12-year-old cancer victim taken into care after parents block treatment on religious grounds

State Child Protective Services in Texas are going to court on June 15 to try to get custody of a 12-year-old girl suffering from advanced Hodgkin's disease.

According to Doctors at Driscoll Children's Hospital, Katie Wernecke needs continued chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat her condition, but her father, Edward Wernecke is refusing to allow this.

Wernecke and his wife, Michele, don't want the treatments to continue at Driscoll because of religious beliefs that oppose blood transfusions unless they are from Katie's mother.

Doctors at the hospital say that Katie's mother is not a match. He also has concerns that more treatment will have harmful long-term effects on his daughter and wants a second opinion from another hospital.

Robert Rosetti, program director over investigations at the CPS Nueces County office, says doctors from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston would provide consultation before the girl receives the radiation treatment.

He says that when parents' religious beliefs conflict with medical recommendations, CPS will honor the religious beliefs if they are a "consistent" tradition within a known denomination, but not when it is an individual interpretation.

He considers the Werneckes are being "medically neglectful."

Edward Wernecke is a member of the Church of God, and at the court hearing the question of church doctrine is one of several matters to be considered.

An anonymous tipoff alerted CPS caseworkers about the Wernecke case, and they after they interviewed doctors, an Amber Alert was issued for the girl after CPS tried to gain custody of her on Thursday and Friday.

The local County sheriff's officers found the girl and her mother at a family ranch near Freer on Saturday, and she is now with a nurse, while the Wernecke's three sons have been placed in a foster home.

The mother Michele Wernecke was arrested on charges of interfering with child custody and was released Monday after posting $50,000 bond.

Commenting on the case Dr. Judith Mullins, a pediatric oncologist at Driscoll, said chemotherapy and radiation do pose long-term health effects, but said halting treatment prematurely leads to a greater risk of death.

Officials are prohibited from discussing Katie's treatment because of health privacy laws.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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