Parents fighting for custody of son diagnosed with cancer after refusing chemo in Tampa

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A trial will resume Tuesday to determine whether two Tampa Bay area parents will regain custody of their son, who was diagnosed with cancer.

Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball made global headlines in April when they refused chemotherapy for their 4-year-old son Noah after he was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia, which affects blood and bone marrow.

The parents told 8 On Your Side in May how they vehemently opposed this form of cancer treatment. Instead, they preferred a more organic approach to healing, one that didn’t include chemo. 

“You were trying to treat him with herbs, other plants?” Assistant Florida Attorney General Kenneth Becks asked father Joshua McAdams.

“We gave him tea, and other alkaline foods,” Joshua McAdams responded. “The first step of healing is benefit within and being in a positive state of mind.”

When the couple sought a second opinion for their son’s diagnosis, they traveled with him out of state. This resulted in a missing child alert and a nationwide search originating in Hillsborough County.

Law enforcement tracked down McAdams and Bland-Ball in Kentucky with Noah. The family returned to Tampa Bay, and his parents lost custody.

His father said in court how the couple “wanted to avoid chemotherapy.”

Earlier this year, a judge ordered immediate chemotherapy for Noah.

For months, the child’s grandparents have had temporary custody. Noah’s mother and father are allowed at his medical appointments and treatments, as well as supervised visits.

Attorney Charles Gallagher, with Gallagher & Associates, is not involved in the case but has been following it very closely. His daughter was diagnosed with the same form of cancer, and after chemotherapy, has been in remission.

Gallagher believes the judge will look at what is best for Noah when deciding custody.

“If the testimony is that they don’t plan to follow the medical science that’s utilized by the current hospitals and physicians then probably not. But, if they plan to use the recommended medical treatments recommended by the hospital and physicians then potentially a limited type of custody maybe yes,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said the case that has been followed nationwide has set a precedent.

“The country already has looked at this case as kind of a bellwether for what kind of rights parents have to control their own children’s medical decisions. At the end of the day, the kids can’t speak for themselves. Parents have some limited judgment, but at the end of the day, the courts and the state is going to look for what is the best for the kids,” Gallagher said.

The custody trial is expected to wrap up Tuesday.

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