Minnesota father in chemo dispute pleads for son's return

Friday, May 22, 2009
Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann, left, stands with Anthony Hauser on Thursday as Hauser reads a statement asking his wife to bring their son, Daniel, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma, back home to Sleepy Eye, Minn. The two were seen in Southern California on Tuesday morning. (STEVE MUSCATELLO ~ Journal of New Ulm)

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. -- The father of a 13-year-old cancer-stricken boy who went on the run with his mother to avoid chemotherapy treatment pleaded Thursday for the return of his son, asking his wife to "do what's best for Danny."

"If you're out there, please bring Danny home so we can decide as a family what Danny's treatment should be," Anthony Hauser said in a brief statement to his wife, Colleen.

Daniel Hauser has Hodgkins' lymphoma, a highly curable cancer when treated with chemotherapy and radiation. But the Hausers preferred alternative remedies, and Daniel and his mother fled Monday, a day before a court hearing that could have resulted in a judge ordering chemotherapy.

The two were seen in Southern California on Tuesday morning, and authorities have said they could be in Mexico.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 35 to 50 clinics along the Mexican border attract cancer patients looking for alternatives to traditional U.S. treatment methods. Many have offices in San Diego that serve as contact points for U.S. patients.

The sheriff's office in Brown County, Minn., issued a felony arrest warrant Thursday for Colleen Hauser and the FBI was helping with the search. The warrant was for deprivation of parental rights, and an earlier arrest warrant was based on a contempt of court charge.

Brown County Attorney James Olson said the parental rights belong to Brown County family services, which was granted custody of Daniel to get him to a pediatric oncologist.

"If she comes back today or tomorrow, I would dismiss it," Olson said of the charges. "The reason was not to punish her."

Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann also promised Colleen Hauser that authorities "will not take an enforcement action if you have shown a good faith effort to come back."

If convicted on the new charges, she faces up to two years in jail on each of two counts, plus fines. But authorities said they issued the new warrant mainly to ease her extradition if she is found in the United States.

The Hausers favor natural healing methods inspired by American Indian traditions, but several doctors have testified Daniel's cancer will likely kill him without chemotherapy. Colleen and Daniel Hauser left their home in Sleepy Eye on Monday afternoon when a court-ordered X-ray showed that a tumor in his chest was growing.

Doctors said it was critical that Daniel Hauser get medical care soon. Hodgkins has a 90 percent cure rate in children treated with chemotherapy and radiation, but the survival rate drops to 5 percent without those treatments.

"It would be hard to tell you that each day is vital, but I think with each week that passes, there is risk that is being added to him," said Dr. Joseph Neglia, head of pediatric oncology at the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Many holistic practitioners regard chemotherapy, a process of injecting the body with chemicals that kill both cancerous and healthy cells, as "poison," according to Dr. Norm Shealy, a retired Missouri physician and holistic medicine pioneer.

The St. Paul-based National Health Freedom Coalition, which assists legal efforts nationwide to increase access to alternative medicine, called the Hausers "heroes for health freedom" in a statement.

Daniel and his parents had testified that the chemotherapy made him sick, and that they feared it would ultimately kill him.

But Anthony Hauser has reversed course and was cooperating with investigators.

"I know you're scared," he said in his public plea Thursday. "I know that you left out of fear, maybe without thinking it all the way through. ... We sure can't do what's best for Danny with both of you on the run so please give me a call."

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