Condensed from the 3 Part series
Our investigative reports on this case were published in three parts (original November 7, 2013). These are now condensed and combined here. It is also in a printable PDF for the Amish and non-internet people. Links to the PDF, the petition drive and Sarah’s Health Freedom Fund are below.
Sarah Hershberger is the 10-year-old Ohio Amish girl with leukemia that made national news recently. She fled the U.S. in Sept. 2013 with her parents Andy and Anna Hershberger to avoid Akron Children’s Hospital (ACH) demands and court-ordered guardianship to force Sarah to continue exactly 27 months of an experimental chemotherapy research project against her will and the will of her parents. They say she is cancer free now after natural treatments. After many weeks away, the Hershbergers want to come home and just be left alone without any fear of being arrested and Sarah taken away. Sarah had been diagnosed with T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, a rare form of blood cancer.
More chemotherapy was not just against Sarah’s will since it was making her unable to walk and dreadfully sick, it was also against the will of the parents, and advice from health professionals outside the hospital. So the parents took her, along with their new baby, out of the country to a special clinic that uses natural biomedical treatments. The Hershbergers called me and told me the Spanish doctors say Sarah is now cancer free, as does Sarah’s grandfather, Isaac Keim, who is an Amish church bishop. In a rare occurrence, Isaac gave an amazing recorded interview (posted below) to expose the other side of the story. Here are ABC News two-minute sound bytes:
- Gone for a couple months now, the Hershbergers are homesick and heartsick. They cannot return to Ohio or their farm and their other five children without fear of being arrested and Sarah taken away. They run an organic vegetable farm and roadside stand (which all but failed this year), a 10-minute buggy ride from the center of Homerville in Medina County. Andy suffered a severe stress disorder leaving him unable to function well for four weeks. Family and friends are pitching in to care and feed the children and animals and picked vegetables before they rotted in the fields. Medina County Children’s Services and Sheriff Department stop at the farm every three days to see if they can find Sarah. But, off the record, let they let family members know that they do not want to get involved but they are only doing their job as instructed.
The legal hassle began when the Hershbergers told the hospital they are stopping the chemo to try something safer and perhaps more effective. A panel of ACH experts consisting of an attorney, doctors and trainees, managers and a public relations person met with the family in a conference room The Hershbergers wanted to work together with ACH. The hosptial refused. ACH wanted it all their way or no way, Andy told me. That is when ACH management said they would be reported to Medina Children’s Services and threatened to take them to court. Shawn Lyden, the Exec VP of ACH later asked attorney Maria Schimer to take legal action and sue. Eventually, after four trials, she was appointed by the courts to make medical decisions for Sarah until she is 18.
Who is Maria Schimer? Ms. Schimer is an hospital-affiliated, attorney-nurse, who was later made the medical guardian to make sure Sarah will get her treatments. Schimer is General Counsel (chief legal advisor) for Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), a close affiliate and business partner of the hospital. According to Andy, Ms. Schimer has never met Sarah or him and his wife and they were never told their child was being used in a research study—among other things.
Investigations: This investigative report, which began with Isaac’s call to me from the special clinic, is the Hershberger’s side of the story—one that was not covered by local and national broadcasters. Andy had told me that television had twisted his statements so badly he didn’t want to talk to them anymore. The hospital’s medical director parroted its PR team saying ACH had a “moral and ethical responsibility” while TV medical experts spinned it into “now she can get her life-saving treatment” that Andy and Anna believed was killing her. But Sarah’s recovery and unfair media coverage are not the parent’s only claims.
* Hospital staff or doctors never told them that the chemotherapy was part of a research project using experimental chemicals. They learned of this the first time during lengthy court hearings.
* Andy and Anna’s signature was not obtained by the hospital for the second phase of chemo that uses different chemicals. Only Sarah was asked “to put her name on the line”.
* The serious side effects of the experimental chemo were never disclosed. A nurse that came to the house to give Sarah booster injections had said these chemicals can cause cancer, much to their surprise. When Andy brought this up in the meeting with the ACH panel, one member of the team said the nurse should have never said that.
* Sarah’s confidential medical information was given to the news media, a violation of federal medical privacy laws.
* Hospital doctors said they would not monitor and test Sarah periodically if they stopped the chemo making it very difficult for them to get these medical services elsewhere.
* The hospital may have exaggerated the final report of cat scans based on comments of doctors at the special clinic.
How did this happen? Three times the courts ruled against the hospital—saying they had no right or legal standing to have Ms. Schimer take guardianship because there is not “one scintilla of evidence the parents are unfit”. When the hospital again pursued by appealing the second time, the 5th District court in Akron refused to hear it, so the 9th District in Canton accepted the case. Ms. Schimer’s attorney was the judge over this court before retiring earlier this year to work at an Akron law firm—ACH being a major client. The new judge that replaced him ruled in favor of the hospital demanding the Medina County Probate court hand Sarah over. But the local court now had a new judge, Kevin Dunn replacing Judge Lohn, who had just retired in August, for health reasons, during the Hershberger trials.
The Business of Cancer. ACH will lose hundreds of thousands by not treating Sarah the full 27 months in this study according to what a doctor close to the case and said “the fine print in the enrollment contract states patients who decide to pull out of a study is reposnible for the entire bill”. They have billed $130,000 for the first five weeks. This is not counting the billings for treatments for any long-term side effects such as other cancers, kidney dysfunction, heart problems and nerve damage—all common for those that survive chemotherapy. The ACH doctor over Sarah’s case practices part-time at ACH and four other Ohio hospitals. He is also the Professor of Pediatrics at NEOMED. Andy said the three weeks of treatments at the out-of-country clinic were only $11,000 and Sarah obtained cancer-free status verified by three doctors, including a pediatric oncologist.
For this investigative report, the Journal had to delve a little deeper into ACH and NEOMED concerning the business of cancer treatment and research. National Cancer Institute lists 39 ongoing and past cancer trials at ACH each with a number children. The ACH doctor over these practices part-time at ACH and four other Ohio hospitals. He is also the Professor of Pediatrics at NEOMED. ACH has revenues of $700,000,000 per year, 60% of which are Medicaid billings, according to their annual report. Currently underway is a $250,000,000 expansion for additional rooms and treatment facilities.
Isaac Keim, by his authority as bishop of an Amish church, has declared the Amish church is against the court ruling and the actions by the hospital. He said he knows of many Amish bishops in the other churches who believe the same.Isaac told me some of the Amish community in Ohio is turning away from the hospital and its 80 area locations.
What’s at Stake? This case is about the rights of all good parents having the freedom to choose other treatment options. This case is about the power of wealthy corporations over individual and parental rights to dictate medical treatments children and adults must undergo from which they make large profits. Andy says he is afraid these actions will cause great fear among parents that take their children to the hospital and may not fully agree with their doctor’s treatment recommendations. So Andy paraphrased what Sarah has said: “I just want to come home because I really miss my brothers and sisters and going back to my school. I wish all these people would just leave me alone. . . I do not believe this is God’s will for me to have chemo any longer”.
Andy keeps saying to me each time we talk: “What are they going to do when they hear and see Sarah is cancer free from the natural treatment. They said it would not work and she would die soon without the chemo . . . the chemo we believed would kill her.” “What are they going to say and do now?”
Visiting Hershberger’s family in Homerville, Ohio. After many phone calls from Isaac, Andy and family friends, I was able to drive out to Homerville and meet with Isaac and his brother Alvin. Isaac runs a large vegetable farm and sells maple syrup equipment. Alvin is a self-taught expert in natural health treatments. Once again, going over the story and asking questions, the answers all gave were consistent. Photos here tell part of the story.
Hospital Backing Out? Akron Children’s Hospital (ACH) may now want to back out of their involvement with the Sarah Hershberger forced-chemo case. This is according to two reports received by the Journal from family friends at the courthouse after a November 6 conference with Maria Schimer’s and Hershberger’s attorney with the probate judge who was quoted as saying ACH wants to back out. The judge had said the Hershberger’s, whereabouts unknown, but thought to still be out of the country, were out of his jurisdiction. It is not surprising the hospital may be wanting out. There has been such an uproar and backlash created by alternative media outlets in Northeast Ohio and throughout the world, and talk amongst the Amish communities–not to mention all the phone calls, letters and emails to ACH and NEOMED.
Exclusive Interview with the Hershbergers. For the first time since this ordeal began in April, Andy and Anna (and Sarah, too), spoke out in a phone interview I had with them from an undisclosed location. Anna paraphrased Sarah’s comment that she would physically fight if the hospital tried to force the chemotherapy. Anna explained it more fully: “The nurses and doctors would have scratches on their faces and bruises on their bodies. They will be the ones that might need to be admitted to the hospital.”
Andy explained in general terms some of the treatment and nutritional supplements, including high doses of vitamin C and B17, oxygen therapy, detoxification methods, as well as the IV chelation to deliver some of these to Sarah’s bloodstream. He also explained how the doctors arrived at a cancer-free status. She is now on a special diet including lots of vegetables and raw foods and taking special natural supplements, as prescribed by the foreign doctors. Anna said they really needed to leave the area to escape the harassment, fear and pressure they had and have Sarah take biomedical therapy. Sarah only spoke a few words that included she is doing fine and feeling good and wants to come home. She is being schooled during the day while the mother also cares for the baby they needed to bring along. Sarah was very shy–this was likely to her first telephone call.
What Now? We just learned that a request of appeal was filed on November 12 to the Ohio Supreme Court to reverse the lower court decision. An amicus brief has also been filed by a powerful Ohio constitutional legal association. Meanwhile, people from all over the world are signing the petition and donating to Sarah’s Health Freedom Fund.
People should respect and honor the Hershberger’s wishes. Sarah, Andy and Anna have made it quite clear: they just want to come home and be left alone.
Two-page 2MB printable PDF of the Sarah Hershberger Case – Amish Girl Being Forced Into Chemotherapy Fled US for Natural Treatments is Said to Be Cancer Free Now (published November 17, 2013). This was put in paper version for circulation to Amish communities and those without internet. INCLUDES Paper Petition. PRINT . COPY . DISTRIBUTE.
DONATE to Sarah’s Health Freedom Fund (short story and video here). She needs wholesome foods, food supplements and natural medicines and treatments to keep the cancer from returning. As of November 17, 2013 about $15,000 has been donated. Help spread this news.
Many of our readers want to know how else they can help and who to contact to help the Hershbergers. If you contact any of these players, please be polite and express your feelings about this case:
Maria R. Schimer, J.D. (Demanded and was appointed Medical Guardian at the request of the hospital. Never met Sarah or talked to her parents) She serves as the general counsel for Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED)–a major business partner of ACH– and is the Ohio Assistant Attorney General representing the University. She is also counsel to the NEOMED Board of Trustees. Schimer is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio and the U.S. Supreme Court. Contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org Direct phone is (330) 325-6356 Also, Amy Furey-Ligan, JD, Legal Counsel email@example.com (330) 325-6358
Shawn Lyden, ACH Executive Vice President– requested that Mr. Schimer ask the court for guardianship. As Executive Vice President, Shawn Lyden, also an attorney, is responsible for strategic planning and business development, marketing and public relations, and legal affairs. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (330)543-8730
Kevin Dunn, Medina County Judge — ruled in favor of the hospital as directed by the state appellate court. He will be the one to issue court orders for the arrest of the Hershbergers for contempt of court if they return to the area. Became Medina County’s Probate and Juvenile Judge on August 1, 2013. Governor John Kasich appointed Judge Dunn to complete the unexpired term of Judge John Lohn, who needed to retire for health reasons during the Hershberger trials. EMAIL 330-725-9703 Fax: 330-725-9119
|Sheriff Tom Miller||
|Capt. Kenneth Baca||