Judge Questions Jensen Boy on Cancer Treatment

Judge Questions Jensen Boy on Cancer Treatment

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The family of a 12-year old boy whose parents have refused multiple orders to treat him with chemotherapy hopes to resolve charges of medical neglect before a trial scheduled for next month.

Juvenile Court Judge Robert Yeates spent at least 15 minutes alone with Parker Jensen on Friday to assess his maturity and his understanding of his medical condition, state Office of Court Administration spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said.

Yeates met with the boy in between sessions with family and state lawyers. His parents, Daren and Barbara Jensen, weren't allowed to attend any of the talks. The boy, following the advice of his own lawyer, wouldn't reveal his discussion with the judge.

Blake Nakamura, the parents' lawyer, said he was trying to negotiate a settlement with the state attorney general's office that would avert the Nov. 17-19 trial.

"This meeting was a step in that process. It was a step forward," Nakamura said.

Yeates set the trial on state charges stemming from doctor's complaints that the parents refuse to get Parker into chemotherapy. The parents insist the boy is cancer-free after doctors removed a tiny tumor from the soft palate of his mouth last May.

At least five doctors said the tumor tested for Ewing's sarcoma -- a cancer they say could reappear and spread rapidly through his body. By then, they say, chemotherapy would be ineffective.

Utah authorities last month dropped custody of the boy and kidnapping charges against the parents for taking their son out of state to avoid a chemotherapy order that Yeates has since withdrawn.

But state officials have refused to withdraw a petition accusing the parents of medical neglect -- a complaint that still could cost Daren and Barbara Jensen custody of their son and restore the chemotherapy order.

Nakamura said he was hopeful for a settlement, but he provided no details and couldn't specify what Friday's talks accomplished.

Nakamura also refused to respond to harsh remarks Wednesday from Attorney General Shurtleff, who told Utah State University College Republicans, "I am very frustrated because I feel it's my duty to protect the life of Parker, even though his parents won't."

"If he dies, it's on my conscience," he said.

The Jensens insist Parker just as easily could die of chemotherapy. They also fear it would stunt the boy's growth and leave him sterile.

The Jensens are pursuing alternative treatments for Parker, but have been slow to provide details, claiming state authorities would interfere with the doctors or clinics providing that care.

In exchange for keeping Parker, the parents agreed to a new round of tests by an Idaho oncologist, Dr. Martin Johnston, and to abide by his treatment recommendation.

Johnston recommended chemotherapy, but the Jensens maintain new blood tests do not show signs of cancer in Parker's body. Doctors say blood tests cannot detect microscopic cancer cells. A more definitive but invasive bone marrow test has not been done.

Shurtleff told the college Republicans that few people get upset when a child is taken out of a house because the parents are drug addicts.

"But if you are a good-looking, white, upper-class Republican from Sandy, we can't get involved in the life of a child," Shurtleff said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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