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Doctor Says Girl ‘Stoic’ About Cancer Till The End

March 29, 1985

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ A 14-year-old cancer-ridden girl who said ″God will heal me when he wants to heal me″ has died nearly two years after her parents tried to block medical treatment on religious grounds.

Pamela Hamilton slipped into a coma Thursday morning and died ″very quietly″ at 2 p.m. in the company of her parents at home, said Dr. Brian Corden at T.C. Thompson Children’s Hospital in Chattanooga.

Corden, who had treated Pamela since last summer, described her as ″probably one of the singularly brave girls I’ve ever met in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young lady ... who had quite the type of bravery that Pamela did.... She just fought to the very end.″

Pamela’s case drew national attention in September 1983 when a state judge ordered her to undergo chemotherapy for a tumor on her left leg. Her father, a fundamentalist preacher, had tried to block medical treatment on religious grounds.

Doctors said that the tumor, discovered three months earlier, had grown to the size of a football by the time the court stepped in. They said the delay in treating Pamela had reduced her chances of survival from 75 precent to no better than 25 percent.

Without the treatment, doctors said she would have died by December.

In ordering chemotherapy, the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a juvenile court judge’s ruling that Pamela was a neglected child and should be put in custody of the state Department of Human Service.

″God will heal me when he wants to heal me,″ Pamela said after the first round of chemotherapy. The treatments ended last September when doctors pronounced her free of the Ewing’s sarcoma that had caused the tumor.

But in January, a routine checkup revealed malignant tumors in her lungs and back. They said there was no cure, but would not publicly disclose her chances for surviving.

″If the tumor comes back after (treatment), particularly in the way in which it did, there was really no further treatment that would have saved her life,″ said Dorden, who had treated Pamela since her family moved to Chattanooga from LaFollette, north of Knoxville.

Pamela’s father, Larry Hamilton, was a preacher with the LaFollete congregation of the Church of God of the Union Assembly and refused to seek treatment for his daughter because his sect forbids its members to take medicine and believes only God can heal.

Corden refused to speculate on whether the delay in treatment had hastened Pamela’s death.

″No one can predict what will happen to a tumor if and when treatment is delayed or not given. It’s totally out of the realm of our understanding,″ he said.

After doctors reported in April 1984 that the tumor in her leg had stopped growing and there were no signs of other cancer growths, Hamilton insisted that faith had healed his daughter.

″God does it and the doctors take credit for it,″ he said in an interview at the time.

Corden said Thursday that the Hamiltons had helped him and a public health nurse care for Pamela in her final weeks.

″I think they feel totally exhausted,″ he said. ″And I think they want very much to have a chance to grieve in private for Pamela.″

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