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Guardian ends bid to force girl into chemo

A court-appointed guardian can drop her attempt to force an 11-year-old girl with leukemia to resume chemotherapy, a judge ruled.

The decision is a big step in bringing an end to a months-long fight between Sarah Hershberger’s family and a hospital. The struggle began when her parents decided to halt the treatments because they feared chemotherapy was killing her.

The ruling issued Thursday by Medina County Probate Judge Kevin Dunn also helps clear the way for Sarah and her parents to return to their farm in northeast Ohio. The family fled and went into hiding four months ago to avoid having the treatment forced on the girl.

Maria Schimer, an attorney who’s also a registered nurse, was given the power to make medical decisions for Sarah after an appeals-court ruling in October said the beliefs and convictions of the girl’s parents can’t outweigh the rights of the state to protect the child.

But Schimer said she decided to drop the effort and resign as guardian because it became impossible to monitor Sarah’s health or make any medical decisions for her after she left home.

Doctors at Akron Children’s Hospital believe Sarah’s leukemia is treatable, but they said this past summer that she would die within a year if she halts chemotherapy. The hospital went to court after the family decided to stop chemotherapy and treat Sarah with natural medicines, such as herbs and vitamins.

The girl and her parents, who normally live in a community about 40 miles southwest of Cleveland, sought treatment outside the United States and have been staying out of state and would not return until the guardian is removed, their attorney has said.

The Hershbergers have said they stopped chemotherapy because it was making Sarah too sick.

Sarah’s last known chemotherapy session was in June, but she responded well to alternative-therapy treatments and is doing well, her attorney and family have said.

Andy Hershberger said this past summer that the family agreed to begin two years of treatments for Sarah last spring, but stopped a second round of chemotherapy. The family’s attorney said the girl’s parents made their decision after researching the effects of chemotherapy.