KATIE VS GOLIATH
CPS and Medical Profession
In Battle of Teenager’s Consent
After gaining national attention during June, the airwaves have been fairly quiet for the past two months regarding the fate of Katie Wernecke. And with all the attention given to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath this week a victory for Katie and the family may not have received the attention it deserves…
While most of the nation has been focused for the past week on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, a thirteen year old cancer patient quietly and confidently has brought the Texas social services industry and the medical profession to its knees in Houston.
But M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center has bowed its knee to the will of this teenage cancer patient. She has refused to give consent to further high dosage chemotherapy and radiation, has been vocal about it and M.D. Anderson has complied. In the courtroom yesterday, CPS admitted this may never have happened before and they are powerless to force treatment unless Katie changes her mind.
Yesterday the drama unfolded further in a Nueces County courtroom in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Today TCFR sent out the following press release:
Katie Wernecke, the girl removed by CPS from her parents custody on June 4th, last week refused to consent to further life-threatening high dosages of chemotherapy and radiation that M.D. Anderson doctors prescribed and CPS endorsed. Subsequently, M.D. Anderson prudently brought the treatment to a grinding halt.
Peter Johnston, President for Texas Center for Family Rights, asserted, “This is a victory for Katie, for her parents and the bioethical integrity of the medical community. As a thirteen year old, Katie could choose to have an abortion with the consent of her parents. Certainly she should be heard regarding potentially lethal doses of chemotherapy being inflicted upon her.”
Last week Katie appealed in a letter to her attorney ad litem that she did not want that specific treatment and she wanted to go home. According to her parents, doctors had told Katie and her parents that one in ten patients dies from that type of treatment. It can also cause her to be sterile as well as other problems to vital organs.
Yesterday in the courtroom Assistant County Attorney Thomas Stuckey, representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services declared to the court, "She is deliberately and intentionally sabotaging her own treatment. Mr. Wernecke has convinced his daughter that the therapy will kill her." CPS had already taken away her personal cell phone and yesterday advocated cutting off all communication with the parents.
Additionally CPS considered the option of sedating Katie to force her compliance.
CPS offered a different face for the media following the hearing outside the courtroom. Aaron Reed, CPS spokesman for the South Texas region stated that CPS was interested in open communication and dialogue among all the parties in order to do what was best for Katie.
Johnston confronted the two faces of CPS. “Their multiple representations are pure hypocrisy. Before the judge they want to cut off all communication between the parents and Katie. Before the public they are doing everything to keep communication open. Who can trust the words of CPS?”
Yesterday Katie’s attorney ad litem, Linda Schauer, boldly explained to the court that Katie wanted to come home, that she did not want more high dosage treatment and that she wanted communication with her parents.
The attorney for Katie’s parents, Daniel Horne, reported that they finally received a complete record of medical documents last Friday and could have an independent medical opinion on them by this Friday.
After speaking by phone privately with Katie, Judge Carl Lewis told CPS to keep all communication open between Katie and her parents. He also delayed any further ruling on Katie until a hearing scheduled this Friday afternoon so that the results of the independent evaluation could be considered.
Peter Johnston confirmed the importance of an independent evaluation. “Too often the professionals consulted by CPS are directly on their payroll or indirectly funded through the CPS industry and state or federal funding. Such has been the case throughout this ordeal up to this point. This ruling gives the Werneckes the opportunity for a truly independent evaluation.”
“CPS paints the Werneckes as parents who neglect their child. In fact they want what is best both short term and long term for Katie. The medical profession is not of one mind on how to treat a young girl for Hodgkin’s Disease. Such a decision should rest with the family, not the state.”
Dr. Bernadine Healey wrote in her “On Health” Column in the June 27, 2005 edition of U.S. News and World Report, “Standard-care regimens are not rigid directives chiseled in stone. They are evidence-based guidelines with some give. In Katie's case, the state mistakenly believed that the immediate radiation ordered by her doctor was a government-sanctioned and required treatment, part of the complete standard of care needed for her survival….Most pediatric oncologists would beg to differ.”
She added. “Toxicity concerns about radiation are real and counter some of its benefits. Long term, there is a threefold increase in fatal heart attacks and a 25 percent chance of having breast cancer or another malignancy in 25 years, rising 1 percentage point each year. Patients are pretty good at weighing these trade-offs.”
Johnston concluded, “Katie has taken a mature and bold step to confront this whole system. She and her ad litem are to be commended for clearly stating her position. In this battle Katie struck the soft underbelly of the CPS system with her 13 year old voice refusing consent. The M.D. Anderson staff and Judge Lewis are also to be commended for listening.”
It should be noted that the judge will be in contact with Katie and has indicated that he will take into consideration the independent evaluation if it is completed by Friday. If there is no further differing evaluation he will encourage Katie to consent to the M.D. Anderson plan.
Throughout this time some individuals have asked us what they could do on behalf of Katie.
1. I believe her parents would appreciate your prayers for Katie and for them, especially this week in light of the independent evaluation and Katie’s decisions.
2. Secondly Compassion Children Foundation has set up a Medical and Legal Defense Fund for contributions to this cause. Contributions can be made through their website by clicking here.
3. Letters to Governor Perry, Senator Nelson and Representative Hupp are encouraged to encourage them to advocate on behalf of Katie and her family.
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Senator Jane Nelson, Chair
Senate Committee on Health and Human Services
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
Representative Suzanna Hupp, Chair
House Committee on Human Services
Capitol Office Room EXT E1.414
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, TX 78768
Thank you for your concern for Katie and her parents.
Peter H. Johnston, J.D.