Respectful Insolence

Here we go again.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been intermittently writing about a very sad case, a case that reminds me of too many cases that have come before, such as Abraham Cherrix, Kate Wernecke, Daniel Hauser, and Jacob Stieler. All of these are stories of children who were diagnosed with highly curable cancers who refused chemotherapy and were supported in that decision by their parents. Generally pediatric cancers have an 80-90% five year survival, and recurrences after five years are rare; given that children can be expected to live many decades, the consequences of refusing life-saving chemotherapy are particularly dire. The latest of these cases that I’ve been writing about is the case of a 10-year-old Amish girl from Medina County in Ohio named Sarah Hershberger, who developed lymphoblastic lymphoma, underwent chemotherapy for a few weeks, and then decided she didn’t want it anymore. Her parents also didn’t want it anymore. This led to a court case in which the first decision was that the Hershbergers’ decision to refuse chemotherapy should be upheld. This decision was reversed on appeal, which caused the alternative medicine world to lose its mind in rage, because, from my perspective, they seem to think that parental rights are absolute.

A couple of weeks after that, predictably, there was a report that the Hershbergers had fled the country to avoid the “fascist” state “forcing” chemotherapy on their daughter. This particular report was very odd in that I have as yet been unable to find any corroborating evidence that the Hershberger family has, in fact, actually fled the country. You’d think that if her family had actually fled the country that the mainstream press would have picked up on it, but I haven’t been able to find news reports in mainstream news outlets saying that Sarah Hershberger has actually fled. I searched a whole bunch of mainstream news sites, including the local news site for the Akron Beacon-Journal, and I found no stories of the Hershbergers fleeing the country last week, only reprints of the original story claiming that she fled and reports of a fundraiser to let her come back into the country. My guess is that she and her family are probably still in Medina County, but who knows? I don’t, but I make educated guesses. Given how insular the Amish are, if the community decided to hide the Hershbergers, the authorities would be unlikely to find them without doing door-to-door sweeps and searches of the surrounding farmlands, and even then they might not find her. But, again, who knows? It is, however, mighty odd that as of this writing there have been no corroborating stories in the mainstream press.

Be that as it may, over the weekend, I became aware of a new development in the Hershberger saga. Thanks to some believers in alternative cancer cures, I learned that Isaac Keim, Sarah Hershberger’s grandfather, gave an interview to Chris Wark of Chris Beat Cancer fame. (Chris did beat cancer, but it was the surgery, not his quackery, that cured him.) In any case, here is the telephone interview, introduced by Mr. Wark, who smugly brags about this being “exclusive” and getting a cell phone into Amish country. That latter accomplishment isn’t much, because basically anyone can visit Amish country; the Amish have a lot of stores and roadside stands where they sell their furniture and farm products. One wonders if a non-Amish ally of the Hershbergs showed them Mr. Wark’s website and got Mr. Keim to agree to speak to him. However Mr. Wark managed to score this interview doesn’t matter. What’s in the interview does:

One aspect of this Wark’s introduction to this interview that immediately struck me is how he frames it, stating that only “one side”—namely, the hospital and government’s side—has been reported. He then states that he’s going to let the family tell its side, which he refers to as the “truth.” This is, of course, utter nonsense. The family’s side of the story is no more the “truth” than the government’s or hospital’s side of the story. Everyone describing a story has his or her own biases and experienced the events of the story from his or her own perspective, and it’s clear that the Hershbergers’ experience is lacking critical pieces of information. Be that as it may, the interview with Isaac Keim is enlightening in that he and Chris Wark inadvertently confirm that much of what I wrote in my previous two posts was very likely spot on accurate in describing what probably happened.

We first learn from Mr. Keim that the family first noticed something wrong when they found a lump on Sarah’s neck. So they took her to the doctor, and she ended up being referred to Akron Children’s Hospital. (One notes that the Facebook page for ACH is currently deluged in people like Chris Wark attacking the hospital for trying to save Sarah’s life. Please show ACH some love.) Ultimately she was diagnosed with a T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, and a workup revealed tumor in her neck, kidneys, and “in her body,” whatever Mr. Keim means by that, which seems to be elsewhere in her abdomen and chest. The Hershbergers were told that this is an aggressive tumor, but treatable with an 85% five year survival achievable with a 27 month course of chemotherapy. All of this is consistent with what’s been reported and what I’ve been discussing. The Hershberger family was further told that there would be five phases of treatment, which is also consistent with what I’ve discussed.

Although Mr. Keim didn’t mention the phases, I will now. These phases, as one of the pediatric oncologists, Dr. Prasad Bodas, testified, include induction (5 weeks), consolidation (seven weeks), interim maintaince (eight weeks), delayed intensification (six weeks), and maintenance (90 weeks). I’ve explained the concepts of induction, consolidation, and maintenance before; so I won’t go into detail now. However, it is worth repeating that induction chemotherapy (which is what Sarah went through) is not enough. Pediatric oncologists learned the hard way a long time ago, back when effective chemotherapy was first being developed and tested for these pediatric malignancies, that chemotherapy would often appear to eliminate the cancer very quickly but that the cancer would nearly always recur rapidly in a more resistant form. This led to the addition of more chemotherapy in additional stages, and chemotherapy regimens evolved, ultimately to the regimens consisting of three to five stages that we know today. Stopping after the induction phase virtually guarantees that the cancer will return.

That’s exactly what the Hershbergers did, unfortunately. Mr. Keim relates that Sarah underwent the first phase, which lasted 4-5 weeks and resulted in the lump on her neck nearly disappearing within a week. She also tolerated this first phase very well. It was at this point that the Hershbergers started to wonder why more chemotherapy was needed. Now, here the story gets dicey. According to Mr. Keim, the doctors wanted to start the second phase but didn’t have the parents’ permission. Yet, according to him they just went ahead with the chemotherapy anyway. Clearly, there had to have been a breakdown in communication here, because, having worked in multiple hospitals over the years, I know that, if there’s one thing that major academic center hospitals are very, very compulsive about, it’s getting informed consent for almost everything, particularly now. Indeed, most such hospitals take it to an extreme, getting formal informed consent for tiny procedures like a punch biopsy of the skin. It stretches belief that ACH would subject a girl to further chemotherapy involving what sounded like intrathecal chemotherapy (chemotherapy injected by lumbar puncture into the central nervous system) requiring general anesthesia to administer and have a visiting nurse come out to administer chemotherapy at home without having had the parents’ permission. At the very least, no anesthesiologist would put a child to sleep without the parents first signing permission, and no interventional radiologist would put a catheter into the spinal canal without permission. If it is really true that the hospital did all this without their consent, the parents would have a hell of a lawsuit that they could file, and I would urge them to file it.

In any case, from Mr. Keim’s account, it sounds as though the second phase is what caused Sarah to become really ill. He described her as feeling so weak that she wouldn’t get out of bed for a week and wouldn’t eat. At some point a nurse came to give the first of three weekly injections. She apparently was going to leave the remaining two injections at the Hershberger’s house and instructed them to keep them on ice. I found this to be rather odd, not the least of which because this was Amish territory and there was likely no refrigeration. True, the Hershbergers probably have an ice box, but if it’s so critical to keep a drug refrigerated, I doubt that a hospital would leave it in an Amish household where there might or might not be adequate ice to keep it cold enough.

Whatever the case, if Mr. Keim’s account is accurate, that nurse then did something that arguably set the whole family off. She told the family to keep the syringes away from any children, which is certainly reasonable advice given that these were undoubtedly powerful chemotherapeutic agents, although I would wonder why the nurse would leave the drugs in a household where syringes of powerful chemotherapeutics would likely be placed next to food sitting in the icebox where children might be able to get at them. That wasn’t what set the family off, though. What set the family off was when the nurse also told the family that the chemotherapy in the syringes could cause cancer.

That’s when all hell broke loose. That’s when the Hershbergers decided to stop the chemotherapy.

At this point, Mr. Keim said that the Hershbergers were never told that cancer was a risk from chemotherapy, leading to an exchange with Mr. Wark castigating cancer doctors for not telling patients everything where Mr. Wark claims that most cancer patients aren’t told that chemotherapy can cause cancer. Again, this claim stretches credulity beyond the breaking point. If you’ve ever read the consent forms for chemotherapy regimens, you know that it’s right there in black and white, a statement that the chemotherapy can increase the risk of cancer years down the road. For childhood cancers, the risks are clearly listed as Dr. Bodas testified: infertility, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, damage to various organs, an increased risk of contracting other cancers, and a “small but appreciable risk” of dying from the treatment itself. Yes, these are significant risks, but lymphoblastic lymphoma will kill without treatment; so these risks are not unreasonable weighed against the rewards. I’d be willing to bet that those risks are listed on the informed consent that the Hershbergers signed when induction therapy was begun, and I’d be doubly willing to bet that the oncologists who discussed chemotherapy with the parents mentioned those standard risks.

At this point, the Hershbergers went to ACH and brought Mr. Keim along to tell the doctors that they had decided to quit chemotherapy and go for “natural” healing. Sarah didn’t want any more, and they were convinced that the chemotherapy was killing her. To say that the session was contentious would be an understatement. The hospital must have been expecting this, because apparently there was a lawyer, what Mr. Keim described as “PR people,” doctors, and nurses. Mr. Keim claimed that he had been diagnosed with cancer a year ago, chosen “natural healing,” and was doing fine, but he didn’t say what kind of cancer or how advanced, making it impossible to comment. Mr. Wark, however, lapped it up, castigating the doctor for apparently telling Mr. Keim to “shut up.” While, if the doctor did indeed say that, it wasn’t the wisest thing in the world, what I think he meant, listening to the interview, was that Keim’s story was irrelevant to the case at hand and that this was not about him. I agree. One thing that disturbed me to learn was that the hospital first referred the case to Medina Job and Family Services in June, but that it refused to file neglect and dependency charges against the Hershbergers. This is confirmed in the first ruling that went in favor of the Hershbergers. All I can say here is that MCJFS completely dropped the ball here. I also agree with the doctor’s characterization of this decision as “child abuse.”

Much of the rest of the interview consists of attacks on ACH and Maria Schimer, the general counsel for the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), the medical school with which ACH is affiliated and the person petitioning the court to be Sarah Hershberger’s medical guardian; conspiracy mongering, and unverifiable claims. For example, Wark and Keim claim that Schimer’s only qualification to be Sarah’s medical guardian is that she had been appointed guardian to people who had been on life support for over a year but had no guardians, all so that the hospital could “pull the plug,” characterizing her as a “witch” standing their ready to “pull the plug” by getting Sarah back on chemotherapy. Yes, they not-so-subtly implied that Ms. Schimer wants to kill Sarah. This is pure slander, as a reading of the actual opinion of the Ohio Appeals Court, Ninth Appellate District reveals. Yes, she was appointed ward of the court for people on life support in the 1990s, but she has also served as ward for “several medically compromised, developmentally disabled adolescents, who were unable to speak for themselves and had no family members to speak for them.”

The conspiracy mongering was of the standard variety, in which it was claimed that ACH was paid a million dollars by a medical company to win this case. The claim was bookended by Mr. Keim saying, “I have no proof of this but I have been told by several people” and then, “I don’t know this to be true, but I’ve heard that.” One wonders who those “several people” were, one does. One also wonders why Mr. Keim would repeat something that he himself does not know to be true. Could it be to poison the well? There’s no “could” about it. At the very least, it allowed our friend Mr. Wark to go off on a rant about tyranny and how “they” (whoever “they” are) don’t want parents to make decisions for their children and how “they” don’t want people to have “options” and “they” want to force therapy. No such rant would be complete without that old alt-med cancer trope that “it’s not about a cure, it’s about healing” and how “only the body can heal cancer.”

The unverifiable or very difficult to verify claims fly fast and furious, as well Mr. Keim claims that Sarah was taken to “one of the top cancer centers in the U.S.,” but doesn’t mention what that cancer center was. He claims that all her tests there show that she is free of cancer. He claims that county sheriffs have been out to the house but that they don’t want anything to do with this case unless they’re forced. (I actually believe that one; police generally don’t like the idea of taking children away from their parents.) He claims that an doctor in Cleveland took over her care but doesn’t know who that doctor is. One notes that Mr. Keim’s claims conflict with claims made earlier that Sarah Hershberger is being treated by three doctors and that she was on “experimental” chemotherapy in a clinical trial without her parents having been given informed consent.

Finally, Mr. Keim laments that he contacted several television stations to try to give the family’s side of the story but that they wouldn’t do it unless the Hershbergers appeared on camera, which they would not do because they are Amish. This, too, is hard to believe. No, it’s not hard to believe that television news producers wouldn’t present the family’s side of the story if the Hershbergers wouldn’t appear on camera. What’s hard to believe, given that this story has made international news, is that a newspaper wouldn’t eagerly interview the family if approached or that a radio station wouldn’t eagerly have the Hershbergers phone in, as Chris Wark had Isaac Keim phone in. No, what the Hershbergers likely wanted was an outlet sympathetic to their point of view that wouldn’t challenge them, and Isaac Keim got it in Chris Wark.

Here’s the final irony. At about 29:00 in the interview, Mr. Wark basically admits that my interpretation of events could well be correct. In other words, he admits that chemotherapy could well be what rendered Sarah Hershberger cancer-free, if cancer-free she is at the moment:

I do want to be fair about this. Leukemias and lymphomas and testicular cancers respond better to chemotherapy than most cancers do, and it is entirely possible that those few treatments she did got rid of her cancer…Even if that’s the case, if that is what got rid of her cancer—now typically chemotherapy only gets rid of it for a short time; it’s only a temporary solution; it doesn’t address the root cause of disease—the point is freedom. It’s about the freedom of choice, the freedom that a parent has to make decisions for their child, medical or otherwise…It’s a bigger fight about a parent’s right to choose what’s best for their child, what medical treatment is best for their child versus whether or not chemo is going to help her. And that decision belongs to the parents and belongs to Sarah.

Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along, that to people like Chris Wark, parental rights trump all else? It doesn’t matter if the child is only 10 and thus too immature to make such a monumental decision. The life of the child apparently doesn’t matter to Wark in the least, at least not in comparison to parental “rights” to choose quackery. He’s perfectly willing to sacrifice Sarah Hershberger on the altar of “health freedom” to the point that he’s willing to help raise money for the Hershbergers to fight for the right to let their daughter die using a Pledgie and a GoFundMe campaign.

In the meantime, Isaac Keim also revealed that the Hershbergers have been subpoenaed to appear in court on November 6. We’ll see what happens.

Comments

  1. #1 MadisonMD
    November 4, 2013

    This story is so very sad. A little girl marked to die due to ignorance.

    Pediatric oncologists learned the hard way a long time ago, back when effective chemotherapy was first being developed and tested for these pediatric malignancies, that chemotherapy would often appear to eliminate the cancer very quickly but that the cancer would nearly always recur rapidly in a more resistant form.

    Yes, indeed. Here is from Emil Frei III’s obit in this month’s JCO:

    One of the most important concepts that Dr Frei championed was that additional chemotherapy formed a critical component of cure, even when the tumor was in a complete remission and no longer detectable. This was first successfully tested by the Acute Leukemia Group B (ALGB) in children with acute lymphocytic leukemia. The patients were induced into remission with corticosteroids and then randomly assigned to 6MP or placebo as maintenance therapy.3

    What is reference 3? This paper from 1963.

    So here, we have the impending death of a 10 year old due to ignoring a 50-year old medical advance. Astounding… and extremely sad.

  2. #2 Nick Theodorakis
    November 4, 2013

    Re: Amish and cell phones.

    Amish “rules” (Ordnung) are somewhat obscure to outsiders (and vary by interpretation in different communities) but some Amish do in fact even use cell phones themselves, especially if they do business with the “English.” And many communities use communal land lines, although not in their own homes.

  3. #3 Lawrence
    November 4, 2013

    It is a shame, because the Amish are known to be a very practical people – usually not prone to woo (they have enough medical problems, especially serious genetic ones) and take modern medicine very seriously.

  4. #4 Mu
    November 4, 2013

    Any religious group that pulls their kids out of public school after 7th grade to avoid contamination by outside ideas has some serious issues. I just pray that if the girl suffers serious harm from this the local DA will file charges against all those involved in keeping treatment from her.

  5. #5 Khani
    November 4, 2013

    “What’s hard to believe, given that this story has made international news, is that a newspaper wouldn’t eagerly interview the family if approached or that a radio station wouldn’t eagerly have the Hershbergers phone in, as Chris Wark had Isaac Keim phone in. No, what the Hershbergers likely wanted was an outlet sympathetic to their point of view that wouldn’t challenge them, and Isaac Keim got it in Chris Wark.”

    Hit the nail on the head there, Orac.

  6. #6 a child of god
    United States
    November 4, 2013

    hey why dont you just get back to the hole where you came from or maybe you should tighten the screws on your head so it dont fall off. i personally know the family and know it is true what Isaac said and with the natural things (not quackary) lke herbs and foods that grow naturally she has a 99% chance of surviving without any side effects plus it will benifet her body the rest of her life verses the chemo 85% chance plus all the serious side effects and only 5 years at that. now which would you call child abuse????????

  7. #7 lilady
    November 4, 2013

    Let me get this straight. A dimwitted non-doctor who claims he cured his own colon cancer (after excision), has set up his own lucrative business, giving medical and dietary advice and selling it…as well as wanking for coins:

    http://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/donate/

    Where is the dimwitted Chris Wark? Why doesn’t he come here to discuss Sarah’s cancer treatment and his ill-informed legal opinion about the court’s action to appoint a medical guardian for Sarah? He’d rather interview the child’s grandfather, who is, himself ignorant of basic science, incredibly biased and quite possibly lying “to protect his grandchild” (from certain death if she is not receiving proper medical care and relying on “natural stuff”).

  8. #8 Scottynuke
    November 4, 2013

    @ #6 — Shouldn’t you be going on down to Yasgur’s farm to join in a rock and roll band?

    That’d be more productive than the [citation needed] word salad you just barfed onto the page.

  9. #9 Sarah
    November 4, 2013

    I find it amazing that the parental rights issue in ALL cases haven’t been publicized. Here’s one from Houston, where I live: http://m.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Mom-jailed-accused-of-not-getting-help-for-4830166.php
    I don’t understand why that’s not a big deal. She could have been refusing to treat her daughter because she doesn’t believe lupus is a real disease. ;) I just don’t understand any of this child abuse labeled as the parents right to choose. We have so much “freedom” in this country, we just can’t get enough.

  10. #10 Bend
    Melbourne, Aus
    November 4, 2013

    To Child of God, I wish the best for Sarah and her family; I sincerely hope that she be cured. But nature doesn’t care. “Natural” and “organic” don’t necessarily mean good. Anthrax is natural and organic and many of the life-saving drugs we have today are not. Herbs and organic food aren’t going to help. I would imagine that a young Amish child would live a more natural and organic life than would I, with my childhood diet consisting of KFC, McDonalds and Taco Bell. Yet Sarah has cancer and I, having lived thus far in a smoggy city am as yet cancer free. Nature is cruel as often as kind.
    The recurring tragedy is people foregoing medicine for “natural” cures that fail to treat anything but their imagination. From your moniker I presume that you are a religious person. I am too. I consider intelligence a gift from God. The same intelligence that led and leads the development of real medicine. Is not the profession of the disciple Luke (a physician) a scriptural endorsement of medicine? If it’s true that you know Sarah’s family, you would do well by them and by God to encourage them to get their girl the medical help, which is chemotherapy, that she needs.

  11. #11 lilady
    November 4, 2013

    @ a child of god:

    Did you actually read Orac’s post?

    Did you read how Sarah’s airway was partially obstructed and that the induction treatment provided to her, reduced or eliminated the tumors?

    If you know Isaac, could you ask him why they brought Sarah to a medical doctor and agreed to have her transferred to Akron Childrens Hospital for evaluation and treatment? Why didn’t they use “the natural stuff” to treat Sarah?

    Would you like some fries with that double bacon cheeseburger and that word salad?

  12. #12 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 4, 2013

    @a child of god,

    with the natural things (not quackary) lke herbs and foods that grow naturally she has a 99% chance of surviving without any side effects

    I hope you won’t object to telling us exactly what herbs and foods will provide her a 99% chance of surviving without side effects. Also, please tell us how you know that to be true. Thanks.

  13. #13 Dangerous Bacon
    November 4, 2013

    “hey why dont you just get back to the hole where you came from or maybe you should tighten the screws on your head so it dont fall off. i personally know the family”

    I sincerely hope you’re their token non-Amish friend.

    Otherwise, Amish culture is morphing into something unrecognizable.

  14. #14 Imr90
    Springfield, MA
    November 4, 2013

    #6 is actually a great instance of Poe’s Law, innit?

  15. #15 Narad
    November 4, 2013

    In the meantime, Isaac Keim also revealed that the Hershbergers have been subpoenaed to appear in court on November 6.

    And this was served how?

  16. #16 herr doktor bimler
    November 4, 2013

    a child of god
    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t this a euphemism for “bastard”?

  17. #17 Krebiozen
    November 4, 2013

    HDB,
    The Children of God are a rather nasty (IMO) religious cult that used to use sexual seduction to recruit new members. My university was allegedly a major recruiting ground (also, curiously, for MI6) but thankfully I was never approached by them (nor, disappointingly, by MI6). I think “a child of god” would be wise to adopt a different ‘nym.

  18. #18 Bill Price
    November 4, 2013

    Mephistopheles O’Brien, November 4, 2013

    @a child of god,
    with the natural things (not quackary[sic]) l[i]ke herbs and foods that grow naturally she has a 99% chance of surviving without any side effects

    I hope you won’t object to telling us exactly what herbs and foods will provide her a 99% chance of surviving without side effects. Also, please tell us how you know that to be true. Thanks.

    ‘Tis easy, MOB. Since the ‘natural’ herbs and spices have no effects to speak of, she will have 99% chance of no side effects for the rest of her short, painful survival, until the untreated LL kills her. (unless she’s in that small percentage that survives LL with only induction-phase treatment.)

  19. #19 Spectator
    November 5, 2013

    “Natural stuff?” uh, mmkay

    Ricin is natural, and a modest quantity administered to a human will inactivate all cancers afflicting said human. The Pure, such as Health Rangers, are sure to be cured by this method. Other individuals, such as those who once ate GMO foods, were vaccinated or had impure thoughts may experience side effects.*

    *This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA….

  20. #20 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    November 5, 2013

    Kreb: Blast from the past regarding the Children of God cult. I read the Wiki link you provided and find that they originated in Huntington Beach, California, a few miles down-current from where I presently type. I used to see some of the followers up on Hollywood Boulevard (yeah, that one) and sometimes on Sunset (yeah, that other one) back in the early 1970s I think it was. I remember them as looking and sounding a little lonely and lost, and I suspect that quite a few of them were runaways or young romantics, and probably a fair percentage having some mental problem. I don’t remember them as showing obvious substance abuse issues, although I don’t know if something subtle would show. The Wiki article you linked shows that they are well into their third generation at this point, but seem to be a little less closed off than some of the other cults.

    We seem to have had a wide collection of cults here in socal in that era. The really creepy group were the followers of Tony and Susan Alamo (pronounced with an accent on the second syllable, unlike that place in Texas). You can read his account on Wiki too. It’s somewhat amusing that all of this happened within a few miles of the temple built by Aimee Semple McPherson in the 1920s. We seem to have been ground zero for every crackpot in the western hemisphere for a good long time. Right now, the ranking cult probably is scientology, which has a headquarters on Hollywood Blvd, right down the block from where the Children used to roam.

    There is no evidence that MI6 recruits in this area. But Herbalife, yes.

  21. #21 Janet
    A state of Wakefulness
    November 5, 2013

    Ahh, the siren cry of “natural”. Botulinum toxin–natural. Tetrodotoxin –natural. Shigatoxin–natural. Various snake venoms–natural. Heck, rabies virus is natural. All brought to you by a beaming, beneficent Mother Nature.
    I do not think that word means what they want it to mean.
    And I really don’t want to get started on “organic”– it causes me dyspepsia and hypertension.

  22. #22 Krebiozen
    November 5, 2013

    @Bob G #20
    It does strike me as odd that a cult like that would be internationally successful, with members stalking students in London. It isn’t one of my favorite Californian exports (neither is Herbalife!).

    There are a lot of international students at my old college, and I’m sure many of them are far from home, lonely, and vulnerable to the likes of the CoG. The college is a center for studying African, Middle Eastern and Asian languages, hence the MI6 interest.

  23. #23 sophia8
    November 5, 2013

    I don’t suppose Child of God will bother to come back and read this. But if she does, I’d ask her to just think through her belief that all ills can be cured with herbs and “natural foods”. In particular, I’d like her to think about why, in an Edenic golden age when herbs and natural remedies ensured that nobody got really sick, people went looking for better cures and eventually developed modern medicine?

  24. #24 Shay
    November 5, 2013

    “I’d like her to think about why, in an Edenic golden age when herbs and natural remedies ensured that nobody got really sick, people went looking for better cures and eventually developed modern medicine?”

    I’m currently reading the diary of a young Southern woman during the American Civil War and apart from a number of reasons why I’d like to kick her, her description of the medical treatment she receives after injuring her spine in an accident, make me more than ever grateful I live in this century.

    Cupping, burning, and homeopathy, among other things.

  25. #25 Blues
    USA
    November 5, 2013

    My brother is a big believer in herbal remedies, after all they saved his life by removing the calcium layer that had built up in his skin. He was told this by a guy “with a Masters in herbs”.

    So, yeah….

    Anyway, he is mad at me still 4 years after I refused to take my sick son to see this guy with his “master in herbs” for help with heart condition. Got angry because everything had to be “all sciency”

    My son had simple needs. He needed his 4th worn out Pulmonary Valve replaced, which we did by getting him into the Melody study. Did you know one could get a 22 mm valve into the heart through the leg? How cool is that?

    My brother was unable to articulate his guys qualification or any plausible mode for herbs to help that.

    So that is the standard I think of for these kinds of things. and so far, I have read nothing that can even begin to convince me that my opinion needs to be revised

  26. #26 Bend
    November 5, 2013

    @Blues: “Master’s in herbs.”
    What, was he some kind of gardener?
    Great story. I hope your son is doing well. I used to do research on heart valve disease and I too find it amazing at what can be accomplished. All the best.

  27. #27 Narad
    November 5, 2013

    We seem to have been ground zero for every crackpot in the western hemisphere for a good long time.

    And you can’t spare a word for the Source Family?

    (I of course take issue with the implication that the Health Hut, which had tables as I recall, wasn’t “spiritual” in nature.)

  28. #28 Rachel Knott
    November 5, 2013

    The only comfort I get after reading this is knowing that there is a special place in Hell waiting for you Orac.

  29. #29 Orac
    November 5, 2013

    I’ll take my chances.

  30. #30 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 5, 2013

    Bill Price- thanks for that . Guess I should have asked “how long”, though that seems rather a personal question.

  31. #31 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 5, 2013

    @Rachel Knott – could you please elaborate on why that comforts you and is, indeed, the only comfort you get? Also, is a special place in hell better or worse than a common (or garden) place? Special sounds better, but one never knows.

  32. #32 Denice Walter
    November 5, 2013

    @ Mephistopheles:

    Based on your ‘nym, I should guess that you might know about that place – and/or Ireland.

    Going by the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, it doesn’t seem to be very garden-y: more dry, bleak and shadow-ish with odd hybrid bird-animal-person creatures and hints of perversion and fetishistic activity for all concerned.
    Oh, also arrows through heads or suchlike. ( I am recalling the images, not looking at them, so forgive my imperfection)

  33. #33 Gray Falcon
    November 5, 2013

    Rachel, who do you think God wants more: Someone like Orac, who works for the health of others, or someone like you, who revels in the thought of others’ pain?

  34. #34 Chris,
    November 5, 2013

    The parties and science talks in Hell might be more fun!

    Oh, and Ms. Knott, what do you have against campaigning for a way to improve the child’s chance at a longer life, even if it involves a short period of illness and discomfort? Do you prefer children only after they suffer a painful and cruel death from cancer?

  35. #35 Politicalguineapig
    November 5, 2013

    Chris: Do you prefer children only after they suffer a painful and cruel death from cancer?

    Considering that the child is a girl, and how G*d is basically completely malevolent toward anyone who’s not full grown, straight and male, I’d have to go with yes.

  36. #36 Chris
    November 6, 2013

    PGP, harsh.

    Though one reason I have to ask which particular deity they are referring to.

  37. #37 Khani
    November 6, 2013

    I think there’s a whole lot more religion out there on the side of “Parents should not allow their children to die painfully for no reason.”

  38. #38 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 7, 2013

    @Denice Walter,

    Oh, also arrows through heads or suchlike.

    So we can expect to see Steve Martin when we go?

  39. #39 Ron
    November 8, 2013

    This site is frighteningly Orwellian.

    It doesn’t matter if you believe you are right or not. What matters is what people want for themselves. Nothing in the US Constitution or Bill of Rights gives you or anyone else the right to dictate their medical treatment. That is what the core issue here is.

    Sarah doesn’t want your chemicals and neither does her family. They have a rich and deep faith that is protected by the Constitution. That protection was the basis for this country to even exist which gave you the opportunity to even have a practice.

    You speak of your treatments as if they are infallible even though “correctly” prescribed medications are one of the leading causes of death in the US, and even though there is scant evidence that chemo has really helped in a significant way.

    Your pompous attitudes and disregard for the rights of people and their families disgusts me.

  40. #40 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 8, 2013

    Oh, Ron, you’re a hoot.

    You believe it’s OK to kill your child just because you want to, and that it’s OK to say it’s for religious reasons even if nobody in your faith agrees. Nicely played.

    A wise man once wrote that the race is not always to the swift nor the contest to the strong, but that is the way to bet. In this case, chemotherapy is the way to bet. Anyone one says different is selling something.

  41. #41 AdamG
    November 8, 2013

    They have a rich and deep faith that is protected by the Constitution. That protection was the basis for this country to even exist which gave you the opportunity to even have a practice.

    Ron, do you believe that parents of the Christian Science faith have the right to refuse any and all medical treatments for their children?

  42. #42 Gray Falcon
    November 8, 2013

    Ron, my religion states that one must do everything they can to protect the innocent, and that standing by in the face of another person’s peril is a sin. Are you trying to impede my freedom to protect the innocent from harm?

  43. #43 Narad
    November 8, 2013

    Sarah doesn’t want your chemicals and neither does her family. They have a rich and deep faith that is protected by the Constitution.

    You’ve got one big problem here, Ron, which is that no religious objection has ever been asserted. Indeed, Andy Hershberger has plainly stated that they would return to chemotherapy “if” this boneheaded plan doesn’t work out.

    Please try to assemble your platitudes more carefully next time.

  44. #44 Narad
    November 8, 2013

    ^ Eh, close the boldface tag wherever you please.

  45. #45 Chris,
    November 8, 2013

    Ron:

    Sarah doesn’t want your chemicals and neither does her family. They have a rich and deep faith that is protected by the Constitution.

    Here is some reading for you: In the Name of God: The True Story of the Fight to Save Children from Faith-Healing Homicide

  46. #46 Khani
    November 9, 2013

    #39 “Sarah doesn’t want your chemicals and neither does her family.”

    Chemicals are so scary. I especially worry about H20 in my water, O2 in my air and C7H8N4O2 in my food.

    Natural things are so much better, like [HAsO4]2-, and the totally natural (RS)-(8-methyl-8-azabicyclo[3.2.1]oct-3-yl) 3-hydroxy-2-phenylpropanoate and completely natural C17H21NO4.

    Way healthier!

  47. #47 Angel
    November 10, 2013

    I to know the family and unfortunately have no answers. I have seen the results of both chemotherapy and holistic medicine and believe when used together have amazing results.I myself believe Sarah won’t survive without the chemo.And unfortunately just because her death will be natural doesn’t mean it won’t be painful.When cancer comes back it comes back with a vengeance that may not respond to a second round of chemo.I wonder how the people involved in preventing her from finishing the treatment will respond to her death.God’s will,I don’t think so.God gave us free will and the intelligence to come up with cures for horrible diseases that even twenty years ago would have been a death sentence.I pray for Sarah and her family every day and hope that they don’t have to experience the death of a child.Especially when they had the means to prevent it!There are other hospitals available to them if they decide to go that route again.And other Amish that have used their facilities with miraculous results.I hope everyone prays for this family because that is truly what they need!!

  48. #48 Angel
    November 11, 2013

    Fund for Sarah,80% of the funds generated will go directly to the Hershberger’s and 20% will be donated to the Foundations for Health Education to help pay expenses related to supporting this case.Goal is at $50,000! Makes you wonder!!

  49. #49 JGC
    November 11, 2013

    Nothing in the US Constitution or Bill of Rights gives you or anyone else the right to dictate their medical treatment. That is what the core issue here is.

    No, the core issue is whether or not a parents have the right to prevent their child from receiving the best possible medical treatment for what will be an otherwise fatal illness.

    And while you’re correct that neither you or I have the authority to ‘dictate’ the medical treatment she will receive, a court which has that authority has appointed a guardian ad litem (in complete agreement with the Constitution, the Bill of rights, state law,e tc.) to ensure she has access to that treatment.

    It’s the parents who, by taking her with them into hiding to prevent her from receiving treatment, are violating her rights under the law.

  50. #50 Lawrence
    November 11, 2013

    A lot of talk about the “parents” rights, but not a whole lot of concern about the rights of the child……

  51. #51 JGC
    You're welcome to your own opinion, but not your own facts
    November 11, 2013

    You speak of your treatments as if they are infallible even though “correctly” prescribed medications are one of the leading causes of death in the US, and even though there is scant evidence that chemo has really helped in a significant way.

    Not s though they’re infallible, just that chemotherapy will greatly improe her odds of survival.

    In fact, rather than there being scant evidence Sarah would benefit from the prescribed two-year course of chemotherapy: the actual evidence instad indicates it would increase her 5-year odds of survival by 94%, making a cure a real possibility.

  52. #52 Narad
    November 11, 2013

    80% of the funds generated will go directly to the Hershberger’s and 20% will be donated to the Foundations for Health Education

    Augenstein proposes to skim only a fifth of the proceeds to line his own pockets? How raw-milk off-white of him.

  53. #53 Agb
    OH
    December 7, 2013

    JGC, do you think that girl would survive two more years of chemo you bloviating rectal tag? They tried western medicine, saw what it was doing….and skipped out. I would rather die than be subject to a treatment program that leaved me dependant on pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life to keep at bay the damage done during the original “treatment”. I’ve seen enough of western medicine with my own illness and now watching my uncle become a vegetable because they let the medical community talk them into a procedure to shunt the brain stem to prevent his lung cancer from “possibly” spreading later into the brain. He beat the lung cancer, and I get it, cancer can come raging back. But had they been upfront with what the procedure would do to him…he and my aunt would have opted out. It isn’t life anymore at some point. I go now to help my aunt get him back to bed from his wheelchair because she’s also in her 70′s and can’t do it anymore. There are worse things in this life than death, that has been made very apparent to me.

  54. #54 Narad
    December 7, 2013

    I would rather she die than be subject to a treatment program that leaved me dependant on pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life to keep at bay the damage done during the original “treatment” would have given her an 85% chance of cure.

    FTFY.

  55. #55 herr doktor bimler
    December 7, 2013

    Augenstein proposes to skim only a fifth of the proceeds to line his own pockets?

    Does Augenstein do this a lot? Invite donations on behalf of people who are not themselves asking for money, while promising to give them most of whatever he receives?

  56. #56 Narad
    December 7, 2013

    Does Augenstein do this a lot?

    Beats me; the opportunistic freeloader and his current delusion of grandeur, the “Foundations [sic] for Health Education” (following on “Automotive and Environmental Safety Engineering,” with its possibly defunct “education division,” the “Environmental Resource Institute”),* have just come to my attention.

    * I’m kind of wondering how “envirosafeshop.com” seems to have turned into “e-fleet.us”; the zero-content Facebook presence suggests forgetting to renew a moribund domain. He is also “director” at “A3,” which files itself at FB as a school in Springfield, Ohio (again, zero-content page), and “former director” of “Augie & Associates” (you guessed it, no-content FB page; “Augie” *himself* didn’t even bother to “like” this one).