Rifqa Bary refusing chemotherapy, believes faith cured her cancer, court document says

Parents want judge to force treatment

The Columbus Dispatch/August 2, 2010

Christian convert Rifqa Bary is refusing chemotherapy for cancer because she believes that she was cured at a faith-healing event, according to a motion in Franklin County Juvenile Court.

Rifqa was to undergo a year of chemotherapy after her cancer was surgically removed, the document filed by her parents states. But Rifqa, who is in foster care, was taken to a faith-healing event in Youngstown a couple of weeks ago by Franklin County Children Services, without her parents' consent, according to the document.

A motion to force treatment is to be considered on Tuesday in Juvenile Court.

Rifqa's attorneys, meanwhile, are asking the court to make "special findings" so that she can obtain an immigration status that will allow her to stay in the country and obtain medical care. Rifqa, a native of Sri Lanka, does not have legal status in the United States, her attorneys have said in court.

An attorney for her parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, indicated in April that the family also was pursuing immigration documentation. All parties are under a gag order and cannot comment on any aspects of the case.

Rifqa ran away from home in July 2009, saying her Muslim father would kill her for converting to Christianity. She lived with evangelical pastors in Florida before returning to Ohio to live in a foster home.

That case is to conclude next Tuesday, when Rifqa will turn 18, making her an adult.

Meanwhile, tests have determined that Rifqa has a "rare form of cancer," according to her attorneys' court filings. Her supporters have said she has uterine cancer.

It's unclear whether she is cancer-free at the moment. The Barys' attorney, Omar Tarazi, said in a motion that Rifqa will need a hysterectomy if the cancer returns.

The Barys want to force chemotherapy and are concerned that their daughter could die without treatment, Tarazi wrote.

Rifqa's attorneys, Kort Gatterdam and Angela Lloyd, want the court to determine that she cannot be reunited with her parents before she turns 18 and that it would not be in her best interest to return to Sri Lanka. The family moved to the U.S. in 2000. Rifqa would then apply for special immigrant juvenile status, which would allow her to apply for a green card and, eventually, citizenship.

The status also would allow her to qualify for Medicaid, they point out. She has received medical care as a dependent of Children Services, but she will lose that benefit once she is an adult.

"Because of Ms. Bary's current situation, such findings are a matter of life or death," her attorneys wrote. Her status also will determine whether she can go to college, they said.

In order for a minor to obtain special immigrant juvenile status, a court must determine reunification to be impossible because of abuse, neglect, abandonment or a "similar basis" under state law, said Ken Robinson, a special counsel to the Ohio attorney general's office on immigration. The status application must be filed by the applicant's 18th birthday.

Alleged abuse is generally insufficient to fulfill the test, Robinson said. He is not involved in the Rifqa case but spoke generally about juvenile immigration rules.

Authorities have not substantiated Rifqa's accusations against her parents, who have denied wrongdoing.

Still, her attorney wrote, "Ms. Bary remains fearful of her parents."

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