TOLEDO, Ohio – An Ohio Amish couple who fled their home with their 11-year-old daughter so she wouldn't be forced to get chemotherapy could be home for the holidays but not without a favorable decision from a judge, their lawyer says.
Attorney Maurice Thompson said he hopes the judge will issue a ruling soon on medical guardianship of Sarah Hershberger and she and her family can return home to rural northeast Ohio in time for Christmas.
"They won't be coming home until the guardianship is no longer in effect," Thompson said Tuesday.
The family left home two months ago just days before an Ohio appeals court allowed a guardian to take over medical decisions for the girl. Since then, the guardian has asked the court to allow her to drop her attempt to force Sarah to resume chemotherapy for her leukemia.
On Monday, Medina County Probate Judge Kevin Dunn said he was delaying a decision on the court-appointed guardian's request because he first wants to make sure he has authority to grant it in light of an ongoing appeal in state court.
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.
But Sarah's father has said that the family doesn't oppose modern medicine and didn't make their decision concerning Sarah's treatment based on religious reasons.
Thompson said the Hershbergers ended treatment because it was making her too sick and they feared it could end up killing her. Instead, they decided to treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.
Doctors at Akron Children's Hospital believe Sarah's leukemia is treatable, but have said she will die within a year without chemotherapy.
The guardian, Maria Schimer, an attorney who's also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah after an appeals court ruling in October said the beliefs and convictions of the girl's parents can't outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.
Over a week ago, Schimer filed notice that she was giving up trying to force the girl to restart treatments because she doesn't know where Sarah is and it has become impossible to monitor her health or make any medical decisions. The move signaled the end of a months-long fight between Sarah's family and the hospital.