A 13-year-old boy with cancer who fled Minnesota last month to avoid chemotherapy must continue getting the treatment because it appears to be working, a judge ruled Tuesday.
The ruling came as court documents showed that Daniel Hauser's tumor had shrunk significantly after a recent round of chemotherapy.
Daniel's parents are still concerned about the risks of chemotherapy, which they initially had rejected for religious reasons, saying it harms the body. But they told Brown County Judge John Rodenberg that they would take Daniel to a chemo appointment on Wednesday while carrying out his treatment one step at a time.
Rodenberg told Colleen and Anthony Hauser they can keep looking for other ways to treat their son's Hodgkin's lymphoma. Daniel was at the courthouse during the hearing but was not in the courtroom.
"If at the end of the day Daniel lives through this, I am not going to care ... what cures him," the judge said. "I want Daniel to be well, and I know you do too."
Rodenberg ruled that the boy from Sleepy Eye is still in need of child protection services, agreeing with Brown County prosecutor James Olson that the case should stay in court.
Olson pointed out that the family has resisted chemotherapy in the past, noting that Colleen fled with Daniel to California rather than showing up at a court hearing on the matter.
"History has shown they're not going to comply unless they have some sort of hammer hanging over their head," he said.
The Hausers' attorney, Barbara Gislason, said the family's promise to take Daniel to his chemo appointment does not mean they believe in the treatment. They are still looking for alternatives, she said.
"When you're a parent dealing with a life and death situation for your kid, you want everything done perfectly, because if everything isn't done perfectly, your kid can die. And one of the ways your kid can die is toxicity from chemotherapy," Gislason said.
Besides a smaller tumor, doctors said in court documents that some of Daniel's symptoms have improved after the chemotherapy. He was breathing better and sleeping well, and his cough has improved, they said. But the doctors said the boy has a poor appetite and has been fatigued and nauseated.
"As (h)is tumor is responding and not resistant to chemotherapy, I still believe he has an excellent chance of cure," Dr. Bruce Bostrom, an oncologist at Children's Hospitals and Clinics, said in court documents.
Daniel's court-appointed attorney, Phil Elbert, said Daniel has seen the most recent X-rays of his tumor, which show that the tumor is a white, see-through mass. Previous X-rays had shown a dense, black mass.
Elbert said Daniel will continue chemotherapy if he has to, even though he doesn't want to.
He said Daniel is feeling worse today than he was before the court ordered him to undergo chemotherapy. Elbert also said Daniel sought treatment from an acupuncturist once and has had massage, which helps him feel better.
In an affidavit, Colleen Hauser said she seeks the court's forgiveness for fleeing with her son and thanks the judge for allowing Daniel to stay with the family after the two returned from California.
"It is so important to Danny that he be surrounded by his family," the affidavit read.