TOLEDO, Ohio – A court-appointed guardian is dropping her attempt to force an 11-year-old Amish girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy after she and her parents fled their home to avoid treatment.
The move filed in court Friday will likely bring an end to a months-long fight between the girl's family and a hospital that began when her parents decided to halt the treatments because they were making the girl sick.
The guardian was appointed after an appeals court ruling in October gave her limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger and the power to make medical decisions for her.
But she decided to drop the effort because she doesn't know where Sarah is and it has become impossible to monitor her health or make any medical decisions for her, said Clair Dickinson, an attorney for the guardian.
"It didn't make sense to drag this on any longer," he said.
Doctors at Akron Children's Hospital believe Sarah's leukemia is treatable, but say she will die without chemotherapy. The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.
Sarah and her parents left their home in rural northeast Ohio just days before the state appeals court appointed the guardian to take over medical decision.
The guardian's decision to withdraw from the case still needs final approval from a county court.
"The judge's approval of this resignation will pave the way for the family's return home, which will allow Sarah to receive the family's preferred treatment under the best possible conditions," said Maurice Thompson, an attorney for the Hershbergers.
Andy Hershberger, the Ohio girl's father, said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her extremely sick.
Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemo and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious. They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County, about 35 miles southwest of Cleveland.
Hospital officials have said they are morally and legally obligated to make sure the girl receives proper care. They said the girl's illness, lymphoblastic lymphoma, is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but there is a high survival rate with treatment.