Noah McAdams' mom and dad fled the state in search of alternative treatments for his leukemia. That's when a judge stepped in.

By Rebecca Macatee
Updated December 19, 2019

When your child is sick, all you want is for them to get better. But when parents and doctors don't agree on the best course of treatment, things can get complicated quickly, and it's the child who gets caught in the middle.

This is the case for Noah McAdams, a 3-year-old boy in Florida whose parents lost custody after refusing to continue with his scheduled chemotherapy. Per the Tampa Bay Times, Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball decided to treat Noah's acute lymphoblastic leukemia with natural remedies and fled the state in search of alternative treatments with fewer side effects.

Noah was diagnosed with cancer in early April and went through two rounds of chemotherapy. When he didn't show up for a third scheduled chemotherapy treatment last Monday at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, authorities issued an endangered child alert. Hours later, Noah was found with McAdams and Bland-Ball in a motel room in Kentucky.

The parents were ordered to return Noah to Florida, and he was checked into the same hospital where he had been scheduled to continue chemotherapy. On Thursday, a judge ordered Noah to go home with his maternal grandparents—not his mom and dad—after doctors release him. It will then be up to the judge to decide whether McAdams and Bland-Ball are within their rights to decline chemotherapy.

"This is not about whether we're choosing alternative therapies—natural therapies," Bland-Ball told ABC News. "This is about...our rights as parents to seek other options."

Noah's parents said that further testing showed he was technically cancer-free after the first two rounds of chemo, and because of the side effects, they wished to find an alternative treatment moving forward. But experts warn these blood tests don't show the full picture.

"We have no way of saying that he is cured of leukemia this early in therapy," Bijal Shah, M.D., the head of the Moffitt Cancer Center's Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Program in Tampa, Florida, told ABC News. "We cannot assume cure because we see remission."

Dr. Shah, who is not treating Noah, told the Tampa Bay Times that when patients stop chemotherapy early, the cancer almost always returns.

But Michael Minardi, the attorney for Noah's parents, argues alternative treatments could be just as effective as chemotherapy. "We have to get over that fallacy that chemotherapy is the only treatment for people with cancer at this point, especially in Florida we have medical cannabis CBD, both of those are viable options," he told Fox 13.

He also says outside parties shouldn't be allowed to meddle in. "These situations are difficult enough for parents, and the state should not be involved with their ability to make decisions for the well-being of their child," Minardi told "The hospital, state, and doctor also are not willing to take responsibility for the harm it does to the child, if he suffers severe permanent side effects, dies as a result of the chemotherapy, or gets additional cancer in the future as a result of his current treatment."

Noah will remain in his grandparents' custody until a judge determines the best course of treatment. His parents will be allowed visitation, and they will continue to seek alternative treatments.

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