Case of Texas Girl With Cancer Gets Review

Wednesday, September 7th 2005, 10:08 am
By: News On 6

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ Two independent doctors who specialize in Hodgkin's disease will review the medical records of a 13-year-old girl at the center of a battle over her cancer treatment.

Juvenile Court Judge Carl Lewis agreed to the review Tuesday in a hearing on the custody of Katie Wernecke, who has been in the care of state Child Protective Services since June.

Under the agreement, if the doctors say high-dose chemotherapy followed by radiation is needed, the family will withdraw their objections.

The hearing was continued until Friday to allow the doctors time to review the medical records obtained by the family. The specialists agreed to offer opinions on the course of treatment by then.

Attorney Thomas Stuckey, representing CPS, told Lewis earlier that Katie had been refusing medical care by pulling out catheters and refusing to follow medical directions.

``This is very serious,'' Stuckey said. ``If she does not have this treatment she will die.''

Linda Rhodes-Schauer, an attorney representing Katie, said the teen wanted to stop treatment and be returned to her family. Rhodes-Schauer said Katie's father had told her that one in 10 patients does not survive high-dose chemotherapy.

``I'm here telling you, judge, she wants to go home,'' Rhodes-Schauer said.

Lewis ordered Katie into state custody in June after doctors and social workers said the Werneckes were endangering their daughter's life by refusing radiation treatment for Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system.

The Werneckes believed chemotherapy had killed the tumor in her chest and they felt radiation treatment would do more harm than good. But at a hearing in June, doctors presented medical scans showing that the cancer had returned.

Lewis ruled then that Katie would remain in CPS custody as she underwent further cancer treatment.

Stuckey blamed Katie's defiance on her father, Ed Wernecke, and asked Lewis on Tuesday to cut off all communication between the girl and her family. Lewis said he was not inclined to do so.

Lewis talked to the girl by phone Tuesday from his chambers.

``She expressed that she just wanted everything explained to her,'' he said. ``She's a little afraid and that's a lot to handle.''