A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that three-year-old Noah McAdams, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in April, must complete the first phase of chemotherapy treatment against the wishes of his parents.
His parents, Taylor Bland-Ball and Joshua McAdams, had asked the court to allow them to forego chemotherapy in favour of alternative remedies, such as medical cannabis, vitamins and diet treatments. The judge has permitted Bland-Ball and McAdams to continue with alternative treatment methods alongside chemotherapy.
Under Florida law, a court can make medical decisions for a minor if they are deemed to be a victim of medical neglect.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Caroline Tesche Arkin ruled Wednesday that Noah McAdams must immediately resume the first phase of chemotherapy to treat his leukemia.
Noah was originally prescribed three phases of chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with ALL on April 4.
When his parents failed to show up for a scheduled chemotherapy appointment, Florida authorities issued an endangered child alert. The family was tracked down in Kentucky and the boy was returned to Tampa.
The judge will decide whether the boy must continue with the next two phases of treatment after bone marrow testing is completed. The family’s attorney Mike Minardi told CNN that the first phase of Noah’s treatment was expected to resume on May 9.
“We’re just happy the child gets to use alternative treatment, at a minimum to combat side effects of chemotherapy and at a maximum help cure the leukemia in his body,” Minardi told CNN.
Noah is currently in the custody of his maternal grandparents.
In a Facebook video posted by Bland-Ball and McAdams, they told viewers that their son has been traumatized by this experience.
“We saw him yesterday. He was pale, terrified, wouldn’t even speak, wouldn’t even walk,” she said. “And he’s just absolutely traumatized anytime a doctor gets near him,” said the boy’s mother.
The parents also said in the video that they didn’t view their actions as denying treatment, but rather, “looking for a better treatment that has less side effects and less issues.”
According to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, 90 per cent of lymphoblastic leukemia patients can be cured, and 98 per cent of children diagnosed with the disease will go into remission within weeks after starting treatment.
The research hospital also states that ALL is the most common type of childhood cancer and occurs most often in children aged three to five.
Patients refusing chemotherapy and other proven cancer treatments has been a problem in Canada as well. In 2014, 11-year-old Makayla Sault was diagnosed with the same form of leukemia as Noah. She passed away in 2015 after ceasing chemotherapy treatments.
WATCH: When people refuse cancer treatments (2015)
After a year of treatment, Makayla made the decision to cease chemotherapy treatments in favour of Indigenous medicine after experiencing a number of harmful side effects. She had been receiving treatment at the McMaster Children’s Hospital, where she eventually decided to stop treatments.
McMaster Children’s Hospital contacted authorities to force the girl to resume her treatment, but an Ontario Court decision in the case of another First Nations girl who also refused chemo ruled that Indigenous parents are constitutionally protected in choosing traditional treatments for their children.
In 2015 Global News special report, Dr. Samir Gupta wrote that while patients refuse treatments all the time, they must be able to understand the consequences of that choice. When a minor refuses treatment or is denied treatment by their parents, the situation becomes more complicated. While parents ultimately have the right to make decisions in their child’s best interests, society also has a responsibility to protect children when their parents are being negligent, Gupta writes.
Follow-up court hearings in the case of Noah McAdams are scheduled for June 4 and June 5.
— With a file from Andrew Russell.