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Utah's Division of Child and Family Services once tried to force the parents of a boy named Parker Jensen to have him undergo chemotherapy for Ewing Sarcoma. That polarizing, highly publicized case began more than five years ago and has continued since then in the courts.
Yesterday a federal court threw out a lawsuit from the parents of Parker Jensen, but the boy's family says the battle is far from over.
The federal court has simply thrown the lawsuit back into the state's lap. It now becomes a dual litigation battle. One involves an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals; the second, a potential jury trial in the state court.
The Jensens have long contended their son Parker, who's still cancer free, never needed chemotherapy in the first place. When they refused the standard protocol for treatment, the state came after them with charges of medical neglect.
Daren Jensen, Parker's father, said, "You have to be on the same page working together for a common cause, and any ulterior motive - if it take you outside of that objective - could be detrimental to the relationship."
Ulterior motive? Was Dr. Lars Wagner, who was then advising the Jensens, rushing to get Parker into a clinical trial for a new chemotherapy treatment? The lawsuit says, "Under the protocol, if Parker Jensen was going to be enrolled, it had to be within 30 days of the diagnostic biopsy. According to Wagner's expert, there would have been no flexibility with that deadline."
Attorney Roger Christensen said, "There would be very few opportunities to get a Ewing Sarcoma patient in Utah in this trial. There are only a few of those cases a year."
The lawsuit further contends the clinical trial protocol was never disclosed to the Jensens nor to the other players who later got involved in the legal battle.
There are other allegations as well, challenging the state for pursuing the Jensens without doing its own investigation. Did Parker really face imminent death if he didn't undergo chemo? Why weren't specific other tests or procedures done?
"There are a number of eminent physicians that think cytogenetic testing is the gold standard in diagnosing Ewing Sarcoma. Why wouldn't they do it for Parker?" Christensen asked.
But on this and other issues, the federal court ruled there was no evidence to show a need for more tests, nor that Dr. Wagner had any motivation other than a concern for the boy's welfare, saying, "Outside of Parker Jensen's possible eligibility to participate in the trial, the Jensens have produced no evidence that Dr. Wagner's decisions were motivated based on a desire to enroll Parker Jensen in the trial. Indeed, the record would not permit such an inference."
Now the case goes to the state court and the federal court of appeals, where the Jensens hope there is a final decision on many issues, including whether their right to decide what is best for their son was violated.
"There are so many things nowadays that are out there where you just get in line, this is how it's done. It takes away our ability to think," Jensen said.
Through it all, you can't ignore what's happened to the Jordan High School senior. Five plus years later, Parker still has no signs of cancer.
"Getting my season pass to Brighton this year, going snowboarding every weekend, hopefully. And all my friends are here, and I'm having a great time," Parker said.
The Federal Court has discarded most of the lawsuit. The office of the state attorney general told us tonight it will ask the state court to do the same with what's left.
No matter the outcome, the Jensens, as parents, remain confident they did in 2003 what was in the best interest for their son.