Photo by Daren Jensen
Parker Jensen, once the center of a dispute over state-ordered medical treatment, performed at Westminster College last week.

Now six months away from being an adult, Parker Jensen's father says his son is as normal as "the boy next door."

"He's about as everyday normal as everybody else," Daren Jensen told the Deseret News. "He's just the boy next door."

From four-wheeling in the mountains to playing the viola, Daren Jensen said his son is a very active teen. "He hasn't slowed up one day since he was born," he said.

It was about five years ago

that Parker Jensen's name became synonymous with the issue of parental rights as his family took on the state's pursuit to force the boy to undergo chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer.

Now for the first time, the Jensens have laid out their full account of what happened in court filings this week. The Jensens continue to pursue a federal suit against two Utah physicians, two state child welfare officials and an assistant Utah attorney general.

In a 140-page statement of facts, the Jensens call themselves a "typical Utah family" from Sandy who was swept up in a whirlwind of medical egos and state bureaucracy.

They blame former Primary Children's Medical Center physician Lars Wagner for telling them that their son had almost no chance of surviving the cancer unless he had chemotherapy, not knowing that Wagner had also wanted to get Parker into a clinical study on Ewing's sarcoma, but that required the boy to be immediately placed on chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, the Jensens maintain they were not convinced the lump in the bottom of their son's mouth was Ewing's sarcoma, and they wanted a second opinion.

Time and time again the Jensens say they sought more definitive tests and opinions, even going to doctors out of state — only to find that physicians with Primary had contact and influence with the other doctors.

After several meetings, Wagner threatened the Jensens that he would contact the Division of Child and Family Services to take their son away and force him to undergo chemotherapy.

The Jensens' court brief states that DCFS caseworkers simply took Wagner's word that chemotherapy was the only option for the boy and did no further investigation. Their investigation, which did not include the Jensens' side of things, was then reviewed by a state juvenile judge, which lead to an order and warrant for the parents' arrest.

Also alleged in their brief, the Jensens say DCFS was dishonest in some of its representations to the court, including the allegation that they fled the state to avoid the court's order. The Jensens claim they were already vacationing in Idaho when the warrant was issued.

However, state officials have a much different view of things. In a large brief filed earlier, the state paints the Jensens as a couple suspicious of conventional medicine and adherents to alternative treatments.

According to the state's brief, the Jensens are accused of repeatedly misinforming officials about their intentions and delaying meetings, hearings and doctor visits.

On at least one occasion, state officials say Daren Jensen appeared before the media and announced his son was cancer free after a physician had just told him he believed Parker had cancer. Afterward, the court also took issue with what it believed was the Jensens' misleading the public and press.

Daren Jensen says he knows something was removed from his son's mouth. "You can't deny the fact there was something there," he said. But he felt Wagner and other doctors would not do more specific tests to confirm the cancer. "To this day, I know it didn't effect his health any."

After state authorities dropped the child welfare case and settled the criminal charges, the Jensens filed their federal suit. Claims against the state and two other physicians were dismissed, but the Jensens were allowed to continue with their other personal claims. Daren Jensen said his family needs to pursue its suit to get back the significant amount of money they have spent defending themselves. Another purpose, he said, is to ensure other parents don't go through their ordeal.

A federal judge has yet to rule on motions by the state and doctors to dismiss the remaining claims in the suit.

"Five years and we've still been suffering from it," Jensen said.


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