Starchild Abraham Cherrix back in court

From the AP:

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — A 16-year-old cancer patient was headed to court Tuesday with his lawyers to try to block a judge’s order requiring him to report to a hospital the same day for treatment as doctors deem necessary.

A juvenile court judge on Monday denied a request by lawyers for Starchild Abraham Cherrix and his parents to stay his order pending an appeal in a higher court, said John Stepanovich, attorney for Jay and Rose Cherrix.

Lawyers also asked the Accomack County Circuit Court to take over the case and grant the stay, and a hearing was set for noon Tuesday in that court, Stepanovich said.

Abraham and his parents will appear at the hearing with their lawyers, Stepanovich said. He said the Circuit Court was aware that the order required Abraham to be at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk – about 80 miles from the courthouse – by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

“I’ll fight until I do die. I’m not going to let it go,” Abraham said Monday by phone from his home in Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“I would rather die healthy and strong and in my house than die in a hospital bed, bedridden and unable to even open my eyes,” said Abraham, who was so weakened by three months of chemotherapy last year that at times he could barely walk.

He refused a second round of chemotherapy when he learned early this year that his Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, was active again, choosing instead to go on a sugar-free, organic diet and take herbal supplements under the supervision of a clinic in Mexico. A social worker then asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment.

“I’ve got nothing to lose by what I’m doing,” Abraham said. “I truly do believe that this (alternative treatment) is going to cure me.”

Just in case anyone thinks that Abraham doesn’t believe that the Hoxsey therapy will cure him. He also doesn’t seem to know that death from untreated lymphoma can be anything but pleasant. I’m not going to say any more for now. Given the amount of verbiage I’ve already produced about this case, my position is well known, as is my ambivalence about the court’s verdict.

Previous posts on this topic:

Two young victims of alternative medicine

Update on Abraham Cherrix
A “defense” of Abraham Cherrix and his parents?
Magical thinking versus lymphoma
Choosing quackery over evidence-based medicine: When is a patient old enough?
The decision is in: Starchild Abraham Cherrix must have chemotherapy
Some questions for those who decry the decision in the Abraham Cherrix case


  1. #1 Amy Alkon
    July 25, 2006

    I wonder how much the pervasiveness of belief in god in our country is responsible for this kind of “magical thinking,” and how much it contributes to idiocy with (typically) less deadly consequences, like astrology.

  2. #2 simple
    July 25, 2006

    “I would rather die healthy and strong and in my house…”

    Why would he die if he’s healthy and strong?

    Ok, I know that’s not the point he was trying to make. It just read funny.

  3. #3 anjou
    July 25, 2006

    Hear his song of magical thinking
    He truly does believe that this sham treatment will cure him.

  4. #4 nephSpouse
    July 25, 2006

    in a world where Science is not taught, science becomes magic. If science is magic, then magic is science right? Don’t forget Robert Anton Wilson’s corollary to Azimov’s law: “Any significantly advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology”

  5. #5 Eric
    July 25, 2006

    I love in another quote that the lawyer states that chemo is irreversible and would moot the complaint… Yeah, getting healed would close the case.

    Part of the problem is not just the “Magic thinking” but the growing distrust in “established medical practice”. People are filling papers with FUD about how harmful traditional medicine is, how they use poison, how they misdiagnosed and mistreat patients. While I would say some come from people with no interest in the outcome, more is done by people who have a stake in the outcome. Be it sales of there paper, or pushing people to “alternative” medicine many have a stake in making people believe that Doctors are the “boogy man”. “Just so stories” and “old wives tales” are more accepted than basic medical expertise and it appears to be getting worse. Meme’s about corrupt “big-pharm” and the FDA are popular, but all the stories about supplements being dangerous, not containing what they claim, or claiming to cure heart disease and cancer are ignored.

    If alternative medicine was tested and proven it wouldn’t be alternative anymore. People that are the bread and butter of alternative medicine are those that are “worried well”, but it’s cases like this one that show the inherent danger in turning our backs to science and reason. Alternative medicine encourages people to avoid effective treatments for snake oil. We, as a society, have a moral responsibility to protect the population at larger from this. Neither death by ignorance or suicide by quackery are acceptable social norms.

  6. #6 Eric
    July 25, 2006


    I thought the quote was….

    “Any technology indistinguishable from magic was insufficiently advanced.”

  7. #7 Prup aka Jim Benton
    July 25, 2006

    Neph: That’s “Clarke’s Law” btw. Isaac agreed with it, but it was propounded by Arthur C. Clarke.

    Orac: If I were the judge, despite my comments previously, I think, by now, I would make the following ruling — and perhaps, Orac, you could write to him suggesting this:

    I would agree that Abraham COULD make the choice to have the Hoxsey treatment, under the following conditions:
    That the clinic he wishes to attend would send 3 representatives to the court, that three medical doctors and scientists — hopefully including you — would also appear, and that Abraham would attend an eight-hour debate on the subject, as follows:
    The clinic would be permitted two hiurs to make the case for its treatment. The medical team would be given the same two hours to argue against it and for medical treatment. After a lunch break, the clinic representatives would have two hours to question and challenge the medical team. Followed by the medical team having the same opportunity. Having heard all of this — presuming that the clinic would be actually willing to show up, the final decision would be made by Abraham. If the clinic, for any reason, refused to send representatives, the decision to keep him from attending would stand. The debate, including tapes and transcript would become a public dopcument that could be reprinted freely.

    I think you could and would win the debate — and I doubt if the cl8inic would actually go against you — but this would respect the boy’s right to decide for himself.

  8. #8 epador
    July 25, 2006

    People like this don’t listen to reason. It would be like treating a schizophrenic with hand patting and chamomile tea.

    The only reasonable legal jousting left is to get the patient and family to sign a hold harmless statement for the conventional medical teams that attempted to treat the boy in exchange for letting patient and parents to do whatever the hell they want.

  9. #9 Ichneumon
    July 25, 2006

    The kid and his parents are idiots for falling for the nonsense of the “alternative medicine” quacks.

    That said, however, they have every right to be stupid, even if that means the kid dies as a consequence. I fail to see why any court has the power to force them to do otherwise.

    To address a question asked earlier, “Are there any circumstances you can envision in which the state should intervene to direct the medical care of a child against the parents’ will?” Yes, when a) the *child* wants the medical care, and b) the medical experts agree that the medical care is appropriate and necessary. But if the child and the parents both want the quackery, they’re free to go to hell in the manner of their own choosing. The best we can do in that case is to try to present them with the facts necessary to make an informed choice, and implore them to do the sensible thing. But if they still choose otherwise, we’ve done all we can and should do.

    And the aforementioned criteria also draws the line for intervention in cases of child abuse, etc. — if the child, even a toddler, prefers not to be beaten, the state has a right to intervene. If on the other hand the child freely agrees to be beaten as, say, part of some religious purification ritual he/she believes in and accepts, well, there’s that “go to hell in your own way” thing again.

  10. #10 frumious b
    July 25, 2006

    I was going to point you to the story on how Cherrix is getting a new trial and doesn’t have to undergo chemo, but this story is more fun:

    cancer industry evildoers. yep.

  11. #11 pat
    July 26, 2006

    frumious b,
    I’m glad to hear that you find this topic amusing. That article opens with the following:
    “the Virginia teen who has been court-ordered to undergo chemotherapy for his Hodgkin’s Disease after opting to treat his condition with an herbal diet — says he will defy the court’s order and refuse chemotherapy”
    I still would like to know how our prolific science bloggers in favor of forced medicine would enforce this court ordered treatment. Would you tie him down? Would you knock him out? How would you do it? I have asked before but no one answers; all seem to be content with barking pharisaical remarks about “abusive”, “idiotic”, moronic”, “religious”, “altie” parents but are freightningly quiet in respect to my question.

  12. #12 Berlie
    July 26, 2006

    Interestingly enough, I don’t think we should force anyone to seek treatment from modern medicine. With the availability of information today, there is no reason anyone cannot research developments for cures of their ailment. A simple Google search of whatever disease will yield vast amounts of websites regarding it. Granted the information will be everything from quackery to current to experimental. However, each will give them information as to options, and there will even be some critiquing the other methods. So, they can take all of that information to make an informed decision.

    Before I shop for an appliance, I do research online about the different models available. You can bet if I was ever diagnosed with something requiring treatment, I would do research on the treatments, also but more in-depth. Unfortunately, some will always choose the alternative methods. This means their likelihood of survival goes down drastically. Not to sound callous, but that does not bother me. We have the capability to reason, and are responsible for our own actions. So, if someone chooses the route that makes them more likely to not reproduce they are just doing their part to prove Darwin right.

  13. #13 anjou
    July 26, 2006
  14. #14 Penny
    July 26, 2006

    As a child raised by Christian Scientists, and who firmly and devoutly held that belief system myself until I was 13 and met up with a book by James Randi, I have got to respond to Ichneumon here – there needs to be state intervention in cases where a child’s parents fail to care for them in a safe and healthy fashion, even when the child is unable to realize that they are not being well cared for.

    I’m iffy on this specific case, because of the age of the young man, but the general principle stands.

    You can’t stand aside and let parents kill their kids because the kids accept the parental lunacy that is killing them – “Go to hell in your own way” only applies for people old enough to make the decision independently. Which young kids aren’t, adults are, and this young man falls solidly in the grey area of.

    I am with Orac here – I very reluctantly agree with the judge in this decision.

  15. #15 Peter
    July 27, 2006

    Cherrix just doesn’t strike me as that uninformed. He’s been through the chemo once. He knows what its about. He’s apparently done some serious research into this “diet” cure.

    But this isn’t anything really new. Lots of people balk at a second round of chemotherapy after the first one fails. Chemo is hell. The Cherrix teenager from what I’ve read he seems more afraid of the chemo than the cancer. He really believes that another round of chemotherapy will kill him. When faced with a belief like that even something as snake oil sounding as Hoxley’s sounds good. In Cherrix’s mind it probably came down to three options. Undergo chemotherapy and die painfully, accept that he is going to die and live reatively healthy for a few months before dying painfully, or research some alternative cure and embrace it wholeheartedly hoping that it will cure him. ( with the added benefit that the alternative cure is nowhere near as debilitating as chemo )

    Speaking for myself, if I went through a round of chemo and I truly believed that a second round of chemo would kill me then I’d jump on the Hoxley bandwagon. Better to place hope in some unproven, criticized alternative cure then to have no hope at all.

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