Hospital fighting to save a young girl’s life from her parents’ beliefs.

In Ohio there is an Amish couple with the misfortune of having their daughter stricken with cancer.  Initially the couple decided god wouldn’t help their child, but that perhaps mortal doctors could (that’s a bit of snark, they actually thought god would help their daughter but that doctors would make it more likely for god to help, fancy that).  They’ve since changed their mind.

The parents initially allowed chemotherapy treatment in May but stopped treatment in June. The parents said the effects on their daughter were horrible and that they were now relying on natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, The Medina Gazette reported.

Understandably, this bothers the hospital who realize that these parents are metaphorically building their daughter’s casket.

The hospital believes the girl will die without chemotherapy and is morally and legally obligated to make sure she receives proper care, said Robert McGregor, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

“We really have to advocate for what we believe is in the best interest of the child,” he said Friday.

The hospital is fighting the parents in court to force them to give their daughter a chance to live.

The ironic thing is that both parties want the girl to live.  But because a bad idea has gripped the girl’s parents, even though they want their child to live, they are killing her.  The question facing the courts will be what is more important: the will of a parent (and respect for their wrong, but sacred beliefs) or reality.  It’s a little depressing the battle must even be fought.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Carly Sturgeon

    Another ‘faith healing’ death could certainly be prevented if the hospital is allowed to continue!

  • Loqi

    Parental rights are not property rights. Believe what you want, but your children are not toys to play with how you see fit. Take the girl away from them, and if she survives, don’t give her back. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a cancer survivor who was saved by modern medical technology in an Amish community. What a nightmare of guilt and shame that would be.

    • Dirty_Nerdy

      This. I’m currently learning family law, and a lot of parents in the class are getting a rude awakening to the fact that parental rights are not absolute and that most courts will put much more weight on the best interests of the child than they will on any parental rights.

      • baal

        But you need standing (or at least a legal issue) to get in front of the judge in the first place.

        • Marian P

          There are Child Protective Services in every jurisdiction in the Unites States which do in fact have jurisdiction when any child is in danger from abuse or neglect. Failure to provide appropriate medical care is certainly in that category and courts have forced many parents to seek conventional medical care for their children, or sadly found them responsible after the death of the child. Also, recall there are plenty of Atheist kooks like Bill Maher who oppose vaccination out o distrust of Big Pharma or something, not that Big Pharma doesn’t bear strict scrutiny.

    • iknklast

      I’ve said this for a long time. There is no parental right that can override the basic rights of the child to life. Most of these discussions we have that begin with “of course it’s the parents right to…” are simply because we have for so long considered children property. We don’t intellectually think that way anymore, but it still seems to be ingrained. The only rights that matter here are those of the child. The parents have a responsibility, not a right.

      • Jasper

        That’s what often gets me about the discussions… it’s all about the parents, and the considerations of the child are little else than an afterthought.

        It’s like a discussion I was having with some other guy, who insisted that our doing different crimes were an affront to God, and offended him… and I couldn’t seem to get the idea of “What the heck does God have to do with this?” across to him. If I wrong someone, it’s between me and that person. Who is this third party that all of a sudden we’re overly concerned with, at the literal exclusion of the victim (where he not once brought up the idea of atoning with the victim)?

        I generally find the theistic priority list to be gibberish.

    • Baby_Raptor

      This is not a common view. I once advocated the view that it should be illegal for parents to do shit like this to their kids, and within half an hour was told that I was “encouraging cultural genocide,” and was a horrible person for wanting to wipe out beliefs I disagree with.

      • Quintin van Zuijlen

        Let’s weigh our options. On the one hand we can save a belief which is of no good to humanity, on the other we can save a child of infinitely greater value. Who could be such a monster that they’d rather let the child die than the belief?

        • Baby_Raptor

          People for whom their own supremacy is everything. In other words, the same kind of person who would willingly let a child die because of their own faith.

      • Loqi

        Oh, I’m aware it isn’t common. Whenever a discussion like this happens on Facebook, I get the shockhorror reaction from multiple people. They tell me I don’t understand why people have children, since I don’t have any. It’s so that they can raise a child the way they want, to believe what they want, and to experience what they want.
        If that’s what they want, then what they really want is to play D&D, not to raise a child. If your idea of child rearing is analogous to character creation in an RPG, you need to reassess the whole parenting thing.

        • Baby_Raptor

          It’s always fun to remind them that they can’t force their kids to believe the same stuff they do, though. People like this seem to be of the mind that children are robots.

          But there are plenty of us who were raised a certain way and bailed as soon as we could…A lot of us *because* of being raised that way.

        • jg29a

          I certainly don’t create characters in order to do whatever I want; I create them to grow into organic personalities that will inevitably end up doing something or other to put themselves or the party at risk because it’s what *they*, not *I* would do. ;-) RPGs are a way of cultivating empathy.

        • islandbrewer

          It’s so that they can raise a child the way they want, to believe what they want, and to experience what they want.

          Bulllshit! I had kids for spare organs to the highest bidder! I could care less what they believe.

          That, and for using the carpool lane.

        • islandbrewer

          If that’s what they want, then what they really want is to play D&D, not to raise a child.

          Well, I do raise my kids to play D&D with me. Is that so bad?

          • Matt Begley

            Well, you completely missed his point. Too bad… and no, nothing wrong with playing D&D with your kids. He seems to be referring to those who believe that their children will be their playthings… little dress up dolls and soldier boys… like they’re characters in the parent’s lives.

          • islandbrewer

            Humor sensor threshold set a little high?

            Yes, I totally got his point, btw.

          • Matt Begley

            I don’t know if the humor sensor threshold was set a little high but I may have been. I played D&D when it first came out in the mid 70s. Lotsa fun and role playing is even educational as to social interactions and human nature.. Have fun
            Peace, Brewer

          • Daniel Schealler

            Yes. And you should feel bad.

            No, actually, I’m jealous. My dad was kind of a jock. Good for you. :)

        • Matt Begley


      • Matt Begley

        In some cases, cultural genocide is beneficial to society. The culture of slavery for instance.

  • Rob

    “The girl told a probate and juvenile judge that she didn’t want chemotherapy because it made feel ill, can damage her organs and make her infertile”

    You’re pretty infertile and organs are damaged when you’re dead.

    • Daniel Schealler

      In the case that a cancer isn’t treatable, it can be a reasonable decision to forgo chemotherapy, as the quality of life while off it is higher. If the patient places more value on quality of life over quantity, then it can be a reasonable (if heartbreaking) tradeoff.

      Of course, that’s not as large a factor in this patient’s case as her cancer reported to be treatable. But I thought it was worth pointing out all the same.

    • CottonBlimp

      Dude. If you were raised in a culture that unilaterally distrusts technology, science, and the modern world, don’t you think you’d have good reason not to trust a cure that seemed like it was making you worse?

  • EvolutionKills

    When the state or the hospital care more about the well-being of your child than you do, you have failed as a parent.

  • tdd68

    Honestly, I would want more information before judging. It really depends on what kind of cancer and what the survival rate is with treatment….as well as how expensive the treatment is. Let’s face it, we can’t really say that the hospital has “only the child’s best interests at heart”, when they are undoubtedly getting money for the treatment plan. And if the survival rate is low with or without treatment, then the family should have the right to decide whether the treatment itself is lowering the quality of life. Cancer treatment can still be a very iffy thing and sometimes isn’t worth it.

    • Mary C

      Other articles have stated that her cancer is very treatable, and survival rates are 80-90% with chemo.

      • Matt Begley

        There we have it.

      • tdd68

        Well, that changes that part of the equation. But it still leaves the question of cost…especially since I doubt the Amish have much in the way of (even crappy)insurance to help pay the bills. I think the child deserves to have the best chance of life as possible, but since our medical payment system sucks….it doesn’t make me feel righteous to know that forcing the parents to provide this care may also force them into a financial melt down. (Anyone know how the Amish feel about usury?)

        • Marian P

          The child if probably eligible for the CHIP program if the parent’s income is low . If not even in the heartless US all good children’s hospitals will also provide charity care. The Shriner’s Hospital in Philadelphia takes all comers as they are a charitable organization.

          • yulaffin

            I think St Jude’s does too.

    • Matt Begley

      Most definitely. I was speaking from the assumption that this wouldn’t be an issue if survival was not probable. Otherwise, allow the child to feel as well as possible in their remaining time. Chemo doesn’t allow for that. If it’s a case of a few extra months of suffering then it should be completely up to parent and child.

  • Dustin

    What, CPS doesn’t apply to amish?

  • beenie

    It’s funny that noone is cares for the poor adult without health insurance to keep them from dying. Folks are not receiving life-saving treatments because they lack health insurance. These are people who WANT medical treatment but can’t afford it and society is okay with that.

    • Lou Procter

      So many Americans mock us British and our NHS, and whilst it may not be a perfect system – there is no such thing as not being able to afford your medical care in this country. Even if you’re homeless on the streets, you’re just as entitled to medical treatment as a millionaire. :)

      • Matt Begley

        As it should be… everywhere.

      • Something

        In Portugal is the same, our NHS is far from perfect but I sure that even I got sick I wont bankrupt myself to get treatment.

        • Marian P

          Yes Americans like to scorn the Brits for “rationing” but I have never, ever met a single resident of the UK who would give up their system for ours, despite any imperfections, you will not die or be ruined by inability to pay for medical care.

    • Marian P

      Well, that is not really the topic here but as of October 1 if the Republicans don’t shut the government down in most states most families will have access to affordable health insurance, and all atheists and humanists should be forceful advocates for the availability of evidence based, scientifically sound medical care to all. So I hope everyone cares and writes to his or her representatives NOW.

  • DeeDee

    I’m an atheist and one of the biggest things I have against laws that
    are really religious morals is that none of us have a say in how we die
    from illness. The hospital, of course, thinks the parents are putting
    the kid at risk and they think it for a myriad of good and bad reasons,
    greed and publicity for the hospital being among the bad. The
    Hippocratic oath is like a religion, it seems, because it has the
    medical community thinking it, too, knows whats best and that it should
    be preached to anyone in earshot and if necessary FORCED onto the rubes
    who don’t know any better. But I think the people who do not want
    medical attention should NOT be forced to endure it. When did going to
    the doctor become a compulsory event for everyone, that even atheists
    are on board with it?? As an atheist I feel medical care of any kind
    should be elective, I don’t know when doctors became the be all, end all
    in this world (medicine is still not considered an exact science,
    that’s why they term it ‘medical practice’. Read some of the medical
    paper work you sign because in the fine print that’s exactly what it
    states, that medicine is still practicing, not an exact science). if the
    kid is over 14 and doesn’t want treatment, the parents, their religion
    and the medical staff should butt out. This is one case where I think
    certain religions ‘kind of’ have it right. They may call it ‘waiting for
    god to heal’ them but what they actually accomplish is an end to
    suffering on their own terms. Since we don’t have a say in our birth,
    shouldn’t we have, at the very least, a say in our own compassionate
    death from illness?

    • Beatrix S.L

      The kid is 10. She cannot make medical decisions. She has a very treatable form of cancer but will likely die without chemo. Her faith has limited her knowledge – she is not informed enough to make a decision.

    • Croquet_Player

      “Read some of the medical paper work you sign because in the fine print that’s exactly what it states, that medicine is still practicing, not an exact science”

      Well of course it is. Medicine is an ongoing practice with ever-evolving treatments and procedures. That doesn’t mean it’s not still the best option available for sick people (or healthy people who want to stay that way). I hope a judge promptly grants temporary guardianship to the hospital so this poor kid gets the treatment she needs.

    • Tom

      NO science is ‘exact’, even mathematics is still changing as we learn new things about the world. ALL science is constantly evolving and self correcting.

      Medicine in particular is a difficult field in science since people are not exactly alike. Which means that people respond to medicine and treatments differently.

      This doesn’t mean that for example medicine should not be trusted. Current medical science is the best we have and should be put to good use. And should be refined as we go.

  • Mack

    Its amazing how many plastic christians choose medicine over their imaginary friend in the sky when a real medical emergency comes along.

  • Matt Begley

    People must realize that they do not own their children, they are obligated to them. Responsible to see that their offspring get the best life that can be provided. Anything less is neglect. To put one’s personal beliefs ahead of the welfare of their children is unconscionable. We must do everything we can, within reason, to care for our children. Proven methods of treating cancers must be explored and the best logical option applied. Prayer can, of course, be added to these treatments but cannot be counted upon to cure anything by itself.

  • Sue

    I kind of feel sorry for the parents, although I don’t agree with them. They were brave enough to stand up to their community and seek proper medical care for their daughter, and seeing your child go through chemo is hard, and must be even harder when you have so little experience and knowledge of modern medicine. I hope this has a happy ending for all concerned.

    • Daniel Schealler

      I’m with you.

      It doesn’t help that chemotherapy also sounds a bit stupid: You’re basically poisoning the patient in careful doses while hoping that the cancer will die before the patient does.

      I can even see how the switch to non-medicine would seem to be an improvement as their daughter recovers from the effects of the chemotherapy (nut not the underlying cancer). This would just reinforce the switch in the minds of the parents and make them more resolute that the doctors don’t know what they’re talking about and totally lack ‘common sense’.

      So once again good people make a bad decision.

      Hope this decision gets reversed before it’s too late.

      Chemotherapy sucks. Fucking cancer.

      • Tom

        Yes, chemotherapy is in practice poisoning the patient (well it inhibits cells from reproducing). And yes, the effects on the patient are drastic and painfull. I should know, my dauther went through chemo due to her infant age leukemia (she’s fine now btw.). The pain and suffering she went through was intense and she almost lost her life few times in the process.

        Switching off from chemo might seem like an option at the time it’s taken, or some might be afraid to start the treatment because they know it is painfull.

        But the effects of cancer are much worse once it progresses. And usually by then its too late to cure.

  • Cid

    Let the girl decide for herself. It sounds like she has. End of discussion. This is America, right?

    • Cake

      “end of discussion” ?
      You are part of the problem. Stop that.

  • Flash Thompson

    The fact that the girl will die without chemo seems to be lost on the girl and the parents. They probably think they are particularly favored by God because they keep all the commandments, believe every bit of the contradictory drivel in the Bible, and hate the gays.

  • Dave L, England

    He’s a real bastard that God bloke for giving this poor girl cancer.
    Makes you think though, doesn’t it….

  • Cedric Longbeard

    The Amish couple can either choose to see reason and allow the hospital to give their daughter the proper care she needs, or they can follow their religion. Either way, their “faith” will be exposed as useless nonsense. One route leads to the damaging of their pride but a potential realisation that modern medicine actually works, while the other route leads to the loss of their daughter and the realisation that their God either doesn’t exist or simply doesn’t give a shit.

  • Marian P

    A lot does depend on the cancer and the prognosis. If it is leukemia or lymphoma, cure is possible, ansd the state should intervene. If she has a brain tumor, say glioblastoma, she will die no matter what is done and it is reasonable to choose a shorter life with fewer side effects, although the religious beliefs do make that rational trade-off impossible. I have known atheists to choose alternative therapy out of an irrational distrust of medicine and Big Pharma, or a perfectly rational decision that the burdens are too great given a low probability of success. There are of course real problems with oncology and Big Pharma charging indefensible amounts of money for chemo and over-representing the benefits. But manufacturers of herbal products also earn big profits and promote their wares without a even shred of evidence, as do religious “healers”.

  • Karen

    If you choose your faith over the life of your child, you are not fit to be a parent, end of story.