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Court Approves Chemotherapy for Young Cancer Patient

January 14, 1986

CINCINNATI (AP) _ A hospital can perform chemotherapy on a 7-year-old boy with bone cancer depite his parents’ objections to the treatment on religious grounds, a court ruled Tuesday.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital Medical Center said David Willmann faced ″a death sentence″ without treatment, and hospital lawyers argued a tumor had swollen his left arm since a first round of chemotherapy, permitted by his parents, was completed in early December.

A three-judge panel of the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals ruled that the hospital could go ahead with six weeks of planned chemotherapy treatments for the boy.

But the court granted the parents, Douglas and Lori Willmann of suburban Montgomery, an order prohibiting the hospital from performing surgery on David, pending further rulings by the court.

Doctors will review David’s progress and determine whether he needs surgery, possibly amputation of his left arm. The full court will hold a hearing at a date not yet announced on whether treatment should continue. Lawyers are to file written briefs by Jan. 31.

After allowing the boy to undergo five weeks of chemotherapy late last year, his parents, members of the Christian Church, changed their minds. They objected to further chemotherapy or surgery, citing their beliefs that Jesus Christ was healing the boy and that the hospital treatments held more risks than benefits for David.

The parents had appealed Saturday’s decision of Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge John O’Connor to allow the hospital to go ahead with chemotherapy and any surgery judged necessary to save the boy’s life.

Douglas Willmann issued a handwritten statement from the hospital Tuesday, saying, ″Lori and I would like to thank you for your continuing interest and concern about David. He is doing just fine. The full appeal process will take two to three weeks to complete, and we do not want to comment until that is over.

″The children’s hospital staff is giving David the same first-class care that he has always had, especially the nursing personnel and unit clerks on our floor.″

Richard Finan, a state senator who is the Willmanns’ lawyer, told the court Monday that David suffered walking problems and loss of hair from his first round of chemotherapy. He declined comment on the court’s ruling.

Deborah Lydon, lawyer for the hospital, said hospital officials would seek court permission for the surgery.

She said the hospital satisfied with Tuesday’s ruling. ″Obviously, if anything changes, we will react to that.″

The boy was transferred into the Cincinnati hospital’s custody Sunday and reported in fair condition Tuesday. Ms. Lydon declined to say when the hospital was beginning David’s chemotherapy treatments.

Doctors diagnosed the cancer when the Willmanns brought David to the hospital in October for examination of his swelling arm.

The tumor shrank during David’s earlier chemotherapy, said doctors who judged him ready for surgery to remove it last month. But the Willmanns had left with the boy on vacation, and the surgery was not performed.

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