To most parents, the question of whether the government should intervene to dictate how a child should be raised is an easy one. Parents, not the court system, should decide what is best for their children -- in the absence, of course, of abuse or neglect. But does that change when a child's life is on the line?
That is the difficult question facing a court of appeals in Ohio regarding Sarah Hershberger. What are the constitutional rights of parents to make life-or-death medical decisions for their child? What if the decision the parents make flies in the face of conventional medicine and, according to traditional doctors, means the child will die in less than a year?
Sarah Hershberger is the eleven-year-old daughter of Andy and Anna Hershberger, who are Amish. The family lives in an Amish community near a small town outside of Cleveland. At least, they did until recently. Because the Ohio court system appointed a guardian over Sarah -- for the sole purpose of making medical decisions for her -- the Hershbergers fled this past October and went into hiding. Their five other children remain behind, apart from Sarah and their parents.