Boy back on chemotherapy after trying alternative method

CANTON, Ohio (AP) - A couple who won court approval to treat their son's leukemia with an unconventional method have put him back on chemotherapy after the blood cancer returned.
A Stark County judge in November gave Theresa and Greg Maxin the right to abandon 7-year-old Noah's chemotherapy regimen at Children's Hospital Medical Center of Akron.
Judge David Stucki ruled that the Canton Township parents were free to choose their son's care in a case believed to be the first of its kind in Ohio.
Four months later, Noah's leukemia came back. He has been undergoing treatment at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital since March.
The Maxins said they were reluctant to talk publicly about Noah's recurrence.
"My hesitancy is everyone looking at us and saying, 'I told you so,'" Mrs. Maxin said.
The Maxins had faith that a healthful diet alone would keep Noah's leukemia from returning. They feared the potential harmful side effects of chemotherapy.
After researching alternative treatments, they found a doctor 130 miles away who specializes in holistic medicine. The doctor recommended a diet free of sugars and dairy, along with supplements to boost Noah's immune system.
"We did everything we could to get him healthy again in the least toxic way," Noah's father said. "The premise all along has been the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children."
Child-welfare officials in Stark County accused the couple of neglect after the Maxins told the Akron hospital they were pulling Noah out after three months of chemotherapy.
Stucki ruled that chemotherapy does not ensure survival. Critics of the ruling say that the 3½-year chemotherapy regimen for Noah's illness cures more than 80 percent of children.
Noah has acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common type of childhood leukemia. He is in remission again, Greg Maxin said.
Dr. Eric Kodish, a cancer specialist and head of pediatric ethics at Rainbow, who criticized Stucki's decision, would not comment on Noah's relapse, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The Maxins said all along they would return Noah to chemotherapy if the leukemia came back. But experts say his chance of survival diminishes because cancer cells that survived the initial chemotherapy become more resistant to the drugs.
Noah clowned and chattered continuously as his parents explained their beliefs.
"We need to be our own advocates for health," Greg Maxin said, adding that medical convention is sometimes wrong. "We're not fringe or anything. A lot of people are doing this."
Stucki, the Stark County judge, said Noah's recurrence is not cause to second-guess.
"I'm very sad to hear that," he said Thursday after being told that Noah's leukemia returned. He said his ruling was on a narrow point of law. He could not find that parents pursuing alternative treatment under a doctor's care were neglectful.
"My decision was never about what medical treatment I thought was best," he said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)