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Reason.com defends the medical neglect of Sarah Hershberger

I realize that some of my readers will chide me for saying this, but I usually expect better of Reason. Although I sometimes have a tendency to be a bit—shall we say?—Insolent about libertarians when they pass from a reasonable defense of civil liberties into an Ayn Rand-inspired fantasy world in which the market cures all, useless people keep the supermen (and women) down, and the government is virtually unnecessary, I’ve usually considered Reason.com to represent a fairly—if you’ll excuse the word—reasonable variety of libertarianism. For instance, Ronald Bailey actually once presented what he called a pragmatic argument for coercive vaccination. Unfortunately, this time around, Reason.com has gone totally off the deep end when it comes to “health freedom,” presenting arguments, in essence, for the death of an Amish girl whose family has refused to complete her chemotherapy for a deadly childhood malignancy because, in a nutshell, parental rights must rule supreme. If you wonder whether I’m being too harsh on Reason.com and Tracy Oppenheimer, who, apparently, is responsible for this medical atrocity, read on.

Sarah Hershberger, as regular readers will recall, is an 11-year-old Amish girl from northeast Ohio, an area of the country with which I am well familiar, having spent eight years in Cleveland doing my residency and obtaining my PhD, who was diagnosed last year with lymphoblastic leukemia. She underwent one full course of chemotherapy (out of five courses planned over more than two years), which is the standard of care for the particular variety of leukemia she has. Unfortunately, her family stopped her chemotherapy early in her second course, after the induction phase had been completed, but only a dose or two into her consolidation phase. The reason this is so dangerous, as I’ve explained before, is that recurrence rates are very high after just the induction phase. Without the four other phases of chemotherapy required for this malignancy, there’s a high probability that her leukemia will recur, and when it recurs it will be a more resistant variety, having already been “selected” with one course of chemotherapy. Might she “get away with” only one phase of her chemotherapy? It’s possible, but very unlikely, and, given that full course treatment results in long term survival rates upwards of 85%, not completing the full five phases of chemotherapy is very much endangering this child.

In response to this understandable (given that Sarah was suffering side effects) but profoundly dangerous (to Sarah) action, Akron Children’s Hospital did a highly admirable thing. It brought legal action to appoint a guardian for purposes of medical decision making. This decision led to the Hershbergers fleeing Ohio in order to subject Sarah to quackery. Meanwhile quacks everywhere were furiously spinning, claiming that “natural healing” techniques that the Hershbergers had sought out had rendered her disease free. Most recently, I sadly and reluctantly concluded that Sarah was probably doomed, as the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, headed up by a crank named Maurice Thompson, had taken the case. When last I left the case, Sarah Hershberger apparently had come home to die. (I realize that that’s not what Thompson and the Hersbhergers were saying, and certainly that’s not what supporters of quackery were admitting, but I had my rasons for concluding it.) Throughout it all, I contended (and still contend) that those arguing for the right of the Hershberger family to deny Sarah lifesaving treatment for a highly curable cancer (85% five year survival) cared far more for “parental rights” than they did about the rights of Sarah Hershberger to live. Currently, as I’ve discussed before, Sarah’s medical guardian, Maria Schimer, resigned. Apparently the court didn’t accept her resignation until March 4, and currently her medical guardian is Judge Kevin Dunn. (I can’t link to the source right now because it’s down.) What will happen next is anyone’s guess.

Tracy Oppenheimer’s brain dead video piece on Reason.com, in which she lets Maurice Thompson advocate for parental rights above all, even if it means the “freedom” for the Hershbergers to let Sarah die a horrific death from leukemia, is entitled Amish vs. the Courts: Family Speaks Out on Fleeing the U.S. to Save Daughter from Court-Mandated Chemo. I don’t recall recently having seen such a one-sided piece about the Hershbergers outside of the usual sources, such as It’s truly painful to watch, as it basically argues that parental rights trump all:

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Try not to facepalm too many times when Thompson is speaking. I had a deep hand print on my face, so epic were the facepalms. I should sue Thompson for emotional distress due to flaming stupidity burned into my brain.

Part of the reason I had to blog about this is that the video reveals some things that hadn’t yet been revealed. For instance, featured in the video is a woman described as “health practitioner Angela Lowther. Lowther is an ND; i.e., a naturopath, or, as I like to call the Not a Doctor. It didn’t take much Google-Fu to find her at the Seeds of Wellness clinic in Avon Lake, OH, where she is described thusly:

Angela has owned Healthy Balance Wellness Center since 2008 and has been in practice as a natural health practitioner since 2005 starting out in California.

She is a Doctor of Natural Medicine (ND), Certified Natural Health Practitioner (CNHP), D.PSc – Diplomate of Pastoral Science for PMA and a licensed health provider for PMA, Veterinary Aide, Digital Health Specialist (QBS) – Quantum Biofeedback Specialist, a Digestive Care Specialist for Advanced Naturals, an Independent Consultant for doTerra Essential Oils and Certified AromaTouch Technician for doTerra.

Quantum Biofeedback Specialist? Essential oils? AromaTouch? Those modalities are some serious quackery there. I also note that Lowther’s partners at the clinic where she works includes Rev. Pat Beers, a psychic, medium, clairvoyant, and psychometrist (described as someone who “uses your objects to pick up vibrations”), while also claiming to be able to communicate with animals. Completing the team is Rev. Donna Bretz, who is described as a psychic reader, Reiki Master, Hypnotherapist and ordained Minister. She’s also described as an intuitive empath and uses Angel Cards and Oracle Cards to “help her connect with her Spirit People to receive the answers you seek.”

This is the practitioner to whom the Hershbergers turned to help their daughter get through chemotherapy? No wonder it didn’t take too much for them to be willing to stop treatment, particularly given that one of Sarah’s relatives, LeRoy Keim, is a multilevel marketer for a “natural” weight loss system known as Zija. One can only wonder what nonsense Lowther was filling their heads with. Of course, the Hershbergers must have been susceptible to the nonsense, given that they took Sarah to Lowther in the first place. Meanwhile, in Oppeheimer’s piece, Lowther is allowed to blather on about how natural remedies “boost the immune system” (really, she actually said that at around 2:10 in the video). She also told Oppenheimer that Sarah’s doctors weren’t open to considering any natural supplements. Well, of course they weren’t! They were focused on using science-based medicine to provide Sarah with the best chance that they could possibly give her of surviving her cancer and living to a ripe old age and likely didn’t need to be worrying about whether this herb or this supplement might be interacting or interfering with Sarah’s chemotherapy and other drugs.

We also learn that the Hershbergers were in Mexico, having taken a three and a half day journey from Ohio. The clinic in Mexico where Sarah was treated is not revealed, but unfortunately there are many to choose from, particularly in Tijuana but not limited to Tijuana. The Mexican border is long, and Mexico is a big country. Oppenheimer writes that the Hershbergers wouldn’t provide details of Sarah’s “alternative” treatments, but that information is readily available if she had bothered to do one bit of research for her piece. I noted it months ago in an anti-chemotherapy piece written by David Augenstein:

Andy explained in general terms some of the treatment and nutritional supplements, including high doses of vitamin C and B17, oxygen therapy, detoxification methods, as well as the IV chelation to deliver some of these to Sarah’s bloodstream. He also explained how the doctors arrived at a cancer-free status. She is now on a special diet including lots of vegetables and raw foods and taking special natural supplements, as prescribed by the foreign doctors.

Funny how I found this so easily, and Oppenheimer did not. Funny how also no one is presented to point out that high dose vitamin C for cancer doesn’t work, that B17 (laetrile) is cancer quackery that was discredited 30 years ago, and that “detoxification” and chelation are among the most nonsensical of quackeries aside from the ones that are, like Reiki and therapeutic touch, essentially magical faith healing. What Oppenheimer is doing in her piece is promoting the ability of parents to withhold effective medical treatment in favor of quackery. One wonders if she would have taken the same tack if she knew that the “natural remedies” that Sarah’s parents have chosen include laetrile. Given the ideological bent of this piece, my guess is that it wouldn’t have made a difference. What’s the life of a child compared to…FREEEDOMMMM!

The video starts out with Maurice Thompson of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a dubious far right advocacy group, opining that “Having a free society means that people need to be free to take risks, including risks with their family, when they are suitable and loving parents.” Thompson got half of that right. If he had simply said that having a free society means that people need to be free to take risks, I’d have no problem with that. Competent adults should be free to take risks, and I’ve always said that competent adults can choose whatever treatment they want for themselves, be it science-based or quackery. The key phrase in that sentence is “for themselves.” Children are not considered competent to make such decisions for themselves, and we don’t let them. We can argue about what age children become sufficiently competent to make such decisions, but few would argue that an 11 or 12 year old is competent to make health decisions like deciding whether to do chemotherapy or not. That’s the parents’ job.

So far, so good. But what happens when the parents fail, which is what is happening now? Thompson and Oppenheimer spend lots of time in the video portraying the Hershbergers as loving “suitable” (legal language) parents. That’s a total straw man argument. Thompson also says:

It’s one thing for society, government, for experts to overrule parents who are abusive, or who are neglectful or who perhaps lack the capacity to properly care for their children, and it’s imperative to emphasize that none of those are the case here.

No one—and I mean, no one—is saying that the Hershbergers aren’t loving parents. I certainly have no doubt that the Hershbergers love their daughter as much as any parents can love their child. I also have no doubt that they think they are doing the right thing for her. Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t recognize good intentions. These parents are making a profoundly harmful choice for their daughter, one that is very likely to prevent her from ever seeing adulthood. As I said before, she might luck out, and the chemotherapy that she’s received thus far might be enough, but it’s far more likely that it is not and that her cancer will recur. Considerable time is taken in the video, with Lowther, Sarah’s parents, and Thompson all gushing over how normal and “energetic” Sarah is right now. Oppenheimer cheerily adds to the illusion by narrating herself how fantastic Sarah looks. That’s totally a red herring that has no bearing on why she needs more chemotherapy. She might well seem perfectly fine now, but sooner or later her cancer will almost certainly recur. In the meantime, she’s being treated with quackery like laetrile. That is why, contrary to what Thompson is arguing, the reality is that the Hershbergers are abusive and neglectful. When parents, no matter how well-intentioned, medically neglect their children—and, make no mistake, Sarah Hershberger is a blatant case of medical neglect—it is right and just for society to step in. Medical neglect is abuse, parental intentions notwithstanding.

Arguments like Thompson’s piss me off to no end, because they basically devalue the life of the child and are rooted in the attitude that parental “rights” always trump the good of the child, at least as long as the parents look like nice, fine upstanding citizens. It’s why parents whose children die because they choose prayer over medicine are rarely severely punished in this country. What the Hershbergers are doing to Sarah is no different from that.

Tragically, this video makes it very clear that the Hershbergers were laboring under a delusion. They clearly don’t understand what is at stake. At one point in the video Thompson mentions that the Hershbergers decided to try “natural” treatments, with the belief that they could always go back to chemotherapy if the “natural” therapy failed. On the surface, this seems reasonable enough, but it’s based on a massive misunderstanding of cancer biology. What the Hershbergers don’t seem to understand (and what Oppenheimer doesn’t acknowledge) is that when Sarah’s cancer returns, it will be much harder to treat and far more likely to kill her, no matter what the pediatric oncologists at Akron Children’s Hospital (or any other pediatric cancer center) throw at her. The first chance is virtually always the best chance to cure any cancer, and the Hershbergers are wasting that chance. When Sarah’s cancer returns, oncologists might still be able to save her, but the odds of that will go down considerably.

Thompson also makes a very deceptive argument, pointing out that chemotherapy has significant risks, including infertility, secondary cancers, and even death. One notes that he mentions death first and very prominently. Sure, chemotherapy has significant risks. However, those risks pale in comparison to the risks of what the Hershbergers are doing now. The risk of death due to chemotherapy is much, much lower than the risk of death from cancer, and if you’re a child with cancer you won’t even have the risk of secondary malignancies and infertility of the cancer isn’t cured with appropriate treatment, mainly because you’ll die long before such chemotherapy-associated complications have the opportunity to manifest themselves.

The bottom line is this. The Hershbergers, as nice as they might be and as much as they might love Sarah, are letting her die, and her death will likely be very unpleasant. The State of Ohio and Medina County have profoundly failed in protecting Sarah from this, and far too many people are okay with this, out of a misguided fear of “trampling parental rights.” Maurice Thompson, through his advocacy of parental rights above all else, is complicit in the medical neglect being perpetrated by the Hershbergers. Worse, he’s trying to generalize it to all children, and if he prevails it will be open season on children for cancer quacks in Ohio. Reason should know better than to provide a propaganda organ for the misguided libertarians trying to defend parents who are medically neglecting their children.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

393 replies on “Reason.com defends the medical neglect of Sarah Hershberger”

What you want in this case is reasonable, but I wish you would make the case using numbers instead of emotive language. From the numbers that were bandied about in earlier discussions, though there’s a substantial chance that Sarah will have a recurrence and die – and if that did happen, there would be a substantial chance that her death could have been avoided by fuller treatment – it’s not true that she “almost certainly” will by any normal definition of that phrase. You are painting yourself into a corner because it’s very possible that this girl will still be alive and well in five years, and your pronouncement that she’s doomed will certainly be used by her alternative practitioners as evidence that their modalities, which probably have little or no effect on leukemia recurrence, must be effective.

I’ve used numbers many times before in the posts to which I’ve linked. No need to reinvent the wheel, when I’ve posted about Sarah so many times. That “substantial” chance has been estimated by an oncologist who comments here to be at least 90% or higher, which to me is pretty darned close to certain.

You are, however correct. On the off chance that Sarah’s cancer doesn’t recur, the Hershbergers and the quacks who hold up their case as a great injustice will claim that it was the quackery that cured her. The same thing happened when Abraham Cherrix lasted far longer than one would have expected not having undergone definitive therapy. They don’t mention him much any more, because he did eventually recur, and when last I checked in with him he was battling multiple recurrences. His, it turns out, was an indolent tumor, but unfortunately it is also relentless.

As for “emotive language,” I think it’s very appropriate in this case, given the topic.

I’m pretty certain I’m on record on a long-ago post on Respectful Insolence opining that being a parent – or more generally a guardian (natural or legal) – of a child doesn’t confer rights so much as it confers duties – most notably, in the case of medical care, the duties to look out for a child’s best interests.

While there may come a (surely heartbreaking) point where withholding curative treatment from a child with cancer, in favour of, say, palliation, I would think that until reaching that point, it’s in the child’s best interests to have an opportunity to reach adulthood – that is, to pursue curative treatment, however unpleasant.

The Hershbergers are, in their well-intentioned ignorance, allowing quacks to prey upon their child and their finances (*) and are narrowing the window of opportunity where curative treatment can be effective. It is an alternately enraging and depressing situation.

(*) And on the goodwill and charity of others who donate(d) to help pay for Sarah’s medical costs.

“She is a Doctor of Natural Medicine (ND), Certified Natural Health Practitioner (CNHP), D.PSc – Diplomate of Pastoral Science for PMA and a licensed health provider for PMA, Veterinary Aide, Digital Health Specialist (QBS) – Quantum Biofeedback Specialist, a Digestive Care Specialist for Advanced Naturals, an Independent Consultant for doTerra Essential Oils and Certified AromaTouch Technician for doTerra.”

Well, that’s a heck of a lot more titles and initials to put after your name than just M.D., board certified in oncology. And I’ll bet none of the physicians treating Sarah were qualified as a veterinary aide.

Lowther’s list of qualifications includes Veterinary Aide. I don’t know what she means by this. In the U.S. veterinary assistants are on-the-job trained or go through a short series of courses while veterinary technicians are supposed to have graduated from a 2 or 4 year AVMA approved program and passed national and state exams. There’s a maddening variation about that among states, but that’s neither here nor there.

I am a credentialed veterinary technician and I would never attempt to treat a human, short of a zombie apocalypse.

I’m barred by law from diagnosing, prescribing and performing surgery on animals even though I have some education on how all these things are done. Being a veterinary aide, whatever that’s supposed to mean, certainly doesn’t add anything to her presumed ability to treat any living being.

It’s one thing for society, government, for experts to overrule parents who are abusive, or who are neglectful or who perhaps lack the capacity to properly care for their children, and it’s imperative to emphasize that none of those are the case here.

Emphasize all you want, Thompson. The crux of the problem is precisely that rejecting a course of action with some chance of working for some unscientific, unproven one could indeed be seen as a sign of neglect. Or, to be more charitable, of parents which are out of their depth and are about to make a mistake.

On another nitpick, just noting this:

an Independent Consultant for doTerra Essential Oils and Certified AromaTouch Technician for doTerra

How could you be on one hand an “independent consultant” and on the other hand a “certified technician” for the same company?

@Dangerous Bacon: I’m afraid to ask what a Diplomate of Pastoral Science is, and what that qualification has to do with medicine in humans.

What’s the life of a child compared to…FREEEDOMMMM!

I would not have been able to resist the temptation to spell that last word “FREEDUMB!”

I’m a regular reader of Reason, but I’ve also been put off by their absolutist stance on parental rights. There’s a sticky question here, though. How do we draw a line that enables us to help Sarah Hershberger without also circumscribing other cases where interference would be more troubling? It is one thing to say, Only in situations where the child’s life is clearly in danger, and there is a treatment that is highly likely to be effective. But adverbs are slippery; what constitutes “clearly” and “highly”?

Even more than that, I think Reason is afraid of the slippery slope: once we’ve said interference is OK in “this” situation, what about “that” one? For instance, is the “Free Range Kids” movement a wholesome reaction to an overprotective society, or reckless people endangering their children’s very lives? Is ensuring the best chance for life even enough? What about a child’s right to mental health — can we enforce that, as well? That seems like a good idea, too, but now we are REALLY in a grey area.

Of course, “slippery slope” arguments are generally considered a logical fallacy. It’s very rare that they’re made without being fallacious or overblown.

How could you be on one hand an “independent consultant” and on the other hand a “certified technician” for the same company?

One word: Microsoft.

Longer version: The company in question may be pulling a common if questionable tax dodge by giving their employees a Form 1099 (as independent contractors) rather than a W-2 (which they would get as employees). The difference being that, if you get a Form 1099, you are expected to pay the portion of Social Security and Medicare taxes that your employer would pay if you got a W-2 from them.

@ Orac/Composer99

As for “emotive language,” I think it’s very appropriate in this case, given the topic.

It is an alternately enraging and depressing situation.

Agreeing on both counts.

If I knew the family of the poor girl, I would be split between sharing their grief, and wanting to yell at them.
It sounds self-righteous, but darn it, refusing chemo to have plenty of other nasty stuff (chelation chief among them) injected into their child?

@ Eric Lund

Oh. Tax evasion.

Thanks. I suspected something like this, but lacked the knowledge.

” into an Ayn Rand-inspired fantasy worldn in which the market cures all……”

I believe that Orac has, with the above sentence, sounded the alarm awakening libertarians, Randians and health freedom advocates to battle for their g-d-given rights on these pages.

Can someone explain to me what a Digital Health Specialist is?
Someone who is supposed to care for the health of digital equipment?

I guess I’m the only one who thought of E.T. in relation to “digital health specialist?” Although Lowther may think she can actually DO that.

@Renate – that’s how I read it too, haha.

I know how to run Malwarebytes and Spybot: Search and Destroy, does that make me a Digital Health Specialist too?

I also have a doctorate in ctrl-alt-deleteology!

“ArmoaTouch”

I know this is one of the BlinkenBoxOLights occasional typos, but it actually sounds like it could be some new sort of alternative treatment that “cures everything from toothaches to cancer.” Wonder if one of the Alties will claim ArmoaTouch for their own.

More on topic, the whole situation leaves me a little torn. I agree that this is a case where “Parental Rights” are unquestionably putting their child at risk, probably to the point of leading to her untimely death. But I’ve also seen cases where the State (in the guise of CPS) has wildly overstepped their bounds and done severe damage to a family. Albeit in a non-medical context.

I don’t see an easy way to balance the rights of a parent (the legal and ethical guardian of their child – Duties, as Composer eloquently puts it) with the duties of the State to act in the best interests of their citizens – especially the ones least able to take care of themselves.

Nope,they use a digital machine to take a reading from their patient to determine whats wrong with them.Ain’t technology wonderful.Sad part is that they charge people to do this and people are fooled into believing that it is a true form of medicine.And F.Y.I Orac Angela is from Ashland, Ohio. She see’s many Amish who consider her to be a Medical Doctor.They believe whatever she tells them.

There’s a sticky question here, though. How do we draw a line that enables us to help Sarah Hershberger without also circumscribing other cases where interference would be more troubling? It is one thing to say, Only in situations where the child’s life is clearly in danger, and there is a treatment that is highly likely to be effective. But adverbs are slippery; what constitutes “clearly” and “highly”?

There will always be grey areas and edge cases, that’s why we have courts instead of flow-charts. You can’t reduce justice to an algorithm.

I’ve come across quite a few cases of neglect where the parents did not have bad intent (though some parents are really, really culpable, unfortunately). As Orac points out, that’s not the question and not the focus. Killing a child with love is no less killing that child. Maybe the language of neglect should be changed, in a way that will capture the idea that it’s not about assigning blame, but about protecting the child.

@Renate here is some interesting info Quack “Electrodiagnostic” Devices
Stephen Barrett, M.D.

The devices described in this article are used to diagnose nonexistent health problems, select inappropriate treatment, and defraud insurance companies. The practitioners who use them are either delusional, dishonest, or both. These devices should be confiscated and the practitioners who use them should be prosecuted. If you encounter any such device, please report it to the state attorney general, any relevant licensing board, the FDA, the FTC, the FBI, the Better Business Bureau, and any insurance company to which the practitioner submits claims that involve use of the device.

@Renate here is some interesting info Quack “Electrodiagnostic” Devices
Stephen Barrett, M.D.

” The devices described in this article are used to diagnose nonexistent health problems, select inappropriate treatment, and defraud insurance companies. The practitioners who use them are either delusional, dishonest, or both. These devices should be confiscated and the practitioners who use them should be prosecuted. If you encounter any such device, please report it to the state attorney general, any relevant licensing board, the FDA, the FTC, the FBI, the Better Business Bureau, and any insurance company to which the practitioner submits claims that involve use of the device. “

When quackery invokes parental rights, I cringe. I’ve seen a few too many cases where alties speak of children as if they were broken toasters or privately owned (sloppily conducted) science experiments, rather than thinking, feeling people who are suffering. In some cases, particularly religious ones, they speak of the child as merely a tool for punishing some real or imagined transgression of the parent.

@Helianthus: Not necessarily tax evasion (though there are companies who skirt the legal line on this). There are other differences between an independent consultant and an employee, including how much control the company has over how and when you do the work. In the US, the IRS has a list of questions that can be used to help determine whether a given person is an employee or an independent contractor, and while they are somewhat biased in favor of finding the person to be an employee, there are many examples of people who are legitimately independent contractors.

I’ve been an independent contractor in a tutoring business that I’m confident satisfied the legal definition. The company in question acted as a broker who put me in contact with clients, certified my abilities, and handled billing and collections. I set my own hours and pay rate by negotiating directly with the clients. The company took a percentage of what I was paid as their cut. I was also free to work with other clients that I found on my own, which I handled independently of my relationship with the company.

That’s a pretty good example of what an independent contractor relationship can look like.

I pointed out this post to a colleague of mine who has taken a special interest in how the Amish have accomodated (or not) to the demands of the modern world (e.g., compulsory schooling, and so on). He hadn’t been aware of this case — he had this to say:

[palindrom], interesting and sad. Amish are not generally opposed to modern medicine. [Orac] did not mention the cost of the treatment and the fact
that traditional Amish refuse to get private medical insurance and generally do not participate in government programs. I wonder how much the cost affected the Hershbergers’ decision to stop the chemo, though the quack alternatives (and a trip to Mexico) are usually not cheap, either.

Hey, if you take your car to a dealership with a check-engine light on, the first thing they do is plug it into some electronic gizmo that tells them what’s wrong with it.

Don’t people work the same way?

I agree with Orac that it is angering to see something that is as clear cut as this case. And to have people crying “but what about parental rights” without seeming to consider the child…ugh.

For those interested in a less clear-cut situation, there’s the case of Justina Pelletier. Similar to the Hershbergers, the state stepped in to ensure that Justina was properly cared for. But here’s the rub: it isn’t a question of real medicine vs. quackery, but real medicine vs. real medicine. The response has been, similar to the Hershbergers, almost exclusively loud cries about parental rights, etc. Intriguing, but very murky, case.

Nope,they use a digital machine to take a reading from their patient to determine whats wrong with them.

So it’s sort of like a tricorder, except for the minor detail that (at least in the Star Trek universe) tricorders work, and this machine doesn’t.

I think that, in cases like Sarah Hershberger, a lot of otherwise fairly reasonable libertarians fall for the slippery slope fallacy. (You do know that the slippery slope argument is almost always a logical fallacy, didn’t you?) They seem to think that if they budge even a little bit, even for such a clear-cut case as that of Sarah Hershberger, it will inevitably open the door for a cascade of actions that will end with the state shutting parents out and raising our children in a Big Brother-like manner. They’ve convinced themselves of this so much so that they seem to think that if an occasional child like Sarah dies, then that’s the price of freedom. Not that they’d ever admit that. They might not even realize that that’s the argument they’re buying into, at least not consciously. But that is the consequence of their dogmatic, unbending support of “parental rights.”

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/slippery-slope.html
http://www.fallacyfiles.org/slipslop.html

Are you claiming libertarians are going with a greater good argument?

(I think you’re right, by the way).

@Todd – The case of Justina Pelletier came to mind too. Expand story here http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/15/justina/vnwzbbNdiodSD7WDTh6xZI/story.html

There are a couple more stories of the same type of thing happening in mental hospitals. I don’t understand why in some situations it is like parents don’t exist and others they trump all (recall Elian Gonzalez).

I certainly don’t have the answers. I only wanted to say that whenever the state steps in, they should be held just as accountable for the outcome as the child’s parents.

FREEEDOMMMM!

“I may lose my child, but I will not lose my freedom”

Somehow, this does not sound as heroic and self-sacrificing as Braveheart’s battle cry…

Are you claiming libertarians are going with a greater good argument?

I suppose you could put it that way.

#6 and #10

doTerra is a multi-level-marketing essential oils distributor. THAT’s how you can be an independent consultant (dealer) and a certified technician (which is whatever amount of weird classes they put on for their consultants).

@Mike #20:

Wonder if one of the Alties will claim ArmoaTouch for their own.

Create a Wikipedia page for it and they will come running.

At what point do parents lose the right or option to inflict harm or prevent harm on their children?

Our pediatrician asked us to enroll our two children in a study on a new combination vaccine. We said sure. Then we were told about the protocols, which will involve multiple blood draws from our 1 year old and 4 year old. Unfortunately my 4 year old has been in the hospital a couple of times where she had IV’s and has had numerous blood draws for allergies. She hates them and I am forced to physically restrain her while she screams to hold her still. Is it ethical of me to force my daughters to be part of a study they do not understand and will cause them pain and will not personally benefit them though it may benefit people in the future?

That’s an interesting question, but it’s not quite related. The reason is simple. If you were to refuse to have your children participate in the clinical trial, your two children would not in any way be victims of medical neglect. Your pediatrician would continue to care for them according to the standard of care. So, of course, it’s ethical not to enroll them in the clinical trial if you don’t think they would handle it well. Only you can decide if you think the potential benefits to others are worth the distress that it would cause your children to participate.

I suppose if you think this study will be in some way not good for your child, I can imagine you have every right to refuse.

It’s one thing for society, government, for experts to overrule parents who are abusive, or who are neglectful or who perhaps lack the capacity to properly care for their children, and it’s imperative to emphasize that none of those are the case here.

Couldn’t agree less. “[L]ack the capacity” is the key phrase here. Most of us lack the capacity to care for a child with cancer, at least in terms of treating their disease. Only a few people (pediatric oncologists) can actually do so properly. It doesn’t matter how loving and kind you are as a parent, to completely care for your child you need a competent medical team on your side as well.

@Composer99 #3: Very well put.

Dunc: You can’t reduce justice to an algorithm.

No, but given how each court case is determined by all the others that went before it, you can guess how the case is going to turn out, and by that which illegal acts are actually legal (due to non-prosecution and general climate of state.)

Can someone explain to me what a Digital Health Specialist is?
When my doctor is conducting my yearly check-up, he certainly uses his finger for part of the examination.

Just because “slippery slope” or “domino effect” is often a logical fallacy doesn’t mean it can’t be true…

Thompson and Oppenheimer spend lots of time in the video portraying the Hershbergers as loving “suitable” (legal language) parents. That’s a total straw man argument.

Be that as it may, it’s been a core contention in Maurice’s untimely and mooted legal efforts. I’ve mentioned this before, but this part of the legal argument boils down to three parts (I just got home, so there are no citations):

1. In Ohio, it has been found that a medical guardian cannot consent to the removal of life support from a ward if parental rights have not been completeley legally severed.

2. Chemotherapy here would be life-sustaining, which is close enough to invoke the case law.

3. Because the Hershbergers do not satisfy the criteria for permant severance of rights, a medical guardian cannot compel life-saving treatment.

As I’ve also mentioned, this boils down to nothing other than the absurdity that medical guardianships don’t exist. Maurice has not yet been pressed into trying to run this line of shıt past a real live judge.

one of Sarah’s relatives, LeRoy Keim, is a multilevel marketer for a “natural” weight loss system known as Zija.

I suppose LeRoy’s claim that any money you send him (made through multiple crowd-sourcing charity appeals) will be spent on helping Sarah’s family, is truthful enough, to the extent that Leroy is a member of her family.

Sorry to natter on; I’m working piecemeal. First, the previous comment was mistaken; the Medina County docket search is still 503, but the payload linked above is live.

Maurice Thompson, through his advocacy of parental rights above all else, is complicit in the medical neglect being perpetrated by the Hershbergers. Worse, he’s trying to generalize it to all children, and if he prevails it will be open season on children for cancer quacks in Ohio.

I think that what’s even worse is that he’s doing it for no reason other than personal publicity. The Hershbergers already had counsel in the form of John Olberholzter, who they discharged because Maurice sold them a bill of goods.

He doesn’t have that bad of a track record, but I don’t think there’s any question here that his representation has been nothing short of incompetent. (*Paging Prof. Reiss*) The legal grandstanding he tried to get away with amounted to nothing more (on top of the seriously crappy “amicus” brief) than raising issues on appeal that he damn well should have known were inappropriate.

Schimer’s final reply brief was terse, and the decision was as well. Maurice simply preyed on the Hershbergers for the sake of blowing the conch trumpet he has left over from his shriveled crown gastropod, the Ohio Healthcare Freedom Amendment.

She is a Doctor of Natural Medicine (ND), Certified Natural Health Practitioner (CNHP), D.PSc – Diplomate of Pastoral Science for PMA and a licensed health provider for PMA

There appears to be unharvested nutbaggery once one scratches the fusion crust of the Pastoral Medical Association. From a comment at Mark Sircus’s joint:

cultural_truth

Notice & Warning. This is not the Orginal Pastoral Medical Association..It is a Copycat
If people actually do their research they will see that the Pastoral Medical Association in Nevis and Texas was orignally called the World Organization of Natural Medicine Practitioners, which was a Copy of the Original World Organization of Natural Medicine based in Canada(www[.]wonm[.]org) under Dr. Sheila Mckenzie. Professor Charles McWilliams & his wife was excommunited from the WONM & their Hospitallar order & decided to Establish his own knights order, and with Dr. Holt & then Eric Carter created a bogus version of WONM adding practitioners. they originally claimed to license Monastic Medicine practitioners & accredit Colleges

Sound familiar?

Ah, So there is a dispute between the Alternative to the Alternative Health Provider network, and the Alternative to the Alternative to the Alternative Health Provider network, over money which is which.
How did you find the SaneVax connection? Just following a hunch?

@palindrom:

[Orac] did not mention the cost of the treatment and the fact that traditional Amish refuse to get private medical insurance and generally do not participate in government programs. I wonder how much the cost affected the Hershbergers’ decision to stop the chemo….

At least under the guardianship, this report states that there would have been no cost, which makes sense.

Looking at the Akron Children’s “Hospital Care Assurance Program” application, given that there are seven children in total, there would have been no bill if the gross family income were under $35,610, with an assistance program after that.

How did you find the SaneVax connection? Just following a hunch?

No, it was on the blacklist, which popped right up with a search for “‘pastoral medical association’ nevis” looking for the connection to this, which is probably to be had.

While I still have some energy, allow me to turn to “Rev. Pat Beers.”

As a medium, clairvoyant and psychometrist (uses your objects to pick up vibrations), she uses her gifts to provide you with guidance to your life path. Pat is also able to communicate with animals and welcomes pets as long as they are on a lease [sic] or in a carrier.

As a Reverend through the Sanctuary of Angelic Lights, Pat has done over 33 weddings.

Who might the Sanctuary of Angelic Lights be? Why, it is was Pat Beers!

It didn’t take much Google-Fu to find her at the Seeds of Wellness clinic in Avon Lake, OH

It seems to be a bit more than just a clinic:

“Looking for a smoking alternative? Seeds of Wellness specializes in Premium Vapes electronic cigarettes, EGO 510 e-cig and their accessories.”

“licensed health provider for PMA, Veterinary Aide, Digital Health Specialist (QBS) – Quantum Biofeedback Specialist, a Digestive Care Specialist for Advanced Naturals, an Independent Consultant for doTerra Essential Oils and Certified AromaTouch Technician for doTerra.”

Sounds like a vacuum cleaner.
Fool and money, meet vacuum.
Somebuddy’s gotta do it.

““substantial” chance has been estimated by an oncologist who comments here to be at least 90% or higher, which to me is pretty darned close to certain….”

Numbers and our perception of their meaning depend on how they are presented and our stake in their significance.
Is 90% big or little?
Neither.

Car pool driver:
1. “On each trip, I have reason to be 90% confident my car’s left front wheel will not fall off”
rider: yeah, uhhm, take it easy while I’m in the car
2. “We make ten trips to and from work per week. On each trip, the left front wheel has about a one in ten chance of falling off.”
rider: uhhm, I’ll take the bus

And… Angela Lowther has now officially engaged in the unauthorized practice of medicine under Ohio Rev. Code § 4731:

Learn how to use essential oils [f]or better health, overcoming pain, fighting colds, digestion issues, allergies, etc. with Dr. Angela Lowther.

@Spectator #60

Your analogy fails. If we had nothing to compare to the 90% recurrence rate associated with opting out of the chemo program early in the consolidation phase, maybe it would hold water. But we know that the recurrence rate with a full course of chemo is much lower than this (not sure of the specific numbers, but they do exist… Orac?). Thus the 90% recurrence rate isn’t a subjective value that can be interpreted however you want it to be, it’s a concrete value that can be objectively compared to other concrete values.

@Neil #60.

The comment isn’t meant to be a critique of a medical practice.
Obviously, it is unconscionable to deny treatment to the child.

The comment is meant as an observation of how a statistic is perceived. Most people hear “90%” as “that’s almost 100%” and not “that’s like 27 days per month”.
If a prediction as good about 90% of the time and one makes such a prediction once a (day/month/galactic time unit), one of the predictions is likely to fail before long, possibly well before 10 have been made. If the galactic sector overlord/internet echo chamber has a peeve with you, it will trumpet the first unfulfilled prediction while ignoring or rationalizing the others.

It’s nice of Angela Lowther and the Rev. Donna Bretz to list their comprehensive portfolio of scams. They sound quite well-rounded — no niche is omitted.
I am inured to the fact that in New Age circles, people who would be laughed out of a RenFaire can still monetise their self-dramatising intellectual-dress-up fantasies. It is still sad to see them kill an otherwise-treatable girl for the sake of the publicity.

Quantum Biofeedback Specialist
I recall that “Quantum Biofeedback” has featured in RI before, popular among grifters who wish to distinguish themselves from classical biofeedback woosters by adding additional Worship Words.
I idly began to wonder a Quantum Biofeedback Association had been formed in order to limit unqualified competition. Evidently one exists in South Africa. There is a North American website claiming the mantles of both QBA and Quantum Biofeedback Practitioners’ Association, and charging a US $250 membership fee in return for unspecified benefits, but it looks rather moribund, and I suspect it’s an attempt to grift the grifters. So sadly, no turf wars to look forward to.

It’s nice of Angela Lowther and the Rev. Donna Bretz to list their comprehensive portfolio of scams.

“Dr.” Lowther failed to mention her term as president of “Phunky Fones & Spunky Stuff, Inc.”

Narad: “Dr.” Lowther failed to mention her term as president of “Phunky Fones & Spunky Stuff, Inc.”

Is that a real company?

The Great Gazoogle says Yes. Along with ‘Heartfelt”. See also “Angela Varho-Lowther”.

There are several “practitioners” hiding behind the ‘pastoral medical association’ to hide their scamming. In order to use them the patient has to join the association and then if there are any problems you have to have your grievance heard in their ecclesiastical court. I’m not kidding that’s how they try to hide their illegal medical practices, behind religion. great little scam they have going on their.
http://www.pmai.us/

Sorry Orac. I think you’re totally wrong on this. Sarah Hershberger is a child. That mean she has exactly the same status as a sofa, a ping-pong table, a book of stamps, or anything else her parents may or may not own. They have every right to deny her medical care, just as they have the right to deny her food, water, or a roof over her head. If they don’t think chemotherapy is best for her, or, if, indeed, they simply can’t be bothered to take her to the hospital, that is their right, and we should respect it.

This isn’t about rationality, or evidence, or the “proven” effectiveness of mainstream medical treatment. This is about Freedom. And The Constitution. And the Liberty Bell. And John Wayne (maybe).

Better dead than Red, even if you’re only 11.

@narad 53,
I didn’t recognized most of the names, but I did notice that Dr Suzanne Humphries made their blacklist.

Oh, and I saw the sanevax site made the list, too. I think I skipped it in my original skim because they misspelled it as “senevax”.

@Helianthus: “How could you be on one hand an “independent consultant” and on the other hand a “certified technician” for the same company?”

Well, since she’s also got a Quantum certification, it’s clear that her relationship with doTerra exists in a superposition of states, where she both is and is not independent. Until directly observed, anyway.

@Shank

Sorry, but children are not property. If you want, you are allowed to take a reciprocating saw to your sofa. You are not allowed to do so to your child. But, hey, freedom, amiright?

@Todd W.

Apparently the obvious Poe wasn’t obvious enough in spite of the invocation of John Wayne.

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