Amish Girl With Leukemia, Family Flees US to Avoid Chemotherapy

The girl's parents would rather treat her with herbal and natural remedies.

ByABC News
November 28, 2013, 7:54 AM

Nov. 28, 2013— -- A 10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia and her parents have left the country to seek alternatives to chemotherapy, according to the family's attorney.

Sarah Hershberger and her parents oppose chemotherapy, and have been fighting the Akron Children's Hospital in court after the family stopped Sarah's treatment. Her parents said the treatments have caused their daughter a great deal of pain, and they'd rather focus on herbal and natural remedies.

"It's the constitutional right, but [there's a] moral right to refuse conventional medical treatment," the Hershberger's attorney, Maurice Thompson, told ABC News Wednesday.

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Hospital officials declined to comment on Sarah's case or whether they would seek further legal action. Law enforcement officials said at this point there was no formal search for the girl.

The Hershbergers left their home in northeast Ohio days before a state appeals court appointed a guardian in October to take over medical decisions from Sarah's parents. The family members won't say where they are now, but they have no plans to return to their home anytime soon, according to Thompson.

"Sarah's condition has gotten a lot better since the family has been pursuing the alternative treatment," Thompson said.

Sarah had tumors on her neck, chest and kidneys when her parents initially agreed to chemotherapy at Akron Children's Hospital earlier this year. Her parents said the side effects were terrible, and they wanted to treat Sarah's leukemia with alternative treatments.

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"We've seen how sick it makes her," Andy Hershberger, Sarah's father, told ABC News in August. "Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as that stuff if it's God's will."

The Hershbergers said their daughter complained to them that the chemo made her tired and sick.

"If we do chemotherapy and she would happen to die, she would probably suffer more than if we would do it this way and she would happen to die," he said.

The legal wrangling over Sarah's health began in July when the hospital took the family to court to seek temporary guardianship. The judge in Ohio's Medina County ruled that Sarah's parents had the right to make medical decisions for her, because there was no evidence they are unfit.

An Ohio appeals court ruled in August that a juvenile court judge must reconsider the decision that blocked the hospital's attempt to give the attorney limited guardianship over Sarah and the power to make medical decisions for her.

An appeals court ruling in October granted an attorney, who's also a registered nurse, limited guardianship over Sarah and the power to make medical decisions for her. The court said the beliefs and convictions of her parents can't outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

ABC News' Anthony Castellano contributed to this report.