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THE NATION

Utah Boy to Stay With Parents

The state ends effort to get custody of Parker Jensen and force him into chemotherapy. Family's resistance to intervention is cited.

September 30, 2003|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The state abandoned its efforts Monday to get custody of 12-year-old Parker Jensen and force him to undergo chemotherapy, citing his family's fierce resistance to government intervention in his medical care.

The Jensen family's repeated rejections of the treatment -- recommended by at least four doctors after the boy had a cancerous tumor diagnosed as Ewing's sarcoma removed from his mouth -- makes forced custody and treatment ineffective because chemotherapy needs a supportive patient to work, said Carol Sisco, a spokeswoman for the Division of Child & Family Services.

The state's Office of the Guardian ad Litem, whose attorneys were appointed to act as Parker's guardians in the custody dispute, also said they were backing off.

Both agencies said Monday that the only way Parker could get the treatment would be if he were removed from his parents' custody for the entire 11 months of recommended chemotherapy -- adding emotional trauma to the physical demands of the treatment.

"My client's been placed in a position where it's almost untenable for him to get medical treatment," said Mollie McDonald, an attorney with the Office of the Guardian ad Litem.

"I also think his mind has been affected by his parents' statements about chemotherapy, that I don't know, psychologically, he'd be accepting of chemotherapy as a form of treatment."

Still, Parker's life "is on the line if he does not receive the treatment," McDonald said.

Phone messages left with a family spokesman seeking comment were not returned.

Daren and Barbara Jensen twice agreed in court to follow doctors' recommended treatments, but refused each time -- most recently last week -- after an oncologist advised chemotherapy. They fear the treatment will stunt the boy's growth and leave him sterile.

Monday's move by the Division of Child & Family Services has the blessing of Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff.

"They agreed in court that they would follow the doctor's recommendations. They've now said they won't do that. So what can we do?" Sisco asked. "Do we take him in custody and force him into chemotherapy? We just don't think that will work."

The Jensens, who want to pursue alternative treatments for Parker, fled Utah in August after the state ordered them to turn the boy over to its custody to receive chemotherapy. They were charged with kidnapping, but they later returned to the state and surrendered.

Those charges are pending. The couple were released on their own recognizance after they surrendered.

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