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Court sides with Ohio hospital on Amish girl care

An appeals court has sided with a hospital that wants to force a 10-year-old Amish girl to resume chemotherapy after her parents decided to stop the treatments.

The court ruled that a county judge must reconsider his decision that blocked Akron Children’s Hospital’s attempt to give an attorney who’s also a registered nurse limited guardianship over Sarah Hershberger and the power to make medical decisions for her.

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The hospital believes Sarah’s leukemia is very treatable but says she will die without chemotherapy.

The judge in Medina County in northeast Ohio had ruled in July that Sarah’s parents had the right to make medical decisions for her.

The appeals court ruling issued Tuesday said the judge failed to consider whether appointing a guardian would be in the girl’s best interest. It also disagreed with the judge’s decision that said he could only transfer guardianship if the parents were found unfit.

The family’s attorney, John Oberholtzer, said Wednesday that the ruling essentially ordered the judge to disregard the rights of the parents.

Andy Hershberger, the girl’s father, said the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring but stopped a second round of chemotherapy in June because it was making her so sick.

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Sarah begged her parents to stop the chemotherapy and they agreed after a great deal of prayer, Hershberger said. The family, members of an insular Amish community, shuns many facets of modern life and is deeply religious. They live on a farm and operate a produce stand near the village of Spencer in Medina County.

‘‘Our belief is, to a certain extent, we can use modern medicine, but at some times we have to stop it and do something else,’’ Hershberger said in a telephone interview.

They opted to consult with a wellness center and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins, and see another doctor, Hershberger said.

Hershberger said they have not ruled out returning to Akron Children’s Hospital if Sarah’s health worsens.

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