Parents Explain Why They Fled With Sick Son

Sept. 2, 2003 -- A Utah couple who fled the state with their 12-year-old son so he could avoid court-ordered chemotherapy treatments say they're willing work with state authorities to find a mutually acceptable medical treatment for the boy.

Daren and Barbara Jensen were charged with kidnapping after Utah's child-welfare authorities obtained a warrant for their son Parker's custody.

The state had ordered that the boy be placed in state custody so he could receive 48 weeks of chemotherapy for what doctors say is a deadly form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma.

But Parker's parents aren't sure that he needs chemotherapy — which can have serious side effects. They say the authorities are trying to force the treatment on their son even though they can't prove he needs it.

"I think definitely in this case someone jumped the gun, because with Ewing's sarcoma there's a variety of tests that need to be performed," Daren Jensen said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. He said he and his wife asked the state authorities to conduct the tests, but they refused.

Utah doctors removed a cancerous tumor from under Parker's tongue last April and said they wanted to prevent a reoccurrence of Ewing's sarcoma by using chemotherapy.

Jensen said he didn't feel his son needed such treatment based on tests on the tumor.

"When it came back the first time they said it was a poorly differentiated malignancy. It was very vague," he told Good Morning America.

To avoid the unwanted treatments, Jensen's wife and son went into hiding after the court order and tried to go to a Houston clinic to get a second opinion. Utah authorities foiled their plans by alerting the clinic to the Utah warrant for the boy's custody.

Parker and his mother then joined Daren Jensen in Idaho on Saturday, saying they wanted to negotiate with the Utah authorities.

Parker Jensen told Good Morning America he doesn't want to undergo chemotherapy because he doesn't feel sick.

"I feel great. I haven't been sick. I haven't had any symptoms. I'm normal," he said.

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.

"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 Jensens' attempts to get an objective second opinion.

State Says It Wants to Protect Parker

The Utah Attorney General's Office says it is concerned about Parker's welfare, and that the state has every right to step in to protect a child.

"We are very concerned with the health of this young boy and the surrounding issues of state power vs. parental responsibility," the office said in a statement. "Parents have a natural and fundamental right to direct the medical care of their child — but if in making that decision they place the child's very life in substantial danger, the Supreme Court has determined that the State has an obligation to step in. In other words, a child has a fundamental right, independent of a parent's wishes, to live."

Daren Jensen says he's willing to work with the Utah doctors and state officials. But he still wants proof that the chemotherapy is absolutely necessary.

"It has been … almost a year now since the nodule did show up and he's perfectly healthy," he said. "That's why we want to make sure that as we make this life-changing decision for him, that we have conclusive evidence."