The Nanny State vs. The Family Part II

Last week, I wrote about Abraham Cherrix, a 16 year-old boy in Accomack County, Virginia in the middle of a custody battle between his parents and the Accomack County Social Services Department. The issue at hand, of course, was Abraham’s cancer treatments. Abraham and his parents made the choice to discontinue his chemotherapy and try alternative medicine. The state, however, claimed that it knew better and convinced a judge to issue an order effectively giving Accomack County joint legal custody of Abraham.

Just yesterday, I related how the Judge handling Abraham’s case was leaving him in a state of legal limbo and forcing him to undergo medical tests before allowing him to leave for Mexico for treatment.

Now, it appears that trip won’t be happening for some time, if ever. Judge Jesse Demps issued an Order late today that Abraham must undergo chemotherapy against his will.

NORFOLK, Va. — A judge ruled Friday that a 16-year-old boy fighting to use alternative treatment for his cancer must report to a hospital by Tuesday and accept treatment that doctors deem necessary, the family’s attorney said.

The judge also found Starchild Abraham Cherrix’s parents were neglectful for allowing him to pursue alternative treatment of a sugar-free, organic diet and herbal supplements supervised by a clinic in Mexico, lawyer John Stepanovich said.

Jay and Rose Cherrix of Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore must continue to share custody of their son with the Accomack County Department of Social Services, as the judge had previously ordered, Stepanovich said.

Judge Demps sits on the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, which means that his Order can be immediately appealed to the Circuit Court of Accomack County. One can only hope that the Circuit Court Judge has a better view of the proper relationship between the state, the individual and the family than Judge Demps did when he made his ruling.

The lawyer for Abraham’s parents had a warning for Virginia parents that could apply nationwide:

“I want to caution all parents of Virginia: Look out, because Social Services may be pounding on your door next when they disagree with the decision you’ve made about the health care of your child,”

Because, of course, that’s their job.

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The Nanny State vs. The Family

  • searching4mymind

    I think it is amazing how department of social services always thinks that they know what is “right” for a person. They only seem to see part of a picture. Obviously going through chemotherapy will probably kill this poor child. Even though going through alternative medicine may not “cure” his cancer, he would at least be free from the tortures of chemotherapy. At least they have some hope that the next judge will have some common sense, because Judge Demps obviously doesn’t.

  • Unbelievable

    The arrogance of the medical community is truly staggering. Chemo is known to be extremely damaging to healthy tissues and can in fact kill you. It’s the equivalent of performing an amputation with a chainsaw.

    Don’t forget that there was a time when, to the established, learned professionals of medical science, blood letting and leeches were the pinnacle of treatment. At the time, refusing such a treatment was as “insane” as refusing chemo appears today, but there was a better way. Just as there must be a better way to treat cancer than chemo and radiation.

    For as much as we talk about “the Land of the Free”, there isn’t nearly as much freedom as there once was.

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  • Von

    The irony is that if the kid wanted to refuse treatment, and the parents insisted, then the kid could go to a judge protesting, the judge would emancipate him, and he could then refuse as an adult.

    The kid ought to get a quicko marriage, then he is legally an adult and can make his own decisions.

  • jimbob

    department of social services is a bunch of nazis who play god with peoples families and lives. Its a bunch of losers who only could get their associate degrees in psychology instead of their masters and phd’s. Because they arent smart enough to work in private practice they get welfare jobs where they get to dictate peoples lives and get off on the rush of playing god. Watch out for these monsters.

  • Nino Pereira

    Please check your spelling: the department doesn’t
    new, it knew. There may be others.

  • shamal yoget

    We think Judge Demps receives kickback from chemo lobbyists and drug industry. Do you know Demps associates? We expect his further compliance with their instructions. Profit is profit. What do you not understand?

  • buck turgidson

    So let me get this straight–any quack with an herbal tea can set up shop just across the border and claim to cure cancer and this bunch will whine about the Nanny State that prevents people from falling for it. Is that right?

    One of the Christian stations down in Texas runs infomercials about half the day (as do many such stations). During a business trip once, I listened as they extalled for over an hour the virtues of some seaweed concoction that cures just about anything, including cancer. FDA was very interested in this stuff, as no such claim can be substanciated–but they don’t monitor Christian broadcasters so someone must send them the info.

    The reason we have federal agencies like the FDA is to prevent quacks and crackpots from exploiting people, especially those who are in a particularly desperate situation, such as cancer patients. The FDA does not do everything right, but, in this case, the state got their head on straight. If the kid wants to die without treatment, it is his right. But for the parents to wisk him away into some quack clinic in Mexico is absurd.

    And while we are on the subject of Nanny State, how do you, people, feel about the state telling women whether they can or cannot have abortions? Should we not keet the state out of such decisions?

  • Stephen Macklin

    Does anyone else find it odd to hear conservatives arguing that government should not be involved in a private individual medical decision?

  • Doug Mataconis


    There is no evidence for any of your assertions against Judge Demps. As an attorney myself, I am not going to make, or agree with, such assertions about a Judge absent evidence.

    Quite honestly, his decision may end up being quite correct under Virginia law, which only makes me more distressed.

  • Doug Mataconis


    The point of the Abraham Cherrix controversy is that people should be free to make whatever medical decisions they want. Personally, I don’t think the herbal treatment he wants to try will work. What I do know, from seeing a family member or three go through it, is that chemotherapy is painful, toxic, and often ends up killing the body before it kills the cancer.

    Who am I, or you, or the Commonwealth of Virginia to tell Abraham or anyone else that he doesn’t have the right to make a decision like this, even if he’s wrong ?

    And your question about abortion isn’t really relevant to this debate. And, since I do not want this comment thread to turn into yet another abortion discussion, I am going to ignore the question for now.

  • Doug Mataconis


    There is one problem with your question.

    I am not a conservative. I am a libertarian. There is a distinct difference between the two.

  • John

    His name is “Starchild.” That should tell you something about his parents. If herbs worked for cancer that would be great. They don’t. Nevertheless he shouldn’t be forced into chemo. The court should tell both he and his parents exactly what percentage of chance he has of dying and let them decide.

  • Skeptico

    The commentators complaining here about Chemo are just wrong: chemo is this child’s only hope for recovery; the Hoxley treatment that is being touted as an “alternative” simply does not work. A more detailed explanation of why this is so, can be found here:

    Whether this child is mature enough to consider this evidence for himself, and whether the state should have a right to intervene, are different arguments. I’m conflicted on this one – I’m certainly uncomfortable with the state having the power to force someone to have chemo if they don’t want it, and I tend to think a 16 year old should be allowed to make his own decisions. Just don’t pretend that the only known therapy that might save him is somehow bad, or that there is any “alternative” treatment that would work.

  • Kailani

    It’s kind of scary to think that a gov’t agency can come into your home and overrule the decisions you’ve made for your family. Thank you for sharing this with the Carnival of Family Life.

  • Bob

    Abe and his family need to check quickly into the “emancipated minor” laws in Virginia. For example, if he gets married he will no longer be under the jurisdiction of Judge Demps. (there are probably other ways to accomplish the same thing)

    Another possibility is for him to convert to the Christian Science religion.

    Regards, Bob

  • Stephen Macklin


    Sorry I wasn’t referring to anyone in particular, just a general observation about the story. I have heard a lot of anti-abortion conservatives who were cheering on the government in the Shaivo case, arguing against the government interference in this instance.

    In this instance, I think they happen to have gotten it right.

  • Robert Bednarz

    I know 2 people who have died horribly of cancers in the past 2 years. They both insisted on alternative medicine. They were both adults. The treatments totaled ~ $90,000 for the both. These treatment are still being offered . However no accounting is made of the deaths. Only the occasional positive is counted. Expensive false hope results.

  • M Sweet

    What surprises me most is that a 13 year old child, convicted of taking the life another, can be tried as an adult. Can be expected to understand the choices and except responsibility for the choice. So why are the mental and decision making abilities of a 16 year old child spurned as being inadequate to make such a life altering choice?

  • Barbie Lee

    Alternative treatment works. The problem is there is a lot of quackery in the alternative treatment just as there are pharmacutical companies driving the teaching of your doctors and the billion dollars a year cancer treatments pour back into the medical field.

    I have more than two years and have over two thousand pages of research on the alternative and medical treatment of cancer.

    Cancer is an opportunistic disease. Every single cancer is an acid engine cell instead of an effecient anarobic engine cell.

    If you look up the chemo toxin Gemzar which is one of the toxins they pump into the cancer patient. It is a virtual death sentence. It clips the telurides off all DNA to stop the cells from replicating. It most certainly stops cancer from reproducing but it stops all cells from reproducing. The patient will die with in three months of being pumped full of Gemzar.

    The medical massages the numbers to make you think they are gaining on treating cancer. Actually they are losing a larger percentage of cancer patients to cancer than they did forty years ago.

    It’s a long sad story what your pharmacutical companies are doing to the public in order to pad the bottom line. I pray God has a special place for all those who are counting money over lives.

    You want the pants scared off you? Look up the true story about Laetril, Dr. Royal Raymond Rife, Hydrazine sulfate-Dr. Gold.

    Cancer is such a simple disease and so easily treated it isn’t funny. The bottom line is all cancers are acidic.

    Stay away from the quacks in the medical fields and the alternative medicine fields.

  • Phil

    I discussed this case earlier today with a friend, and we came up with the following hypothetical scenario:
    The parents of a young girl decide not to feed her, but instead decide to pray fervently that food will appear in her stomach. They sincerely believe that this will nourish her. After she dies, are the parents guilty of criminal negligence?
    A hardcore libertarian might argue that the state has no right to interfere in child-care decisions made by parents, and a bleeding-heart liberal might argue that the state must always step in when parents make unhealthy choices. I suspect most reasonable Americans fall somewhere in between.

    The relevant factors in both the hypothetical example and the Cherrix case are the age of the child, the sincerity of the parents’ beliefs, and the efficacy of the course of treatment (for hunger or cancer, respectively.)

    If the child is of legal age to make medical decisions, neither the parents nor the effectiveness of treatment matter. He or she should be free to make good or bad health decisions.

    If the parents are responsible for their child, but do not actually believe the treatment they are choosing will be effective, they may be committing fraud in an attempt to cover up negligent behavior.

    If the treatment is effective, then choosing an alternative method to cure hunger or cancer is indeed simply a medical decision, and not potential negligence.

    None of these factors can be identified readily, unless the state of Virginia has a clear legal definition of when the age of majority begins. Is it appropriate for a court to consider these factors in determining whether a medical decision is legal?

    If you believe it is not appropriate for a court to consider the effectiveness of the treatment, does it follow that you also believe parents may freely allow their ten-year-olds to treat lice by sticking red-hot pokers in their eyes?

  • VRB

    After bouts with chemotherapy and no results, when does it end. Chemotherapy is an acknowledged poison, one would hope it kills more cancer than healthy cells and to some the side effects feel worst than death. There can become a point where there are no healthy cells left. Are we going to force more torture? If the alternative treatment would do no harm, maybe the placebo effect would work. From watching children deal with cancer in documentaries, I amazed how mature they are when it comes to their disease and how they cope with death. I saw one child of 16 who had to make his medical decisions, because his parent had sort of checked out mentally.

  • Barbie Lee

    Kill lice by sticking red hot pokers in the eyes???
    Pray food may magicly appear in the belly of a young girl for nurishment???

    Your analogy to the problem facing the young man who has been ordered by the judge and the state, against his and his parents wishes, to undergo chemo toxin therapy eludes me.

    Look up the real numbers, not what the medical establishment is doctoring before they publish their success rates. More than sixty percent of those treated with chemotherapy never make it past the first series of treatments. Those numbers are discarded, “because they were going to die anyway”. Chemo toxins are regulated as hazardous waste. If a nurse spills any it must be reported and cleaned up as a toxic spill. More than fifty percent of the gynocologists said they would not take chemotherapy if they had cancer.

    Did you know radiation only has a ninety percent kill rate against cancer at best? And what is left will come back with a vengence.

    Who do you trust without question? Politicians? Lawyers? Auto Mechanics? Repairmen? Judges? Maybe you trust doctors without question?

    I have some ocean front property in Oklahoma I’ll sell. Even toss in the Brooklyn Bridge as a bonus. Send a million cash today to hold this great once in a lifetime offer. We can’t offer it tomorrow.

    Question everything and everyone. Believe no one until it has been proven. The truth is there, one only has to look hard enough past all the lies.

  • Phil

    “Look up the real numbers, not what the medical establishment is doctoring before they publish their success rates. More than sixty percent of those treated with chemotherapy never make it past the first series of treatments.”

    I would actually be very interested in reading the real numbers, and also in reading more about your statistic involving gynecologists. Can you cite a source for those statistics or refer me to where they’re available?

    As regards your criticism of my analogy, if the parents believe that food will magically appear in the belly of a young girl, who are we to question their beliefs? Who is the _government_ to question that belief?

  • Eric

    Do we allow children and parents to commit sucide by quackery?

    85% of Hodgkins patients are successfully treated with chemo.

    Indirect study of the Hoxley “method” reveal a 10% success rate.

    This means that he is more likley to DIE by choosing the quackery then not choosing any treatment at all. The Hoxley “method” may in fact be much lower as well. After 50 years of treating patients in Mexico they have not one published a true study of the effectiveness of his “cure”.

    Chemo may be poision, but it’s one of the only effective treatments we have. You can bash western medicine all you like, but you can’t argue with the effectiveness of it.

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  • Barbie Lee

    I don’t have time for this debate.
    Start with a few of these and research your data.
    The first one ought to scare the pants off yuh!

    Death by doctoring

    Cancer quotes

    Google Linus Pauling vitamin C
    and I have hundreds more.

    Get educated rather than following the rest of the pack. What you don’t know can kill yuh!

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