Last July doctors at Primary Children's Medical Center told Jerry Owens and Trudy Olcott, the divorced parents of Yuri Owens, 8, Highland, that their son had osteogenic sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and that he probably would die.
Eight months later, and after trying various treatment methods prescribed by doctors throughout the country, doctors at Primary are now telling Yuri's parents the same thing - but now they say Yuri will likely die in extreme agony.Yuri's battle with cancer has been fought on many fields; his home, his father's home, on airplanes, in hospitals and, most notably, in the courtroom. Some doctors say the delay caused by the courtroom battle may be to blame for the painful death that awaits Yuri.
The courtroom battle occurred because Owens and Olcott could not agree on the type of treatment Yuri should receive. Olcott wanted to treat Yuri according to recommendations by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Doctors there recommended amputating Yuri's arm and shoulder and treating him with chemotherapy.
Owens wanted Yuri to undergo non-traditional treatment in San Diego, Calif., under the direction of Dr. Lawrence Taylor. Taylor treats cancer with diet and homeopathic medicines.
Last month 4th District Judge George E. Ballif was to decide which treatment Yuri should receive. But before doing so, Owens and Olcott agreed to allow Taylor to treat Yuri for two weeks. Olcott later agreed to extend the treatment another week.
But last week Olcott decided Taylor's treatment was not working and the case ended up in Ballif's courtroom. Tuesday Ballif ordered Yuri admitted to Primary Children's Medical Center to determine if he is well enough to undergo surgery to amputate his arm and shoulder, the area infected by an 8-inch tumor.
Wednesday doctors discharged Yuri, saying he is too sick to survive surgery.
Now, doctors say, the only question remaining is the quality of life Yuri can expect between now and when he dies, which could be two weeks to two months. The tumor has ruptured and is still growing. His arm is deteriorating and the cancer has spread to his vital organs.
To reduce the severe pain that Yuri is experiencing, doctors have put him on a morphine pump. But no matter how much pain medication Yuri takes, his death will be extremely painful.
"He is going to go through a hideous experience, and so is his family," said Dr. A. Creig MacArthur, a Provo surgeon who initially had Yuri admitted to the Mayo Clinic.
MacArthur said the decision to admit Yuri to Primary Children's Medical Center came too late. When doctors at the Mayo Clinic first examined Yuri about six weeks ago they gave him little chance of survival. However, some in Yuri's condition at that time have survived.
MacArthur said that had Yuri's arm been amputated immediately he would at the very least be facing a life with a better quality than the one he now faces. Death would still be probable, but possibly several years away - and without the pain he is now experiencing.
Owens said the same may be true if Yuri would have begun treatment under Taylor several months ago. He disagreed that Yuri's condition has worsened under Taylor. In fact, he said, the boy was improving.
"I saw it with my own two eyes. He was getting better," Owens said.
Owens said he is not giving up and hopes to continue treating Yuri under Taylor's direction here in Utah. But to do so he may have to take the matter back to court because the order issued by Ballif says Yuri's treatment will follow the recommendations of doctors at Primary Children's Hospital.
Attorneys for Owens and Olcott said that when the parents decided to send Yuri to California their options were not promising either way. They had to make a decision that no parent wants to make. Both Owens and Olcott agreed that Taylor's treatment at least offered the hope of recovery without amputating Yuri's arm.
"The most difficult thing about this case is the uncertainty," said Olcott's attorney, Randy Kester. "For that reason, I don't think it's appropriate to try to place blame here."
"The reason I've gone the other route and why my ex-wife has gone the other route is because there was hope there. If we're going to err, then let's at least err on the side of hope," Owens said.
"Everyone grieves over these kinds of things. It's just a tragedy for everyone involved," MacArthur said.