One type of story that I’ve fairly frequently commented upon since the very beginning of this blog is the story of children or teens with cancer whose parents decide to pursue quackery instead of effective therapy or children with other serious diseases whose parents reject effective therapy for them. Think way, way back to Katie Wernecke and Abraham Cherrix back in 2006. (Cherrix is still battling his lymphoma seven years later, having blown his best chance at cure back in 2006; I do not know how much longer he can continue.) More recently, there was Chad Jessop and Daniel Hauser. Just in the last couple of years, there has been one more case, including Jacob Stieler, as well as a case of a young wrestler who suffered a spinal cord injury and needed spine-stabilizing surgery whose mother refused the surgery in favor of “alternative medicine.” That doesn’t even count the children
Every time these sorts of sad, infuriating stories come down the pike, the reaction of alt-med apologists is the same. They all invoke parental rights, as though parents own their children. While it’s true that society grants parents a large degree of autonomy over their children, this authority and autonomy are not absolute. The assumption behind the implicit agreement between parents and society is that parents will do their utmost to act in the best interests of the child. It is understood that there might be disagreements over what constitutes the best interest of the child, which is why wide leeway is usually given to parents, often too much leeway in my opinion. (Antivaccinationists come to mind as parents who are given far too much deference by the law.) However, there are times when it is so clear that the course of action being chosen for the child is so inimical to the child’s interest that something has to be done. The prototypical example of this sort of situation is, not surprisingly, the child with cancer for whom parents choose quackery over effective therapy—or choose nothing at all, such as Christian Scientists choosing prayer instead of medicine. To try to justify choosing quackery or prayer (but I repeat myself) over medicine, alt-med apologists will also do their utmost to try to discredit conventional cancer therapy, painting it as ineffective and harmful. Of course, if there’s one area of cancer where the effectiveness of modern cancer therapy is most obvious, it is in childhood cancers, for which the cure rates of cancers that were once death sentences 40 years ago are now in the 80-90% range.
Here comes another one, and our old “friend” Mike Adams is losing his mind over it (as if he ever had a mind to lose in the first place). I had heard about this story before, and had planned on blogging it. Why I didn’t, I don’t know. It was probably a Dug the Dog moment and another squirrel ran by, which is as good a reason as any to thank our quacky friend Mikey for the opportunity to revisit the story:
Just weeks after an Ohio court ruled that medical authorities could not force chemotherapy upon a 10-year-old Amish girl against the wishes of her parents, an appeals court overturned the rule, allowing the hospital — which profits from chemotherapy treatments — to force this girl to receive chemotherapy against the wishes of her parents.
This is, essentially, chemotherapy at gunpoint or what I call “predatory medicine.” If the parents refuse the court order, they will be arrested at gunpoint and charged with various crimes. The Akron Children’s Hospital, which stands to profit from this decision, is the new medical mafia, poisoning children with mandatory “life sentences” handed down by a corrupt, medically ignorant justice system.
Ah, Mike. Predictably overwrought in the service of quackery, as always.
Let’s go to a more objective source to find out what really happened, such as ABC News. What happened is an all-too-familiar story. A ten year old Amish girl named Sarah Hershberger was diagnosed with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. (Some stories state that Sarah has “leukemia,” but a diagnosis of lymphoblastic lymphoma sounds more plausible given additional information in news stories stating that she has masses in her neck, chest, and kidneys, as leukemia usually doesn’t produce masses like this.) In children, most forms of lymphoma are highly treatable for cure, far more so than in adults. Consequently, doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital estimated Sarah’s chances of survival at 85% with chemotherapy, which sounds about right. Chemotherapy was started, but Sarah suffered its unpleasant side effects, which alarmed her parents. As a result, her parents took her off of chemotherapy in June in order to treat her cancer with herbal remedies. As was the case with so many of the children I’ve written about before, a court battle ensued.
Here’s the video:
We learn here that the girl’s tumors on her neck, chest, and kidneys were shrinking in response to the chemotherapy, which she took for about a month before her parents took her off of it, indicating a promising initial response. The initial decision of the court in early September was that requiring the child to undergo chemotherapy was too much of a violation of parental rights. However, on October 1, the appeals court ruled that the hospital attorney, who’s also a registered nurse, should be granted limited guardianship over the girl and the power to make medical decisions on her behalf, stating, “While we respect the wishes of the parents and believe them to be honest and sincere, we are unwilling to adhere to the wishes of the parents.” The judges pointed out that while competent adults can refuse medical treatment no matter what the consequences are, children don’t have the same option because of their vulnerability and insufficient maturity to make critical decisions. Certainly, this line blurs and becomes more difficult when the child is a teenager, as Abraham Cherrix was at the time of his cancer diagnosis. We can even argue about the age at which a child is sufficiently mature to make such life-and-death decisions. This is not one of those cases however, as Sarah Hershberger is only 10 years old. When she complained that the chemotherapy made her feel tired and sick, it should have been up to the parents and doctors to try to make her understand why it’s necessary and get her through it. However, she doesn’t get the option of vetoing the chemotherapy because she is not yet competent to make such a decision. The parents are supposed to act as her guardians and guard her best interests, but in this case it is very obvious that, for whatever reason, they can’t do it. So someone else has to, and that “someone else” is the state.
At this point, I should mention that I understand the parents’ plight, at least as much as it is possible to understand without actually having a child with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. As you see your child suffering fatigue, nausea, and other symptoms that are side effects of the chemotherapy and think about the potential long term sequelae of chemotherapy, you just want the suffering to stop. The problem is that you don’t understand that death from cancer is far worse than the side effects of chemotherapy. It’s understandable that parents with a bit of belief in woo would see what chemotherapy is doing to their child, forget what it could do for their child in converting a virtually certain death sentence to an 85% chance of long term survival, and decide to make the suffering stop. Medically, it’s the wrong decision, but on a human level I can understand it. I can also understand why courts are reluctant to overrule parental prerogatives—at least up to a point. When a child’s life is being endangered by parental decisions, however, the court has to act.
Not surprisingly, quackery apologists like Mike Adams don’t see it that way. Adams, true to his usual form, sees this as a conspiracy, an intolerable affront to parental rights and and assault on the child, a grave offense against humanity itself. I’m not exaggerating. Take a look:
The chemotherapy agents used today are, in fact, derived from the research of Nazi scientists and the chemical conglomerate known as IG Farben, which was later broken up into multiple companies, including Bayer, the modern-day pharma company. For example, the chemo drug thalidomide is actually an off-shoot of Nazi chemical weapons research.
Based on my research into all this, it is my opinion that the Akron Children’s Hospital is engaged in heinous crimes against children.
Yes, as expected, Adams couldn’t resist pulling a Godwin. Then he can’t resist the pharma shill gambit, coupled with what I like to refer to as an “appeal to doctors’ arrogance”:
Yet, despite the fact that western medicine is just one system out of a hundred, and despite the fact that chemotherapy is extremely toxic and causes more cancer, somehow western doctors are so incredibly, inexcusably ignorant that they have convinced themselves — and even many courts — that their way of treating cancer is the ONLY way! Everything else be damned! (Including prayer, fasting, juice feasting, medicinal mushrooms and more…)
Such a position can only come from nauseating arrogance combined with the kind of extreme ignorance of health that you can only learn in medical school, where all common sense is pounded out of your brain and replaced with pharmaceutical propaganda. No wonder tens of thousands of doctors in America routinely receive bribes from drug companies, including chemotherapy manufacturers.
Who’s more arrogant? A physician who’s spent years and years studying medicine, cancer, and how to treat cancer or a computer hack who once made his living fooling the gullible into buying into Y2K fear mongering and now pretends to know more about medicine than doctors? Yes, I’m referring to Mike Adams. The phrase “nauseating arrogance” applies to him perfectly, as does “extreme ignorance of health.” This sort of idiocy leads him to rant:
Even if you don’t agree with the Hershberger’s decision, if you support the court’s ordering their child into treatment, then you support the medical mafia operating at gunpoint in every context. Maybe soon the government will decide that everyone in the nation must take statin drugs. If you don’t, you are arrested or fined. Got a problem with that? You’ll be called “anti-science” and thrown in prison, then force-fed statins until the drug companies collect enough profit off your body. If you happen to die during the “treatment,” don’t worry: there are plenty more bodies to take your place.
Here’s the difference that seems to escape Adams’ pea-sized brain. Sarah Hershberger is a child. An adult can make any decision he or she pleases. If Sarah were 18, she could turn down chemotherapy for any reason, consequences be damned. And this is as it should be. However, society assumes that we will protect our children and act in their best interests. If the parents fail to do this so egregiously, then the state must act. Nor is Sarah’s case a gray area. If she does not receive treatment for her lymphoma, she will almost certainly die within a short period of time, and that death will not be the peaceful, dignified death that alt-med believers seem to think it would be if only the evil, nasty drugs were kept away from her. It very likely would be horrible—and completely preventable.
I’ve been to Akron General Medical Center before on an organ harvest run when I was a resident in Cleveland, although I’ve never been to the Children’s Hospital. Adams apparently contacted the hospital, and, although it was a response that was probably somewhat unprofessional when examined completely objectively, but completely understandable when one realizes that, well, we’re dealing with Mike Adams here:
How heroic, eh? These “heroes” of medicine are so moral, so ethical and so “in the right” that they won’t even reveal their names. They choose to hide behind anonymity, probably because at some level they realize their actions violate fundamental human rights and parental rights. These are crimes against families.
That’s what I told Akron Children’s Hospital public relations spokeswoman Lori Shuler, even encouraging her to “do something more meaningful with her life” than be a P.R. front woman for a destructive institution. Her answer to this? Literally, she screamed, “What an asshole!” and then slammed the phone down.
That is an on-the-record quote from Akron Children’s Hospital, by the way: “What an asshole!” This is the level of professionalism these people exhibit. They poison children for a living, then scream profanities at honest journalists trying to ask them intelligent questions about the names of the doctors involved in the lawsuit that’s forcing an innocent child to be poisoned with potentially deadly chemicals. For the record, I didn’t raise my voice at all. I was calmly asking questions and offering this person my view on the actions of their hospital.
Lori Shuler sounds as though she is a keen judge of character.
I also don’t quite understand the Hershbergers. During my residency in Cleveland, I dealt with a lot of Amish families. They were lovely people, by and large, and I never encountered one who refused conventional science-based medical therapies. Whatever their beliefs regarding technology, the Amish in Northeast Ohio at least did not eschew what modern medicine had to offer. The Hershbergers appear to be outliers. Be that as it may, I’m grateful that Akron Children’s Hospital is willing to go to the mat to save the life of a child and has a PR person willing to call Mike Adams what he is.
ADDENDUM: The quack apologist flying monkey brigade has descended upon the Akron Children’s Hospital Facebook page. It’s painful to read. The forces of reason could use some reinforcements.