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Mom who chose cannabis over chemo could lose custody of son

By Rana Novini, Anchor/Reporter, r.novini@krdo.com
Published On: Sep 30 2013 07:44:49 PM CDT

A Colorado Springs mom who chose cannabis over chemotherapy for her 3-year-old son with leukemia says Child Protective Services are investigating her decision as a possible form of abuse or neglect.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

A Colorado Springs mom who chose cannabis over chemotherapy for her 3-year-old son with leukemia says Child Protective Services are investigating her decision as a possible form of abuse or neglect.

Landon Riddle struggled on chemotherapy, according to his mom.  

"Within three months, we could all see that chemo was killing Landon," said Sierra Riddle. "He would vomit like 50 times a day. No pharmaceuticals would stop it."

Sierra found an alternative -- medical marijuana in the form of capsules.  She said she was skeptical at first, but quickly saw improvements in Landon's health.  She says he's now in remission.

But Landon's doctors still recommend years of chemotherapy.  Sierra said that someone from Children's Hospital Colorado reported her actions to Child Protective Services and now she is being investigated.

"Doctors are mandated reporters," said Karen Logan, child protection intake manager at the Department of Human Services in El Paso County. "They are required by law to report any suspicion of abuse or neglect. They don't have to know that it's abuse or neglect, they just have to suspect it."

Logan told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that she could not go into specifics of Riddle's case or even confirm that Child Protective Services was looking into it.  She said that every allegation is investigated and that they look at the Colorado Children's Code definition of abuse or neglect.

One criteria in the code is that parents provide needed medical care for their children.  Logan said that doesn't count for un-needed medical attention, such as immunizations.  However, if a child's life is at risk, refusing medical attention that a doctor ordered can be considered abuse or neglect.  Deciding on whether or not a parent should lose custody of a child is up to the legal process.

"If a family is not wanting to get medical attention for a child and the medical community is saying this is a must-have for the child's health and safety, then we usually have to rely on the judicial officers to assist us because it then becomes an order of the court," she said.

Sierra argues that she has never missed a doctor's appointment and that if Landon started showing cancer markers again, she would reconsider chemotherapy.

"I just want him to have the chance to stay in remission naturally and to stay healthy," Sierra said.  "In saying that we want to go the natural way, we're not saying that we don't want anything to do with doctors. That's not what we're saying at all."

Sierra says she has a meeting with Child Protective Services on Wednesday,

KRDO NewsChannel 13 reached out to Children's Hospital Colorado to find out its stance on medicinal marijuana as a treatment for cancer or its symptoms.

The following is Children's Hospital's statement in its entirety:

Out of respect for patient privacy, Children's Hospital Colorado cannot provide specific information. However, Children's Colorado can provide the following information from Stephen Hunger, MD, Director, Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Children's Hospital Colorado:
 
•        Childhood cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the U.S.
•        About 25% of childhood cancers are acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
•        The survival rate for children with ALL treated on Children's Oncology Group ALL research trials is over 90%.
•        This is attained with  2 to 3 years of chemotherapy.
•        Children's Hospital Colorado is one of the largest centers in the country that treats children with ALL
•        For more information visit www.childrenscolorado.org

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