I just learned of Michael Farris’ ongoing lawsuit defending the rights of a homeschool family to make difficult medical decisions on behalf of their children. This story involves some of my favorite issues: push back against the Nanny State, “experts” who upon examination prove to be more arrogant than informed, excellent lawyering, and Grand Rapids, MI. In his own words:
Who Makes the Really Tough Decisions: Parents? Or Doctors?
by Michael Farris
Who should make very difficult decisions for children? Parents or doctors?
In March of this year, 8-year-old Jacob Stieler was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a dangerous bone cancer. His parents took him to a highly-rated children’s oncology center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Jacob had surgery to remove the tumor, which was followed by several rounds of chemotherapy. The treatment was incredibly difficult, and Jacob’s mom, Erin, told me that when she looked her son in the eyes, she knew in her heart that he simply could not survive many more rounds of these drugs.
Erin and Ken, Jacob’s mom and dad, joined by hundreds of others, prayed for Jacob and his complete recovery.
After all of these rounds of chemotherapy were completed, there was a PET scan done to check on the status of the cancer. There was no evidence of cancer detected in Jacob’s body. Jacob’s family and friends rejoiced in his healing—praising God for this wonderful outcome.
But the doctors wanted to give Jacob several more rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, despite the clean PET scan. When asked why they wanted to keep giving Jacob these incredibly dangerous drugs, the doctors replied that this was “the standard of care” for his illness.
Jacob’s parents begged the doctors to make an individual diagnosis, rather than simply following unbending standards. But the doctors were steadfast. All children with this cancer needed multiple rounds of these drugs—regardless of PET scan results, the doctors contended.
Jacob’s parents did extensive study of the side effects of the five different chemotherapy drugs that the doctor wanted to administer. And they believed that the risk of the drugs was far greater than the risk of recurrent cancer, since Jacob had a clean PET scan. They said no to the doctors. No more chemotherapy treatment for now.
But the doctors would not take no for an answer. They called child protective services in Jacob’s county and asked the agency to file charges against the family for medical neglect.
After looking into the matter, both the local CPS agency and the local prosecuting attorney refused to file charges. They believed that the parents were making reasonable decisions for Jacob.
The doctors still would not take no for an answer. They called higher authorities in the state level CPS agency. The doctors had to make several calls before they finally found someone who would agree with them.
As a result of all of these calls, the local CPS agency was pressured into filing medical neglect charges against the parents.
The local prosecutor still refused to take a case against the family, so the state level CPS officials hired an independent private lawyer to serve as the prosecutor against Ken and Erin Stieler.
A jury trial is scheduled for early January to determine if the doctors will be given the authority to take over the medical decision-making for Jacob.
When I heard about this case—and checked out the facts—I knew that I could not sit on the sidelines and watch this family be overrun and parental rights be trashed by well-meaning but overzealous doctors.
I recently flew to Michigan and took the depositions of all three doctors who were scheduled to testify against the family.
Jacob’s treating physician is the key.
I prepared for the depositions by obtaining copies of the official “package inserts” that the FDA requires all drug companies to give to physicians and patients. Undoubtedly, you have seen these inserts when you have picked up prescriptions for your children.
The inserts tell you several things: