Appears at Community Meeting with Sarah; Sheriff Visits
- Family reunites at community meeting after months apart during 9-month ordeal
- Sheriff patrols and visits during meeting
- Schimer still legal medical guardian; still awaiting court approval of resignation
- Another victory declared; next step soon to be revealed
HOMERVILLE, OHIO (December 19, 2013)– The Andy and Anna Hershberger family publicly reunited after many weeks in hiding as they appeared at an Amish community meeting on Wednesday. Andy and Anna alone were the last to arrive after seeing it would be safe for them to attend. (All are still waiting for the judge to approve the two-week-old letter of resignation from Ms. Schimer, court-appointed guardian for Sarah, legally acknowledging she and the hospital are backing down on their relentless and illegal pursuit of the girl. But the Hershbergers were not going to wait any longer. (Their emergence was just for the meeting after which they will retreat to an undisclosed location until it is legally saf
In a picturesque snow-covered rural Ohio setting attendees arrived, many by horse and buggy, between 1 and 1:30 pm. Andy and Anna arrived to the surprise and relief of everyone present. No one knew if Sarah and the other children would even show up. At one point the Sheriff showed up (but remained outdoors) just to make sure all was well with the Hershbergers. (For a few moments Andy, Isaac and others became uncomfortable as they wondered why he was here—would they be arrested?)
The community meeting, hosted by Foundations for Health Education, was to settle fears about going to Akron Children’s Hospital and teaching legal rights and protecting oneself against medical abuse. “Now more than ever, Akron Children’s Hospital will respect your right to choose, because they know . . . and they know your know your rights. Most participants were Amish men, about 35 in all. FHE director David Augenstein introduced campaign coordinators Earl Gregory (Lorain/Medina Co.), Wayne Miller (Wayne/Holmes Co.) and Sam Miller-Schrock (Trumbull/Geauga Co.) as well as Isaac Keim, Sarah’s grandfather and Amish bishop.
The following was first released in paper form in The Plain People Papers at the meeting. About 1000 of these are being circulated with 500 more petitions. Some from the meeting are setting up other distributors. (This includes the latest national news feeding frenzy caused by a local news release from FHE).
UPDATED: Amish Girl Being Forced Into Chemo and Fled U.S. Said To Be Cancer Free Now
HOMERVILLE, OHIO (December 18, 2013) Sarah Hershberger is the 11-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 forcing her to continue 27 months of an experimental chemotherapy research project against their wills. They say she is cancer free now after natural treatments in Central America. After many weeks away, they want to come home to their five other children and be left alone without fear of being arrested and Sarah taken away. They cannot as of yet.
More chemotherapy was making Sarah very sick, unable to walk and eat well—even turning her teeth black. More chemo was also against the advice of other health professionals not affiliated with ACH. 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 foreign doctors say Sarah is now cancer free, as does Sarah’s grandfather, Isaac Keim, who is an Amish church bishop. Three doctors, including a pediatric oncologist, have concurred.
They could not 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 pitched 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 had stopped at the farm a few times to see if they can find Sarah, but off the record, they let family members know they do not want to get involved and they are only doing their job. Hospital-ordered taxis came at least three times to take Sarah including a suspected trick when family was called to a meeting with Schimer in late November, still unaware of their being out of country.
The legal hassle began in April 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, trainees, managers, a psychologist and a public relations person met with the the parents and Isaac in a conference room. The Hershbergers wanted to work together with ACH. The hospital 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 / nurse Maria Schimer to take legal action. Eventually, after three trials, she was appointed by the courts to make medical decisions for Sarah.
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 chief legal advisor) for Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), a close affiliate and business partner of the hospital and an assistant attorney general of Ohio. 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. Fortunately Ms. Schimer says she has resigned guardianship as of early December, but the local judge has delayed his acceptance of the resignation and may require another hearing. The family is appalled that no communication from the court has been received.
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 the another wave of local and national broadcasters back in October. 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 public relations team saying ACH had a “moral and legal responsibility” while TV medical experts twisted it into “now she can get her life-saving treatment” that Andy and Anna and others saw was killing her. But Sarah’s recovery and unfair media coverage are not the parent’s only claims.
On top of continuous harassment, the Hershbergers accuse Akron Children’s Hospital with serious mistreatment:
* 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 info 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 doctor’s reports 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. This new judge replaced Ms. Schimer’s hospital-paid attorney, Clair Dickenson. The case was referred back to the local court, which also now had a new judge, Kevin Dunn replacing Judge Lohn, who had just retired in August, suffering health problems, during the Hershberger trials. The new judges in effect had ruled ACH could snatch her from these loving, caring parents doing the right thing.
The Business of Cancer. ACH will lose hundreds of thousands by not treating Sarah the full 27 months in this study according to 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 responsible for the entire bill”. They have billed $130,000 for the first five weeks. This is not counting the billings for treatments for the long-term side effects such as other cancers, kidney dysfunction, heart problems and nerve damage—all common for those that survive chemotherapy. Andy said the three weeks of treatments at the foreign clinic were only $11,000.
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 works part-time at ACH and four other Ohio hospitals. He is also the Professor of Pediatrics at NEOMED. ACH has revenues of $700 million per year, 60% of which are Medicaid billings, according to their annual report. ACH President and some doctors make as much as a million dollars, and the president was paid $5 million back in 2009. Currently underway is a $250 million expansion for additional rooms and treatment facilities. NEOMED has a $100 million expansion ongoing. Both projects are funded by bond sales to the general public with no obligation for ACH and NEOMED to repay leaving the bondholders holding the bag.
Backlash: 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 bishops in the other churches who believe the same. Isaac and others told me many Amish in Ohio are turning away from the hospital and its 80 area locations. Others have come forward with stories of mistreatment and ACH has received over 1,000 letters of protest. By their actions, ACH and Ms. Schimer have created their own backlash. Andy says he is afraid these actions will cause great fear among parents that take their children to the hospital and who do not fully agree with their opinions.
What’s at Stake? As I was quoted in the Medina Gazette: “This case is not just about Sarah and her cancer treatment, it is about the right for anyone to obtain a second or third opinion and the freedom to choose your own medical treatments without fear of losing your child. It is about using the interpretation of law by powerful and profitable corporations like hospitals to force their beliefs in their expensive medical treatments on people who do not want them.”
Hospital Backing Out? Akron Children’s Hospital managers have privately stated to an Amish negotiator they want to back out of their involvement with the Sarah Hershberger forced-chemo case. This was also revealed by two reports received by me from family friends who were barred from a November private meeting with Maria Schimer’s and Hershberger’s local attorney with the probate judge. 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.
The Courts. The Foundations for Health Education had arranged free representation for the family with the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and Maurice Thompson who took the case. Sarah’s case was accepted by the Ohio Supreme Court in December. This would make a critical national precedent on parents’ rights and health freedoms by overturning the appellate court ruling.
Recent Media Coverage: The Foundations for Health Education (FHE) has set up Sarah’s Health Freedom Fund. After Sarah’s full story was released October 27 in the Journal of Living Food and Health, another major turning point was Isaac Keim’s internet interview broadcasted worldwide by Chris Wark. Then FHE issued a news release on November 26 to NE Ohio newspapers revealing the Hershberger’s escaped from the US, Sarah’s cancer-free status and announcing the fundraiser. Immediately, the Akron Beacon Journal interviewed me followed by the Medina Gazette. That evening Associated Press had the story that led up to coverage on national newspapers and TV including Maurice Thompson appearing on Good Morning America and CNN News. I also was interviewed by Good Morning America but turned down the cameras. A day later, Isaac Keim’s details of an interview with the Akron paper and made it in papers and TV everywhere. Ms. Schimer and ACH publicly stated they are backing out now because they cannot find Sarah making it impossible to make medical decisions for her.
A community event December 18 is being held by FHE to discuss this case, teach legal health rights and raise funds for the family—not the hospital or attorneys. But Andy, Anna and Sarah, who remains cancer free and is happy, healthy and full of pep, cannot officially attend. While the Hershbergers have won some major battles their struggles are not over. This is a new and historic beginning in the war on parents’ rights and freedom of choice in making your personal health decisions and for the other Sarahs out there. (Court documents at http://j.mp/sarahscase ) Contacts: Shawn Lyden, ACH Executive Vice President email@example.com (330)543-8730 /Kevin Dunn, Medina Co. Judge 330-725-9703