Parents, State Battle Over Boy With Cancer

ByABC News via logo
August 28, 2003, 9:40 PM

Aug. 29 -- A 12-year-old boy remains in hiding with his mother while authorities in Utah battle to have him returned to undergo court-ordered chemotherapy to treat what they say is deadly bone cancer.

Daren and Barbara Jensen fled Utah with their son, Parker, on Aug. 8, after the state ordered that the cancer-stricken boy be placed in state custody so that he can receive chemotherapy.

On Aug. 15, Utah prosecutors filed kidnapping charges against the couple. Daren Jensen was arrested Aug. 16 in Idaho, where he is now fighting extradition to Utah. The whereabouts of Parker and his mother are unknown.

The story began three months ago, when Parker was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a deadly form of bone cancer. Doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City said Parker needs chemotherapy, and that he has only a 5 percent chance of survival without it. A Salt Lake City court agreed, and ordered the parents to have the boy undergo the treatment.

But the boy's family disagreed. They question the accuracy of the test that led to his cancer diagnosis, said Parker's uncle, Tracy Jensen.

"Ewing's sarcoma normally appears in the bone, but Parker's was a tumor in the mouth," Jensen said. "The hospital wanted chemotherapy right away. But we wanted a second opinion. They wouldn't let us get one, and before you knew it, my brother and his family were on the run."

Rick Jaffe, the family lawyer, contends that life-and-death decisions, such as whether to undergo chemotherapy, should be made by a child's parents, not the state. The parents did allow Parker to undergo surgery to have the tumor removed, but they do not believe he needs chemotherapy at this point.

"There is no scientific evidence whatsoever that you need chemotherapy for this particular kind of basically mild cancer," Jaffe said. "All the evidence really relates to this full-blown bone involvement where you have very sick kids."

He said that the hospital and the state have interfered with the parents getting an objective second opinion to see if their belief that Parker has the mild form of the cancer is confirmed.