Lawyers for teen cancer patient working to stop judge's order for chemo treatment

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NORFOLK, Va. -- Lawyers filed a motion Monday to try to stop enforcement of a judge's order requiring a 16-year-old cancer patient who had refused to continue chemotherapy to report to a hospital by today and accept treatment that doctors deem necessary.

A juvenile court judge ruled Friday that Starchild Abraham Cherrix of Chincoteague on Virginia's Eastern Shore must go to Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk for evaluation and his parents must give their legal consent for doctors to treat Abraham.

Judge Jesse E. Demps also found Jay and Rose Cherrix neglectful for allowing their son to pursue alternative treatment of a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements supervised by a clinic in Mexico. He required them to continue sharing custody of Abraham with the Accomack County Department of Social Services, as he had previously ordered.

Lawyer John Stepanovich said he was waiting for a response to the motion, which was filed at 10:30 a.m. Monday in Accomack County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. If the court did not grant the request for a stay pending an appeal, Stepanovich said he would then seek a stay in the county Circuit Court.

"The essence of what we're doing is to stay the enforcement of the order pending our right to a new hearing in the Circuit Court," Stepanovich said. "If we're forced to go through with the order, then there's no way to undo the chemotherapy and radiation and essentially that would moot our statutory right to appeal."

After three months of chemotherapy last year made him nauseated and weak, Abraham rejected doctors' recommendations to go through a second round when he learned early this year that his Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, was active again.

A social worker then asked a judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment. In May, the judge issued a temporary order finding Abraham's parents neglectful and awarding partial custody to the county, with Abraham continuing to live at home with his four siblings.

Two weeks ago, the judge heard 11 hours of testimony over two days during a closed hearing.

Social Services officials have declined to comment, citing privacy laws.

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