Child removed from parentswho disagreed with doctor
2 April 2004, MUENSTER - In a landmark case, an appeals court in Germany is expected to rule in coming days on whether to return a terminally ill child to his parents - who have vowed not to continue his chemotherapy.
2 April 2004
MUENSTER - In a landmark case, an appeals court in Germany is expected to rule in coming days on whether to return a terminally ill child to his parents - who have vowed not to continue his chemotherapy.
The volatile case, pitting a noted oncologist against a high- profile alternative medicine guru, is being played out against the backdrop of chanting protesters and tearful appeals before TV cameras.
At the centre of it all is Dominik Feld, a tousle-haired 8-year- old boy with a big grin and a cheerful voice that belie the agony of rapidly spreading cancer.
His parents, Josef and Anke Feld from Siegen in central Germany, were stripped of custody for Dominik by a court order after they refused to continue chemotherapy treatments and baulked at a leg amputation.
The other players in this high-stakes drama are Muenster University Hospital cancer specialist Heribert Juergens and alternative medicine practitioner Matthias Rath.
Dr Juergens insists that the osteo sarcoma, or bone cancer, in Dominik's right leg is far too advanced to merit treatment. The leg must be sacrificed to safe the boy's life. In addition, the cancer has metasticized in his lungs, requiring heavy doses of chemotherapy.
But Rath, saying cancer is curable by natural means, insists that Dominik will one day be cancer-free if his parents go ahead with a regimen of mega-doses of vitamins.
"We only want to do what is right for our son," father Josef Feld told SWR television during one of several impromptu news conferences that have marked this highly unusual case in recent months.
"We feel so helpless now that the authorities have taken Dominik from us," mother Anke said through tears.
"He was doing better after we took him off chemo and put him on Dr Rath's cellular therapy programme. And now we hear he's doing worse again in hospital, where they are preparing to remove his leg, despite the fact that another specialist told us it was unnecessary."
The way the Felds tell it, they got a second opinion after Juergens recommended amputation and were advised that cancerous tissues could be removed from the bone marrow without having to resort to amputation.
They opted for that course of action and, while they were at it, they also decided to stop Dominik's chemotherapy, which they felt was only making him weaker and sicker. They put him on Rath's mega-dosage vitamin programme.
Alarmed by what he considered an irresponsible move, Juergens alerted authorities who obtained a court order to remove Dominik from his parents' custody.
That unleashed an ugly fight in the media which has seen protesters stage rallies outside the court house and which has resulted in serious charges being filed in court.
Accusing Juergens of being a "drug industry lackey", Rath launched a "Save Dominik" campaign which has drawn thousands of letters of support from as far away as Australia and America.
Rath also accused Juergens of attempted manslaughter.
Juergens, meanwhile, got a court restraining order barring Rath from calling him a "drug industry lackey" in the media or on his Internet website.
Rath continues to maintain that, while under his care, Dominik's condition improved.
"The X-ray CT images of Dominik's lungs speak for themselves," he told SWR television. "The lung metastases present one year ago have completely vanished. It is, therefore, clear that cancer is curable @ by natural means."
Juergens dismisses those claims as misguided wishful thinking at best.
"The truth of the matter is that a patient appears to be doing better for a time during which the cancer is in fact spreading but when symptoms appear to have ameliorated somewhat," he told a television interviewer.
"But that does not change the longterm prognosis nor does it mean that therapy ought to be set aside," he said.
Rath took his Save Dominik campaign on the road this spring with a lecture tour series throughout Europe. At one such event in Muenster 1,000 persons showed up for a personal appearance by Dominik, who read out a prepared statement claiming he was on the mend.
That was just before he was removed from his parents' care.
Now Dominik's parents say they are in a race against time. "Our son's life is at stake," Anke Feld said. "We only want what is best for him."
Subject: German news