A judge has ruled that two Florida parents must continue their three-year-old son’s chemotherapy treatment for his leukaemia against their wishes.
Taylor Bland-Ball and Joshua McAdams had wanted to pursue other treatment options for their son, including medical cannabis and alkaline diets.
The parents said they were concerned about side-effects of chemotherapy.
The judge on Thursday ordered them to continue at least the first phase of the chemotherapy.
The family must use chemotherapy – which can involve as many as eight combinations of drugs – for the next 28 days as the primary treatment method.
Judge Caroline Tesche Arkin said they are free to try alternative remedies, like vitamin therapy, medical marijuana, or cannabinol oil (a non-psychoactive chemical from the cannabis plant) during this time. Medical marijuana use is legal in Florida.
After the first phase of therapy, they can receive a second medical opinion or change hospitals, the judge ruled.
The boy, whom the BBC is not naming, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia – a blood and bone marrow cancer – in April.
Local media say that doctors during the hearing argued that the toddler needed immediate chemotherapy treatment to survive.
According to the American Cancer Society, this type of cancer in children has a 90% five-year survival rate with chemotherapy treatment.
Chemotherapy is often associated with debilitating side effects, but many types of modern chemotherapy cause only mild problems.
The couple’s boy had received at least one round of chemotherapy at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St Petersburg, Florida, before his parents stopped bringing him in.
Speaking to reporters after the ruling, Ms Bland-Ball, 22, said they will be moving forward with homeopathic remedies such as oxygen therapy, an alkaline diet, cannabis therapy and herbs.
Ms Bland-Ball said she and her husband were “mostly disappointed”, but that their case “really opened up a good discussion on parental rights, about patient rights”.
Ms Bland-Ball and Mr McAdams, 27, lost custody of their son when they stopped his treatment at the end of last month and left the state. The boy is currently living with his grandparents.
The parents say they are allowed to be at their son’s chemotherapy appointments, but are still working on getting unsupervised visitation rights.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office had put out an endangered child search alert for the child last week. The family was eventually found in Kentucky and brought back to Florida.
His parents said they only left the state to find a second opinion in Ohio. Ms Bland-Ball has said that they were allowed to leave the hospital as his tests showed no signs of cancer.
The family’s next court date is 4 June, where they will mediate with doctors and the state, with a hearing to follow.