Parents Lose Custody Bid For Cancer-Stricken Daughter - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/16/05-CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas

Parents Lose Custody Bid For Cancer-Stricken Daughter

A judge ruled Thursday that the state will retain custody of a 13-year-old girl who was taken from her parents after they refused to continue her cancer treatments because they thought the cancer had been eliminated.

Katie Wernecke, who is suffering from Hodgkin's Disease, will remain with Child Protective Services indefinitely, juvenile court Judge Carl Lewis ruled. Katie, who has been in state custody since June 4, was scheduled to see doctors at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on Thursday.

The girl was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, a type of cancer involving the lymph nodes, in January after she was taken to an emergency room with what her parents thought was pneumonia. She received chemotherapy, and the cancer appeared to have gone away.

But doctors said the best course of treatment would be to follow the chemotherapy with radiation, and her parents refused. Edward Wernecke, Katie's father, said he feared the radiation would put Katie at a heightened risk for breast cancer, stunt her growth and cause learning problems.

Earlier this month, Child Protective Services officials took custody of Katie after doctors said the Werneckes were risking their daughter's life by refusing the radiation therapy. A scan last week revealed that the cancer had returned, and on Wednesday Katie's former doctor testified he thought its return was linked to the family's refusal to go forward with the radiation.

When state officials revealed the cancer had returned, attorneys for the Werneckes said it was never the family's intention to deny necessary medical treatment.

On Wednesday, Edward Wernecke told reporters he thought there had been a big misunderstanding. He said Dr. Nejemie Alter, who diagnosed Katie's illness and testified at the hearing, had led him to believe four rounds of chemotherapy were enough.

"After we finished with the four chemos, we thought that's all there was," he said.

The mother testified during the custody hearing Wednesday that she would follow doctors' recommendations for treatment.

"Right now I'd be on a plane, I'd be in my truck heading to M.D. Anderson (Cancer Center)," Michele Wernecke testified Wednesday at a custody hearing.


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