CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (June 10) - Child welfare officials seized a 12-year-old cancer patient from her parents, saying they were blocking radiation treatment that doctors say she needs.
During a court hearing Wednesday, Michele and Edward Wernecke asked that doctors be barred from giving radiation therapy to their daughter Katie until a hearing next week to determine whether she will stay in state custody.
They say their daughter's cancer is in remission and they object to her getting the radiation treatment after undergoing a round of chemotherapy. Katie has Hodgkin's disease, a type of cancer involving the lymph nodes.
Juvenile court Judge Carl Lewis said he would rule on the request Friday.
Last week, authorities issued an Amber Alert to gain temporary custody of Katie after receiving an anonymous tip about possible neglect. She was found with her mother at a family ranch, about 80 miles west of Corpus Christi near Freer, on Saturday.
She remains at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where she is undergoing tests, officials said. State Child Protective Services says her life could be in danger without further cancer treatment.
Michele Wernecke was arrested on charges of interfering with child custody and was released Monday after posting $50,000 bond.
The Werneckes' three sons were placed in a foster home.
Speaking Thursday on NBC's "Today" show, Michele Wernecke said her daughter's illness is unique and should be treated as such.
"I think they should treat her for what her body calls for and not standard protocol. Nobody will look at that," she said. "Not every cancer is the same. Nobody understands that. Her body is not standard, and her cancer is not standard."
The couple, members of the Church of God, have said they oppose blood transfusions unless they were from Katie's mother. But the couple's attorney, Daniel Horne, said religion wasn't at issue in the fight over cancer treatment.
Rather, they believe doctors haven't been upfront about Katie's care and have not answered all their questions about the side effects of the radiation.
"This issue is about parental rights, not about religious rights," Horne said. "They just want to be informed of her treatment. They want to be involved in this."
Katie was diagnosed with cancer in January. In a videotaped statement recorded by her parents, Katie said she's feeling better.
"I don't need radiation treatment. And nobody asked me what I wanted. It's my body," she said.
Officials on Wednesday reached an agreement to let Edward Wernecke and the couple's sons visit Katie on Friday, the day before her 13th birthday.
06/10/05 06:43 EDT