrinated. I don’t think she’s capable of making an informed consensual decision any more than someone choosing to be a child soldier or a victim of genital mutilation or a bride in a marriage.

  4. says

    Obstruction and kidnapping aren’t enough. Add the threat of manslaughter or second degree murder charges and serious prison time. I doubt they’re willing to go to prison for their beliefs. Deaths of children caused by denying medical care should be treated the same way as deaths of children caused by the denial of food.

    There should be laws protecting children or anyone too young or incapable of deciding medical care for themselves. But the danger of that is some anti-woman and anti-abortion scumbag trying to imprison pregnant women (at any stage, 1-36 weeks) to “protect” the foetus.

  5. says

    Let say in 2 months, the family changes their mind and they come back to the US and get chemo for their daughter. At that is will have been long enough that the 85% survival rate will drop to something much lower and the girl dies. The parents will start screaming that the chemo killed her or that it would have never worked anyway without ever taking responsibility for the fact that it was their delay that actually did the harm.

  6. iknklast says

    Well, if they’re Amish, it’s not like they went to expedia.com and ordered airplane tickets to Sweden

    Don’t be so sure. Amish are able to ride in cars, buses, and trains. They just aren’t allowed to drive them. It sort of depends on how orthodox they are, among other things. But I live near Amish country, and seeing the Amish on the trains is not at all uncommon. Seeing them in a pickup truck buying groceries at the local grocery store which are scanned over a scanner is not at all uncommon. I was recently in an Amish business that is listed online.

    One begins to suspect that the Amish, like all the other religions, have some pretty selective interpretations. And if god wants you to do things for yourself, isn’t that much more possible if you are driving yourself than if you are asking an non-Amish neighbor to take you to the store?

    I quit buying into the Amish mythology a long time ago.

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