The fight for Sarah Parisian against cancer and the law

How a little girl and her parents are fighting a medical system wherein standards of care outweigh individual human considerations. Photo: Parisian family (Facebook)

SALEM, Or., August 9, 2012 — After eight-year-old Sarah Parisian finished her last radiation session at a Chicago hospital, she and her mother returned home to Minnesota.

Surgery had removed 90 percent of a brain tumor, and proton radiation therapy had destroyed all detectable traces of the rest, but the oncologist demanded that she undergo further rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. Her parents objected, so the oncologist turned them in to Child Protective Services for questioning her recommendations. After speaking to several attorneys, they concluded they had no choice but to force Sarah to undergo the therapy. During chemo, Sarah became violently ill and began having seizures, swallowing problems, and other complications. But after she lost her hair and got over the chemotherapy sickness, they thought their ordeal was over. Not so.

The check-up at the oncologist’s office was bad news. No, the cancer hadn’t returned. Instead the oncologist demanded 12 months (7 sessions) of maintenance chemotherapy with several powerful agents. When Sarah’s mother expressed concern about more of this therapy and questioned it, Child Protective Services was again summoned, and a mother’s horror at seeing her sick child and her older sister taken away to foster homes while Sarah was forced to do more chemotherapy was becoming reality.

“Has the cancer come back? What is the need for continued chemo when we’ve already done several months of chemo and radiation on our child who was ‘cancer free’ according to the MRI and cerebral spinal fluid tap?”

The cancer has not come back; but the answers are startling. The oncologist was following protocol, a protocol that anticipated the seriousness of medulloblastoma and its likelihood of return while ignoring alternative therapies the family also pursued.

Standard Medical Care

“Should we fight or should we just give in?” These thoughts and others like them raced through the Parisians’ minds.

Sarah and her parents went to trial on July 30, 2012 to fight for parental rights against a system that believes parents are negligent if they want to do anything other than “standard medical care.” It was a short trial that produced a compromise. Sarah’s parents had to agree to a third doctor’s evaluation and recommendation. It seemed fair: Let an independent, integrative medical doctor evaluate Sarah and her parents would agree to follow his recommendations. Dr. Kevin Conners of the Upper Room Wellness Center was chosen by the parents and understood their plight. 

The judge entered the courtroom. CPS stood by waiting for a ruling of negligence. The prosecuting attorney recited into court records that Sarah’s parents agreed to the care recommended by the integrative physician, and that chemo would begin next week.

The treatment decided on by Conners and the oncologist was a modified version of the standard treatment. Conners commented, “Do what’s best for the patient. Let’s take her case as an individual case and not try to fit her into what is standard protocol, and look at her as an individual, what she can tolerate, what other therapies added to a traditional approach [are] going to be best for her.” He noted that under the compromise Sarah will still receive standard chemotherapy, but modified so that “it’s going to include a dose that will not send her tipping over the edge.”

This wasn’t the precise outcome Sarah’s parents hoped for, but on top of her frustration at being forced by the court to allow others to decide what’s best for her daughter, Sarah’s mother expressed satisfaction that the treatment was modified to take her daughter’s best interests into account.

Compromise was reached in this case, but it is worth observing that the pressure to follow standards of care outweighs the desire to consider what another person perceives is right.

Before you follow standard protocols for cancer treatment, there are a number of issues to observe and think about. Here are three major points to consider:

1. According to a study published in the journal Clinical Oncology, “A 5 year study of survival rates in adult malignancies found the following results: The overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and 2.1% in the USA. Conclusion: … . It is clear that cytotoxic chemotherapy only makes a minor contribution to cancer survival. To justify the continued funding and availability of drugs used in cytotoxic chemotherapy, a rigorous evaluation of the cost-effectiveness and impact on quality of life is urgently required.”

2. In 1990, the highly respected German epidemiologist, Dr. Ulrich Abel from the Tumor Clinic of the University of Heidelberg, conducted the most comprehensive metastudy on chemotherapy drugs ever done. Abel contacted 350 medical centers and asked them to send him anything they had ever published on chemotherapy. He also reviewed and analyzed thousands of scientific articles published in the most prestigious medical journals.

It took Abel several years to collect and evaluate the data. Abel’s epidemiological study, which was published on August 10, 1991 in the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, should have alerted every doctor and cancer patient about the risks of one of the most common treatments used for cancer and other diseases.

In his paper, Abel came to the conclusion that the overall success rate of chemotherapy was “appalling.” According to this report, there was no scientific evidence available in any existing study to show that chemotherapy can “extend in any appreciable way the lives of patients suffering from the most common organic cancers.”

Abel points out that chemotherapy rarely improves the quality of life. He describes chemotherapy as “a scientific wasteland” and states that even though there is no scientific evidence that chemotherapy works, neither doctor nor patient is willing to give up on it. The mainstream media has never reported on this hugely important study. A recent search turned up exactly zero reviews of Abel’s work in American journals, even though it was published in 1990.

3. The latest published figures from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute state that approximately 30 percent of all cancer patients survive 5 years, which is considered a cure. This means that about 70 percent die. This is essentially unchanged from 1971, when the so-called “War on Cancer” started under President Nixon, in spite of all of the so called “improvements” in chemotherapies, radiation and surgical techniques.

Alternative Health Care

There are alternative approaches to cancer treatment available. Many address prevention and the elimination of cancer, not just the remission or a prescription for cancer. These approaches are not deemed standard medical care and are not part of the standard medical treatment of people with cancer.

The integrative physician, Dr. Conners, who helped them at their trial had provided Sarah with integrated cancer therapies and nutritional protocols to help her initial recovery, prior to the court’s intervention. She still receives help from him and these natural approaches.

Because of the enormity of this experience, Dr. Conners, along with a dedicated team, have founded HopeForSarah. This organization has the goal to raise over $1 million per year to directly support people who wish to use alternative methods for dealing with critical health issues by offering grants and other support.

Here is the rub and the escalating problem this country’s citizens are facing. According to Marcia Angell, MD, former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine, “Over the past two decades the pharmaceutical industry has moved very far from its original height purpose of discovering and producing useful new drugs. Now primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit, as industry uses its wealth and power to co-opt every institution that might stand in its way, including the US Congress, the FDA, academic medical centers, and the medical profession itself.” .

Sarah starts chemotherapy once again on Monday, August 13, 2012

Should parents have the right to choose what type of health care they wish for their children?


Dr. Peter Lind practices metabolic and neurologic chiropractic in his wellness clinic in Salem, Oregon. USA. He is the author of 3 books on health, one novel, and hundreds of wellness articles. His clinical specialty is in physical, nutritional, and emotional stress.

For more of his stress tips go to StressHedge

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Peter Lind

Dr. Peter Lind has written five books about healthy lifestyle and specifically subjects such as food, diet, nutrition, exercise, and stress. He has written one thriller about agriculture genetic engineering that has been written into a screenplay. 

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