To seek alternatives to chemotherapy

This seems unlikely to end well.

10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia and her parents have left the country to seek alternatives to chemotherapy, according to the family’s attorney.

Sarah Hershberger and her parents oppose chemotherapy, and have been fighting the Akron Children’s Hospital in court after the family stopped Sarah’s treatment. Her parents said the treatments have caused their daughter a great deal of pain, and they’d rather focus on herbal and natural remedies.

It’s odd to make the girl the chief agent by mentioning her first in the first two sentences, as if she left the country and her parents went with her. They took her out of the country. She’s ten.

The Hershbergers left their home in northeast Ohio days before a state appeals court appointed a guardian in October to take over medical decisions from Sarah’s parents. The family members won’t say where they are now, but they have no plans to return to their home anytime soon, according to Thompson.

“Sarah’s condition has gotten a lot better since the family has been pursuing the alternative treatment,” Thompson said.

Sarah had tumors on her neck, chest and kidneys when her parents initially agreed to chemotherapy at Akron Children’s Hospital earlier this year. Her parents said the side effects were terrible, and they wanted to treat Sarah’s leukemia with alternative treatments.

So not straightforward faith healing, but maybe the faith makes the abandonment of arduous treatment seem more reasonable.

“We’ve seen how sick it makes her,” Andy Hershberger, Sarah’s father, told ABC News in August. “Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as that stuff if it’s God’s will.”

Yes see that’s where the problem is – it’s not about belief, and it’s not about god’s will. It’s about comparative prognoses, and the hospital clearly thinks the prognosis is better with chemo.

Maybe when she gets worse the parents will think better of it and bring her back.

Update: post on the subject from last August.


  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    If 2 things:

    1) by the time they “think better of it” her disease is too progressed to be cured and will inevitably and rather quickly kill her


    2) she’s not prepared for the world-tipping that would ensue from “God’s will doesn’t help, let’s try chemo”

    then I don’t hope that her parents “think better” and bring her back.

    It’s selfish and wrong and deluded for her parents to do this. They are doing irrecoverable damage by taking away a decent shot at healing.

    But if they’ve done all they need to do to kill her, and if her passing is eased by not having the family torn apart by recrimination, blame, and a lot of time spent questioning religion instead of focussed on easing her suffering, then I hope that her parents can keep their “better thoughts” quiet enough for her to get maximum amount of joy out of the time she then has left.

    Me personally, I hope her parents don’t think better when she gets worse. I hope they think better when they get wherever they’re going and the people their say:

    “natural remedies? You know we used those for thousands of years and didn’t cure anyone of cancer. What makes you think that herbs will suddenly start killing cancer when your daughter eats them?”

  2. says

    Well yes. If it’s too late by the time they realize, then…then it’s too late. I meant “and maybe it won’t be too late.”

    I’m not as disgusted by them as I am by plain faith-healers, because it was the nastiness of the chemo that prompted their bad decision. That’s at least understandable, and not totally irrational. Very unfortunate, unless her prognosis is absolute shit either way, but not totally irrational.

  3. Jeremy Shaffer says

    “Sarah’s condition has gotten a lot better since the family has been pursuing the alternative treatment,” Thompson said.

    I’m sure she doesn’t feel as nauseous and crappy as she did on chemo but Thomson doesn’t say anything about any improvement with the tumors or the leukemia. Sadly, many readers will think that’s what is being talked about here.

  4. says

    It seems fairly obvious that being in NE Ohio and having gone to “another country”, we can reasonably assume that an Amish person would take the obvious choice and come to live with our Mennonites or other Amish-type groups in Ontario. Here in Soviet Canuckistan, it’s much more likely that the courts would insist on the treatment, as our courts don’t recognize “religious feeling” as a good reason to let someone make someone else die. If you want to let yourself, an adult, die, then fine, but you don’t get to make your kids do it because of the religion you chose.

    It’s this kind of thing that makes me feel that unfettered indoctrination of children with religion is abusive. Not a popular opinion, but one I feel strongly about. I don’t make much point of talking about it, because it’s not going to happen on a large scale in my lifetime, but it’s horriifc that we allow parents to debase their children’s ability to think critically, to teach them at their most vulnerable time the silly myths of religion instead of giving them the tools to deal with the real world.

  5. Sili says

    At least it’s only a ten-year-old. The societal investment is still relatively low, and the economical loss is recoverable.

  6. johnthedrunkard says

    The unpleasantness of chemotherapy can be enough to make parents vulnerable to both quack and faith-healers. Indeed the terms are interchangeable.

    I recall reading that Amish communities attract packs of quacks. Not theologically allied, but simply preying on the lack of education and willful irrationalism that closed theocratic communities inevitably foster.

    ‘Out of the country’? Hidden in some religious compound in Canada, or at a death-shop (‘clinic’) in Mexico?

  7. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I prefer to think that they are in Indonesian Darawan, where the local “natural remedy” is to snorkel to distract you – naturally – from the chemo being released in timed dosages by the device strapped to the small of your back, thus ameliorating the effects of treatment through highly, highly natural distractions.

    Sigh. That’s probably not it, is it?


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