NEW ULM, Minn. – A 13-year-old cancer patient is preparing for chemotherapy after a legal fight to treat him naturally and a tense six days when the boy and his mother left the state in violation of a court order.
Daniel Hauser's parents agreed Tuesday to let him receive chemotherapy for a growing tumor caused by Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was scheduled to be examined Wednesday by a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and receive a round of chemo Thursday.
In exchange for agreeing to the hospital treatment, a judge allowed Colleen and Anthony Hauser to keep custody of their son.
An attorney for family services in southern Minnesota's Brown County opposed handing custody back, citing the mother's run from the law with her son in tow.
The family prefers natural healing practices suggested by a religious group called the Nemenhah Band, which says it follows American Indian beliefs.
Tom Sinas, lawyer for the guardian ad litem, questioned how effective the medical treatment would be if Daniel's parents weren't encouraging their son to believe in it.
"Danny Hauser needs support from people who aren't going to be telling him his chemotherapy is poisoning him, that it's going to take his life," Sinas said.
But Judge John Rodenberg said he felt the best place for Daniel was with his parents at their farm near Sleepy Eye, as long as he could trust they'd go along with an oncologist's recommendation that Daniel undergo at least five chemotherapy sessions.
Rodenberg separately asked both parents if they agreed to let Daniel undergo chemotherapy, and both said yes.
"Do you think this is necessary to save his life?" Rodenberg asked a visibly emotional Colleen Hauser during a Tuesday hearing.
"Yes, I do," she replied.
Later in the hearing, Rodenberg said, "I'm taking you at your word. We're starting over right now."
Daniel and Colleen returned to Minnesota on Monday after almost a week on the run, during which they traveled to southern California. Authorities believed they may have been heading to Mexico to seek alternative cancer treatment. But instead, the pair contacted an attorney who helped arrange a flight home on a jet chartered by Asgaard Media, a film and TV production company based in Corona, Calif.
Alan Pezzuto, president and CEO of Asgaard Media, said the company has no plans to profit from the Hauser's story.
"It is not business project, it's a personal project," he said.
In exchange for having charges dropped against Colleen Hauser, the family agreed to let an oncologist examine Daniel. Monday's exam showed a tumor in Daniel's chest has grown larger than it was when he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's in January.
The tumor is "now protruding outside Daniel's chest wall," according to the report by Dr. Michael Richards. "There is further compression of the airway, making the initiation of standard chemotherapy imperative this week."
Doctors have said that because Daniel's tumor responded well to one round of chemotherapy in February, it's likely chemotherapy will be successful again. Doctors won't know for certain until they try another round. If the tumor has become resistant to chemo, a stronger dose or different treatment plan might be needed.
Doctors have also said that starting and stopping chemotherapy, or getting the treatment on a pared-down schedule as the Hausers had proposed, could make a tumor resistant.
James Olson, the Brown County prosecutor, said social workers at Children's Hospital told him that as recently as Monday the Hausers were still saying they didn't want chemotherapy. The family and their lawyers didn't say what was behind their apparent change of heart.
The Hausers did not return several phone messages left at their home Tuesday. After the hearing, family attorney Calvin Johnson, and Daniel's court-appointed attorney Philip Elbert, said no one in the family nor the attorneys themselves would speak to the media.
Olson said he was not convinced the family would stick to the treatment plan.
"I am concerned that if Danny doesn't like the second round of chemotherapy he's going to say, 'I'm going to run away again,' and we're going to be right back where we started," Olson said. "These folks have had a history of changing their minds."
But Tom Hagen, an attorney for the Hausers, said the family was committed to Daniel's health.
Hodgkin's lymphoma has a 90 percent cure rate in children if treated with chemotherapy and radiation, but doctors said Daniel was likely to die without those treatments.