COLUMBUS, Ohio – A state juvenile court judge on Tuesday rejected the request of a Christian convert's Muslim parents to order their daughter to continue chemotherapy for uterine cancer.
The request from the parents of Rifqa Bary does not meet the legal requirement of a medical emergency needing immediate treatment, Franklin County Juvenile Court Magistrate Mary Goodrich said during a hearing.
Goodrich made the ruling at the beginning of what's expected to be the final court appearances by Bary, who remains in foster care in state custody until she turns 18 next week.
Bary wants Goodrich to determine that reconciliation with her parents is impossible. The stakes are higher than a family reunion. If the judge agrees with Rifqa Bary, an undocumented immigrant from Sri Lanka, the girl could also receive a special status allowing her to stay in the country.
Bary underwent successful cancer surgery in May and then was scheduled for 45 weeks of chemotherapy , which would give her an "80 to 90 percent chance" she'd be fine, Omar Tarazi, an attorney for Bary's parents, told the judge.
Instead, Bary stopped the chemotherapy after two or three rounds, deciding she'd been healed, Tarazi said. In a court filing last week, the girl's parents claimed she stopped after visiting a faith healer.
"The parents are feeling helpless," Tarazi said. "They feel like this is such a critical issue that it be in writing."
Goodrich said she understood why Bary's parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary of suburban Columbus, filed the request. "I've never gotten the impression they didn't care very much for their daughter," she said.
A letter from Bary's doctor recommending the 45 weeks of chemotherapy indicates she is cancer free for now according to available imaging technology, Bary's attorney, Kort Gatterdam, told the judge.
The letter also says she suffers from a rare form of cancer for which there is no standard treatment.
Rifqa Bary stopped the treatment after becoming sick and in consultation with her doctor, Gatterdam said. He disputed the faith healer allegation, saying Bary had attended a prayer conference after which she continued with surgeries and other treatment.
"Rifqa's not saying she'll never do the treatment again, that she'll never do chemo," Gatterdam said. "She'll continue working with her doctor."
Bary ran away from Ohio to Florida a year ago, alleging she could be hurt or killed for her religious conversion. Her parents deny she would have been harmed.
The hearing on Bary's immigration status is expected to continue Wednesday.
(This version CORRECTS in 2nd paragraph request is from parents of Rifqa Bary, not from Rifqa Bary.)