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Teen who believed her cancer was cured by ‘miracle from God’ ordered by NSW court to continue chemotherapy

Judge found girl had ability to refuse treatment, but ‘sanctity of life’ was also a consideration

A teenage girl who believed she had been cured of cancer because of a “healing miracle from God” has been ordered by a New South Wales supreme court judge to continue chemotherapy treatment.

The girl was 16 when she was diagnosed with a form of cancer in the bone last year.

She started chemotherapy treatment the next month and when an MRI scan was undertaken some months later, the cancer could no longer be seen, according to a NSW supreme court decision published last week.

According to the decision, her treating doctor said that despite the scan not showing cancer, the girl certainly was not cured, that there was “100% likelihood” of the tumour progressing over the next several months to two years.

He described the cancer as highly malignant and aggressive, and said that when this regrowth occurred the tumour would probably be resistant to further treatment, and he predicted that she would die as her disease would be incurable.

But the court heard the girl, whose identity is suppressed and is known by the acronym AC, resisted further treatment because of her Christian beliefs. Her parents supported her decision.

“When the scans came back clear, I remember the doctors telling me they were not expecting not to be able to see it on the scans,” the girl said, according to evidence presented to the court.

“I know it might be hard for other people to understand, but in my mind, the only way to explain these results was that they were in answer to our prayers and a complete healing miracle from God.

“I do not want to continue with chemotherapy because I believe I no longer have cancer due to the miracle that has taken place … I believe that God has healed me. I don’t require any further treatment.”

The girl’s treating hospital commenced legal action in a bid to have the court find that she had the ability to refuse treatment, despite her age, or to order her to continue chemotherapy.

Judge Michael Meek said there was evidence before him that the girl believed if the cancer returned “it would represent God’s will, and her belief of death is that she would be returned to Jesus, her ‘lord and saviour’, and she would have ‘eternal life in heaven’.”

“The fact that AC describes herself as a Christian having a personal relationship with Jesus, has prayed (and no doubt continues to pray) about her circumstances, accepts God’s will and believes in eternal life with God is, in light of what I have briefly outlined above, entirely conventional within the Christian faith,” Meek said.

Meek found the girl did have ability to make a decision about refusing treatment, but that he had nevertheless considered that he should make a court order authorising it to continue.

“Events bearing upon the inestimable sanctity of life and its intersection with faith beliefs tend to give rise to some of the most palpable forensic debates and challenging legal decisions,” he said.

“The sanctity of life is an important consideration to be not merely accorded respect but appropriately weighed, as is the medical evidence, AC’s religious beliefs, AC’s autonomy of decision-making, and her right to bodily integrity.”

The court heard the teenager had another scan booked at the end of February.

In her affidavit, AC said if ordered to resume treatment “I wouldn’t be happy about it but I know … I would have to do it”.

She also said if scans showed the cancer had grown back “I’d most likely start treatment again”.

The hospital treating the girl, and the name of her treating doctor, were also suppressed by the court.

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