The Controversy Surrounding Chad Green

While working in the NHF database I came across quite a few records discussing Chad Green from 1978-79.  Chad developed acute lymphocytic leukemia at age 2 and began chemotherapy treatment at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where the family originally lived.  Chad's condition was improving and his leukemia was in remission, but when doctors recommended radiation, the Greens decided to move to Massachusetts, where Chad was placed in the care of Dr. John Truman, a pediatric cancer specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Chad's parents wanted to try unconventional methods to fully treat the disease, since the chemotherapy treatment was unpleasant for Chad.  One of these methods was the medicine laetrile, a "metabolic therapy," which some doctors claimed was an effective treatment for cancer.  The drug, made from apricot pits, was thought by many people at the time to be a miracle cure for cancer.  It has since been declared ineffective and potentially poisonous, and has been outlawed in the United States.  However, the drug can still be bought online or in other countries, most notably Mexico.

When the Greens refused to resume chemotherapy, despite warnings from Dr. Truman that Chad would die without it, a legal battle began.  Chad developed signs of cyanide toxicity because of the treatment, which caused Massachusetts authorities to declare him a ward of the court.  This meant that Chad's parents received a court order to bring him back into the hospital to receive chemotherapy treatment.  When the state denied the Greens request to administer laetrile as well as chemotherapy, they fled to Mexico, where doctors there continued to treat Chad with laetrile, a special diet, and chemotherapy.

Authorities in Massachusetts issued the Greens a court order demanding them to return Chad to Massachusetts for medical treatment, which they chose to ignore.  The Supreme Court upheld the court order, though they also acknowledged that parents have natural rights that include a private family life, but stated that Chad's well-being was more important and that there was strong medical evidence that the laetrile was not improving Chad's condition.  The Greens still decided to stop the chemotherapy treatment again, believing that God would cure Chad, and his leukemia returned.  Three months later, Chad passed away and was buried in Nebraska.

In 1980, the Greens returned to Massachusetts to turn themselves in to court.  Once the judge heard their apologies for not abiding with the court's authority, he found them guilty of criminal contempt but did not give the couple fines or jail sentences, saying that the couple had suffered enough.

What do you think of the Greens' decisions? Do you remember any other stories involving laetrile as a cancer treatment?

References: "A Battle Over Cancer Care." Time 113.7 (1979): 25. MEDLINE. Web. 17 May 2012.

“Chad Green’s Short Life Recalled, 28 Years Later.” Web. 17 May 2012.

“Laetrile/Amygdalin (PDQ®) - National Cancer Institute.” Web. 17 May 2012.

“World Without Cancer - - B17 Laetrile Vitamin B17.” Web. 17 May 2012.