Advertisement
  1. Hillsborough

Against parents' wishes, judge orders Tampa boy with leukemia to resume chemotherapy

Attorney Michael Minardi speaks with reporters Tuesday while flanked by his clients Joshua McAdams, left, and Taylor Bland-Ball, who are trying to convince a judge that they should be able to treat their son’s Noah leukemia with medical marijuana, not chemotherapy. [TONY MARRERO l Times]
Published May 8

TAMPA — Standing in front of a row of news cameras, Joshua McAdams had a simple answer when asked how he felt about a judge ordering that his 3-year-old son resume chemotherapy treatment.

"It could have been worse," said the 28-year-old father.

Moments earlier, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Caroline Tesche Arkin ruled Wednesday that Noah McAdams must immediately resume the first phase of chemotherapy to treat his leukemia against the wishes of his parents. Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball wanted to use medical marijuana and other natural remedies to treat their son instead of chemotherapy, which experts say is the most effective treatment to keep the child's cancer from returning.

The parents and their attorney Michael Minardi, left the hearing disappointed but also encouraged. They said the judge held off on ruling whether Noah will have to complete the second and third rounds of chemotherapy, and allowed the parents to try other therapies, too.

"The best thing about this ruling is she didn't chart the course for 3½ years," Minardi said. "She charted this course for the first phase of chemotherapy only and encouraged the parties to get together and talk about other possibilities."

TAMPA BAY TIMES COVERAGE:

Endangered 3-year-old who needs medical treatment found in Kentucky

Chemo or natural remedies? Little Noah caught in legal fight over how to treat his leukemia

Judge gives boy in legal fight over cancer treatment to grandparents

Tampa parents want to use medical marijuana — not chemotherapy — on cancer-stricken son

Wednesday's hearing was the latest chapter in a legal and medical tug-of-war over Noah, who was diagnosed April 4 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

The parents said the boy underwent two rounds of chemo at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg last month before they decided to stop the treatment because they worried about side effects. Then deputies said the parents missed scheduled treatments at All Children's and disappeared with their son in late April. Child protective investigators obtained a court order to take Noah into custody and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office put out an endangered child alert for the boy on April 29, saying the parents "refused to follow up with lifesaving medical care that the child needs."

Later that day authorities tracked down the family in Kentucky and took them into custody. The parents have said they were on their way to Cincinnati to consult with a doctor, not trying to flee Florida.

The Department of Children and Families asked for the emergency hearing to get the court's permission to treat Noah according to recommendations from oncologists. Arkin made her ruling after several hours of testimony held over two days. Arkin granted a request from a guardian at litem attorney representing Noah to close the proceedings to the news media to keep the child's medical information private.

The only source of what happened in court are the parents and their attorney. No one other parties have spoken about the proceedings. State officials did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.

At least two oncologists testified for the state. Minardi complained that he didn't have enough time to schedule his own expert witnesses but was able to arrange for Dr. Kelly King, a co-founder of ReleafMD Center for Medical Marijuana in Brandon, to testify about the benefits of cannabis.

Arkin's written order was not available Wednesday. The parents' attorney said Noah must resume chemotherapy at All Children's as soon as Thursday. Meanwhile the parents can continue searching for other treatment options and get a second medical opinion.

The judge did not rule on the issue of who gets custody of the child. For now, Noah will remain with his grandparents. But the parents said they hope to soon get permission for unsupervised visits and will be there when he gets his chemotherapy treatment.

In addition to cannabais therapy, the parents plan to use oxygen therapy, an alkaline diet and herbal remedies, said the 22-year-old mother.

"Other than that, just giving him the most happiness and the least stress as possible," Bland-Ball she said.

A mediation session between the parents and the state to discuss Noah's treatment is scheduled for June 4. There will be another court hearing the next day, Minardi said.

The type of leukemia Noah has can be cured in greater than 90 percent of cases with a full regimen of chemotherapy that begins as soon as possible after diagnosis, said Dr. Bijal D. Shah, head of the Moffitt Cancer Center's acute lymphoblastic leukemia program. Shah, who is not involved in Noah's treatment or the legal case, told the Tampa Bay Times that the entire chemotherapy regimen, including the final, less intense "maintenance" phase typically lasts about 2½ years.

Shah said experts it's too early to say cannabis shows any promise as an alternative treatment as effective as chemo.

"When we're talking about marijuana, it's really important to put it in the context of experimental therapy," Shah said. "Are we ready at this point to encourage experimental therapy when the alternative is a standard treatment with a high rate of cure? I can't see how marijuana is going to get there."

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa, where a proposal to open a cafe has sparked debate on the role of parks in the city. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Two recent proposals to use public space downtown for private eateries have started a debate about the purpose of parks
  2. Jeremy Guerrero, 31, was arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and driving with a license suspended or revoked involving death, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He's accused of being impaired by methamphetamines when troopers said he caused a crash on Interstate 75 that killed a woman early Friday. Florida Highway Patrol
    The 31-year-old driver faces a charge of DUI manslaughter after causing the crash that killed a 57-year-old woman, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  3. The $3 billion Water Street project is slated to be complete by 2026 or 2027. How affordable will it be? SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A project executive ticked off many ways the $3 billion project will alter Tampa, but a Cafe con Tampa audience wanted details on what it will cost to live there
  4. WeWork is opening Tampa offices at 501 E Kennedy Blvd. despite company struggles, including $1.25 billion in losses over 2019. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    WeWork has 200 planned coworking space openings as leadership tries to manage $1.25 billion in losses.
  5. Titan Goodson points to visitors in the courtroom during his unsuccessful motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge against him Thursday. SCOTT KEELER  |  Scott Keeler
    Titan Goodson’s lawyer argued there was no proof he supplied the heroin that killed Katie Golden, 17. Trial is set for December.
  6. A 20-year-old Plant City man was seriously injured Thursday night after he lost control of the car he was driving on the Selmon Expressway and hit a guardrail, which Florida Highway Patrol troopers said “impaled” the car. FHP
    The driver was taken to Tampa General Hospital with serious injuries.
  7. Steven Currall prepares to deliver an address during his investiture as the University of South Florida's seventh president Thursday at the Yuengling Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.
  8. Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share for Tech Data's stock in an acquisition worth $5.4 billion. If regulators shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Private equity firms like Apollo create wealth for pension funds, financial institutions and individual investors by buying assets that typically are sold later at a profit.
  9. USF student Gabriela Young is the owner of Earth and Ivory, an online jewelry business with items made out of clay.  [Special to the Times | Sarah Foster] SARAH FOSTER  |  Special to the Times | @sarahtheartiste
    Gabriela Young went from selling bracelets to friends to making clay wares for customers with her business, Earth and Ivory.
  10. Chief Veterinarian Mallory Offner examines a female rescue puppy at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    With 250 of the pooches ready for adoption, each potential puppy parent has a 1-in-4 shot at getting picked in today’s drawing.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement