12-year-old With Cancer Taken From Her Parents
Folks don't want radiation treatment, but state claims it's best option for girl
By Katie Wernecke | WorldNetDaily | June 9, 2005
A Texas couple is fighting to regain custody of their 12-year-old cancer-stricken daughter after the state seized the girl, claiming her parents have not done enough to treat her.
A judge has postponed until tomorrow a ruling on whether or not doctors can treat Katie Wernecke against her parents' wishes, KPRC-TV in Houston reported.
Katie's parents, Michele and Edward Wernecke of Agua Dulce, Texas, say their daughter's Hodgkin's disease is in remission and she doesn't need radiation treatment after undergoing a round of chemotherapy. Mr. Wernecke is worried that more treatment will have harmful long-term effects on his daughter and wants an opinion from doctors outside Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi.
But the Texas Child Protective Services believe the recommendations of doctors at the hospital should overrule the parents. Robert Rosetti, program director over investigations at the CPS Nueces County office, claims the parents are being "medically neglectful."
Speaking this morning on NBC's "Today" show, Michele Wernecke said her daughter's illness is unique and should be treated as such.
"I think they should treat her for what her body calls for and not standard protocol. Nobody will look at that," she said. "Not every cancer is the same. Nobody understands that. Her body is not standard, and her cancer is not standard."
The Werneckes, members of the Church of God, have said they oppose blood transfusions unless they are from Katie's mother, but she is not a match, according to doctors.
Their attorney, Daniel Horne, however, said religion isn't at issue. He says his clients don't believe doctors haven't been upfront about Katie's care and have not answered all their questions about radiation's side effects.
"This issue is about parental rights, not about religious rights," Horne said. "They just want to be informed of her treatment. They want to be involved in this."
Last week, the state issued an Amber Alert that led to the seizure of Katie, who is undergoing tests at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The couple's three sons were also taken and are in a foster home.
Michele Wernecke was arrested on charges of interfering with child custody and was released Monday after posting $50,000 bond.
According to KPRC-TV, juvenile court Judge Carl Lewis said in a hearing yesterday he would wait until Friday to make a decision on the radiation treatment after receiving more information from doctors.
Katie, who was diagnosed with cancer in January, does not want the treatment.
"I don't need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It's my body," she said in a videotaped message to her parents.
The family maintains a blog entitled Pray for Katie on which her parents claim she is being used in a research project.
States the blog: "Why are the doctors doing this? Katie appears to be part of a study where they allocate kids randomly to one treatment, say standard chemo plus radiation, and chemo only in the other treatment. Parents are not informed of this. They are doing research on our kids. Collecting research money from the drug companies, I guess."
A custody court hearing is set for June 15.
Girl with cancer to continue as ward of Texas Judge's ruling comes after parents agreed to follow doctors' advice
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - A judge ruled Thursday that the state will retain custody of a 13-year-old girl who was taken from her parents after they refused to continue her cancer treatments and the cancer, which appeared to have been eliminated, returned.
Katie Wernecke, who has Hodgkin’s disease, will remain with Child Protective Services pending another hearing late next month, juvenile court Judge Carl Lewis ruled. Katie was scheduled to see doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on Thursday.
Katie’s parents tried to convince Lewis during a custody hearing that they would not resist efforts to resume her treatment. But he refused to return the girl to their care, noting that Katie’s mother had previously fled with Katie and her father had rejected several doctors’ findings.
“I really don’t have a parent that I can say I can return the child to without putting that child in danger of her health,” Lewis said.
The girl was diagnosed in January after she was taken to an emergency room with what her parents thought was pneumonia. She received chemotherapy, and doctors recommended it be followed with radiation.
Fears of treatment
Her parents refused though. Edward Wernecke said he feared the radiation would put Katie at a heightened risk for breast cancer, stunt her growth and cause learning problems.
Earlier this month, Child Protective Services officials took custody of Katie after doctors said the Werneckes were risking their daughter’s life by refusing the radiation therapy. A scan last week revealed the cancer had returned, and Katie’s former doctor testified he thought its return was linked to the family’s refusal to go forward with the radiation.
Attorneys for the Werneckes said it was never the family’s intention to deny necessary medical treatment. Michele Wernecke testified she was willing to follow doctors’ recommendations, and her husband testified that Katie needed to be with her family.
The case has drawn national attention as a battle between parental rights and the state’s charge to protect children from abuse or neglect.
“This is a disappointing ruling,” said Daniel Horne, a family attorney. “The parents love their child. This is just a situation where the parents weren’t neglecting the child — maybe they were doing too much.”
Edward Wernecke said he had been “hoping that the judge would return her to our care.” But, he said, “I am glad that they did allow her to go to M.D. Anderson and to get a full evaluation.”
Edward Wernecke had said the dispute was simply a misunderstanding. He said Dr. Nejemie Alter, who diagnosed Katie’s illness and testified at the hearing, had led him to believe four rounds of chemotherapy were enough.
“After we finished with the four chemos, we thought that’s all there was,” he said.
Darrell Azar, a spokesman for CPS, said Katie would remain with a foster family and that the goal was to eventually reunite her with her family.
“The department is very pleased with the ruling primarily because it’s a win for Katie,” Azar said. “We have to do the prudent thing and make sure we see through this treatment.”
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