A Florida judge ruled that a 3-year-old boy with leukemia must begin receiving chemotherapy treatments despite the objections of his parents, who would prefer he be treated with CBD oil, alkaline water, and mushroom tea.
The child, Noah McAdams, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in April at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. His parents, Taylor Bland-Ball and Joshua McAdams, opted to go against his doctors' advice and pursue a homeopathic approach to the illness.
But Hillsborough County Judge Caroline Tesche Arkin ordered Wednesday that the child, who is currently in the custody of his grandparents, must receive proper medical care as part of the first phase of his chemotherapy treatment. (Under Florida law, a court can make medical decisions for a minor if they are deemed to be a victim of "medical neglect.")
The parents' lawyer, Michael Minardi, confirmed to BuzzFeed News in an email that the judge had ordered them to “continue with the first phase of chemotherapy.”
But Minardi said that the child will also be able to “use alternative treatments” during this phase of chemotherapy, including medical cannabis.
“It could have been worse,” McAdams, the child’s father, said after the ruling, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Right now, the parents and their attorney are working on appealing the decision.
Minardi told BuzzFeed News that “the court will make a determination of phases two and three of the chemo at a later date,” adding that the McAdams and Bland-Ball were “not happy with the requirement that the child undergo chemotherapy.”
McAdams and Bland-Ball initially agreed to the hospital’s treatment plan for their son, but after nearly two weeks at the facility they decided to seek a second opinion.
“The hospital's governing body was disorganized and the doctors were not pleasant or professional to us,” McAdams said during his testimony. “It seemed like doctors were disappearing on us and just passing down Noah's information secondhand.”
Noah underwent a total of two rounds of chemotherapy, according to McAdams and Bland-Ball, who said his blood tests showed no signs of the cancer.
This prompted the parents to use homeopathic remedies, including CBD oil, alkaline water, mushroom tea, and more, to help with Noah’s condition.
When Noah’s parents failed to take him to a third scheduled chemotherapy appointment, authorities were notified.
Hillsborough County police issued an alert on Facebook for a child “who is believed to be missing and endangered.”
The boy was later found in Kentucky, and both McAdams and Bland-Ball were accused of possible child neglect.
Lymphoblastic leukemia, commonly diagnosed in children, has a 90% cure rate for patients who follow the common treatment plan of up to two and a half years of chemotherapy.
But as Dr. Bijal Shah of the Moffitt Cancer Center told BuzzFeed News, “It’s going to be almost universal that the leukemia will come back” if treatment is stopped early. Shah also said that just because leukemia becomes undetectable, that doesn’t mean that it is cured.
Shah also cast doubt on the parents’ alternative approach to treatment, saying, “I’ve seen [patients] try to do vitamin C therapy, silver therapy, marijuana, stem cell therapy in Mexico, blue-green algae, sugar-free diets — you name it.”
"This has never worked for my patients," he said.
The parents have used Facebook as a way of providing updates on the court proceedings.
On Tuesday, Bland-Ball talked about Noah’s mental health and said he’s been tremendously affected by the 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.”
In the same video, Bland-Ball said that she and McAdams weren’t denying treatment; they were instead “looking for a better treatment that has less side effects and less issues.”
The next court proceedings are scheduled for early June.