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After girl�s parents refuse chemotherapy, hospital seeks guardianship

When a New Jersey child is terminally ill, his or her parents typically have the legal authority to make critical decisions about their child’s health care. However, in some cases, the court decides that the parents aren’t capable of making these important decisions, and guardianship of the child is given to another person. In order to transfer guardianship from the parents, it must be clear to the judge that the child’s parents do not have the best interests of the child in mind.

After a 10-year-old Amish girl started chemotherapy treatment for cancer, her parents noticed that he overall well being deteriorated. For this reason, they decided it would be best for her to discontinue chemotherapy, even though the treatment increased her chances of survival to 85 percent. Instead, the couple chose to treat the girl with natural remedies such as vitamins and herbs.

The children’s hospital that had been treating the girl disagreed with the parents’ decision and tried to gain guardianship of the girl. The hospital’s intent was to gain limited guardianship of her so that they could force her to restart chemotherapy treatment. Ultimately, the judge sided with the girl’s parents because they showed no signs of inability to care for their child.

If he had taken the hospital’s side, the judge reasoned, the decision could have undermined other parents’ rights to make health care decisions for their children. However, parents that are affected by a mental illness or other debilitating condition may not be able to properly care for the special needs of their children. In these cases, other family members may have to take this responsibility. Working with an attorney may be helpful to them.

Source: The Medina-Gazette, “Judge favors Amish family again in guardianship suit,” Nick Glunt, Sep. 4, 2013

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