A Florida judge ruled on May 8th that a toddler must receive chemotherapy treatment for his leukemia diagnosis against the wishes of his parents, who wish to pursue alternative treatment, including cannabis, instead.
Noah McAdams had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April of this year and had already begun chemotherapy treatment at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. When Noah failed to show up to his third scheduled appointment, law enforcement was alerted that the child’s welfare might be at risk. (1)
Law enforcement located Noah with his parents, Taylor Bland and Joshua McAdams, in Kentucky where they had been attempting to get a second medical opinion for Noah’s treatment. After the incident, Bland and McAdams lost custody of their son to his grandparents and began a legal battle to regain custody as well as to pursue the treatment they felt was best for their child. (1)
But the Hillsborough County judge ruled that Noah would need to continue his chemotherapy treatments within a matter of 28 days, allowing for alternative treatments including medicinal cannabis to be used to complement conventional leukemia therapy. In the meantime, though the judge has not restored full custody to the parents, Bland and McAdams may now enjoy unsupervised visits with their son and visit him during his cancer treatments. (1)
“My heart has dropped…I love my son, and I’m going to be there for him,”
said McAdams to WFLA News reporters.
“I feel like it’s definitely increased my fight, my strength, and ultimately my forgiveness,”
The family’s attorney, Michael Minardi considers the ruling at least a partial win for Noah,
“It is a mixed bag, in that we obviously have to watch this child go through chemotherapy, but at least we know with the use of cannabis and other treatments that the child will hopefully be able to deal with chemotherapy, rather than not being able to have those alternative treatments available,” he stated. (1)
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When Does the Law Step In?
Previously, Bette Bottoms, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and law and dean emerita of the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has weighed in on whether or not American courts can decide that parents are not providing suitable care for their sick children:
“Even in states where there is a religious exemption, courts still can intervene and require medical care if they believe a child is in danger of death. A lot of times … courts can’t even get involved, because they don’t know when this is happening.” (2)
While adults can refuse medical treatment for themselves in the United States for any reason, is there a clear line in the sand where judges can decide that parents aren’t making decisions on behalf of their children?
Efthimios Parasidis, JD, a professor of law and public health at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio told Healthline,
“Medical neglect occurs as soon as you have a child suffering from something which we know how to treat with modern science,” she said, “but instead the parents choose to not treat at all, or to treat only with something like prayer,”
She continued that there isn’t necessarily a black and white rule book to follow. Rather, medical professionals and courts of law rely on a number of criteria to help make what they believe is the right decision about intervening with a child’s care. (3)
In Noah’s case, treating leukemia with the help of cannabis is not unheard of. A research study published in the International Journal of Oncology in 2017 suggests that cannabinoids used in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs cytarabine and vincristine can be very effective. (4)
Interestingly, the researchers led by Dr. Wai Liu of St George’s University of London noted that the order of treatments made a difference in the results. When cannabinoids were used before chemotherapy, the effects were significantly less potent than when cannabinoids were used as a treatment after an initial dose of chemo. (4)
Dr. Liu’s research adds to a growing body of support for cannabis as a useful treatment for several medical conditions, including to alleviate some of the adverse side effects associated with conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
Do you think the judge made the right decision?
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
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