Video: Brothers on Wernecke battle

msnbc.com
updated 6/16/2005 5:38:30 PM ET 2005-06-16T21:38:30

A judge ruled on Thursday that 13-year-old Katie Wernecke, the girl that was taken from her parents after they refused to allow her to continue cancer treatments, will remain in the custody of the State of Texas. Wernecke's cancer, which had been in remission, has apparently returned.

Wernecke's parents say they didn't want their daughter to be at a higher risk for breast cancer, stunted growth or learning problems that could be brought on from the treatments.

Psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers joined MSNBC's Contessa Brewer on Thursday to talk about what this family might be going through right now and how the court battle may impact the girl's mental health.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the link above.

Dr. Joyce Brothers: Its almost always so much better if the family is united facing illness.

Contessa Brewer: Here we have this 13-year-old girl. She has just learned that her cancer is back and yet she can't be at home with her parents. What's the impact on her?

Brothers: The impact would be if she could be in her own bed with her own family and everyone who's on the same page about her illness then that would be the most ideal thing.

It's not an ideal situation, the judge couldn't really let her go home because this is a home in which the mother has disappeared with the daughter, in which the father they say has refused a number of physicians who said it was very important that she undergo the radiation treatments. It is a very complex situation because there's some indication that when you have the chemotherapy it can affect the child's learning. That makes it more difficult for the child to learn and remember.

Brewer: And you know we should mention it as well that while she's undergoing this treatment, she might not have been able to stay at home at any rate because of the treatment itself. Her parents are getting the opportunity to visit with her and spend the night and they're going to be more involved with her medical decisions. However, this is definitely a family, Dr. Brothers, who is in the middle of a medical crisis. Can the stress that comes along with this cloud rational thinking?

Brothers: Not only can it cloud rational thinking but it affects the ability for the child's body to repair itself. So they're going to have another meeting, apparently the judge says in another two months time.

If they can repair what's going on at home, if they can encourage the child's classmates to visit or to spend time or to write notes or to be in contact. Apparently, the child's classmates have an important factor on whether the child does well with chemotherapy.

Brewer: Is there something that the distance can do in this case to facilitate an easier relationship between the medical staff, the parents, and the sick little girl?

Brothers: She's going to be in the hands, so I've heard of M.D. Anderson (Cancer Center in Houston, where the girl is being treated). It's one of the most wonderful places in the world.

One would hope they'd encourage the family to spend more time with her there and to be there when she has the treatments because they are difficult with all the nausea and vomiting and misery.

Brewer: From your perspective, as a professional, do you think these parents are just in denial about how sick their daughter really is or is there something else going on?

Brothers: I really think that they are trying to make a decision. Plus there are so many factors involved. There were genuinely trying to make a decision about what's right for the child and they believed the cancer had gone and it is back again. So some of the objections they would have later on -- they didn't want her to have problems with growth, they didn't want her to have problems later on with her ability to think or study. But those are off in the distance. What really matters is if the children can survive this terrible time.


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