- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 25, 2006

ACCOMAC, Va. — A judge ruled yesterday that a 16-year-old cancer patient who doesn’t want conventional medical treatment does not have to report to a hospital as previously ordered.

The judge scheduled a trial next month to settle the dispute.

“I feel free today. I was let off the leash,” Starchild Abraham Cherrix of Chincoteague said outside court after Accomack County Circuit Court Judge Glen A. Tyler suspended a juvenile court judge’s orders in the case.

Abraham was so weakened by three months of chemotherapy last year that he declined a second round when he learned early this year that his Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymph nodes, was active again. He chose instead to go on a sugar-free, organic diet and take herbal supplements under the supervision of a clinic in Mexico.

A social worker asked a juvenile court judge to require the teen to continue conventional treatment, and the judge on Friday found the parents neglectful and ordered Abraham to report to a hospital in four days for treatment as doctors deem necessary. Judge Jesse E. Demps refused a request Monday by attorneys for the family to stay the order pending appeal.

Judge Tyler suspended Judge Demps’ order and set a trial date of Aug. 16. He also ended joint custody of Abraham between his parents and the county Department of Social Services, which Judge Demps also had ordered.

Attorneys for Abraham and his parents argued that forcing the teenager to have chemotherapy would do irreparable harm to him and make moot any further legal appeals.

“Once those doctors take control of Abraham, then the game is over in terms of their appeal that they’re entitled to by statute,” said John Stepanovich, attorney for parents Jay and Rose Cherrix. He also said the case is not about the treatment but about who gets to decide what treatment should be undertaken.

Carl Bundick, an attorney for the social services department, told the judge that the department would not object to suspension of the order, provided that a new trial would take place quickly.

“What the department is interested in is this young man being cured of cancer,” Mr. Bundick said.

Abraham’s parents embraced and his mother wiped away tears after Judge Tyler’s ruling.

Mrs. Cherrix said the family had worried constantly that Abraham would be taken away from them and ordered to have chemotherapy.

“We feel like we are going to get to at least be heard this time,” she said outside court. “We don’t feel like we were heard before.”

Mr. Stepanovich said the judge’s actions give the family “a true fresh start” with a trial in Circuit Court. “The suspension of the custody issue, in our opinion, was just the cherry on top,” he said.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell filed a brief supporting the stay, arguing that Abraham deserved the right to appeal before undergoing medical treatment.

“It would have been a violation of Abraham Cherrix’s due process rights if the lower court order had been implemented prior to an appeal,” Mr. McDonnell said. “The interests of justice required that a stay be granted.”

The hearing began one hour before Abraham was to report to Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, about 80 miles from the courthouse.

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