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Jensens strike a deal

An unnamed doctor at an unnamed out-of-state hospital will decide the treatment regimen for a Sandy boy who has been diagnosed with cancer.

The fate of Parker Jensen's parents will also hinge on the physician's decision, which was permitted by Juvenile Court Judge Robert Yeates in a Wednesday hearing.

Daren and Barbara Jensen have been charged with kidnapping for leaving the state because they didn't want their son to receive chemotherapy. Nearly a yearlong treatment plan was prescribed by Primary Children's Medical Center and ordered by the boy's court-appointed guardian, who wants to take him into state custody to make sure he gets it.

Getting an additional diagnosis as well as wanting to look into alternative forms of treatment was the reason the family left town. The parents, who are staying with family in Pocatello, are not convinced a tumor removed in May from their son's mouth was cancerous or that he has Ewing's sarcoma, diagnosed by doctors in Utah and two other hospitals.

A deal similar to Wednesday's fell through in July. The Jensens said they would abide by a diagnosis and treatment recommendation by Los Angeles Children's Hospital but ultimately didn't, claiming the doctor involved hadn't even read the test results before concurring with doctors in Salt Lake City.

A proposal by the Jensens submitted at 4 p.m. Wednesday — an hour before warrants for their arrests were to be reactivated — was agreed to by Yeates, the Salt Lake County district attorney and the state Division of Child and Family Services. It commits the family to some kind of treatment, although chemotherapy was reportedly not specified nor ruled out.

The family's attorney and state officials, who agreed to suspend warrants to arrest the Jensens and to take the boy into state child protective custody, will meet again Friday at 4 p.m. to finalize the proposed settlement. Yeates also ruled Wednesday that the Jensens must turn in their son's passport to authorities.

"We don't know what the recommended treatment will be," said Mollie McDonald, a court-appointed guardian for the boy. "But the doctor is a pediatric oncologist in a recognized facility."

McDonald added that her only reservation so far is the proposal contains no assurance that once the treatment is started it be continued as prescribed.

Angela F. Micklos, deputy district attorney handling the criminal charges against the parents, said careful review of the proposed settlement will take place between now and 4 p.m. Friday.

The juvenile judge must approve any settlement in the child custody portion of the case but has no authority over the kidnapping charge, which is part of a separate criminal proceeding being prosecuted in Salt Lake County by Micklos.

The ideal situation, as far as the county is concerned, is for Parker Jensen to go into treatment and the parents to surrender to Utah authorities. What happens to the criminal charges at that point would have to be worked out later, Micklos said, adding that the family's attorney hasn't asked the county to drop the charges. The family has asked that the fugitive warrant be lifted, pending negotiations.

State officials say they want to force treatment because the earlier it starts, the more effective it is. The state has said it wants to take the child into state custody only long enough to ensure that treatment is given.

Since May, the Jensens have questioned a medical diagnosis from doctors at Primary Children's that Jensen has a rare form of bone cancer. Subsequent tests have been negative or inconclusive, the parents have said, and they do not want their son to undergo 49 weeks of unnecessary chemotherapy. The other recommendations prescribing chemotherapy have amounted to rubber stamps of the initial recommendation from Primary Children's, the Jensens said.

The Jensens' attempts to get an evaluation from a private cancer clinic in Houston were thwarted when Salt Lake County prosecutors charged the couple with felony kidnapping, and Utah authorities then told the clinic to contact police if the Jensens arrived there.

Daren Jensen, who remained inside his in-laws' brick ranch house in Pocatello Wednesday, was arrested Aug. 16 after a traffic incident that reportedly involved one of his other children. Witnesses have since come forward to say they believe it was Parker who spun off the gravel road and rolled the family Suburban into a ditch.

Daren Jensen did not talk to reporters Wednesday. Barbara and Parker Jensen left the residence early Wednesday and had not returned by early evening.


E-mail: jthalman@desnews.com; jdobner@desnews.com