Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 1994 at age 16 and became well-known when he ran away from home to avoid receiving further chemotherapy. His story became national news when, with the support of his adopted parents, he returned home and opted to use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) instead of standard chemotherapy and radiation for his cancer treatment. Now 25 years since Billy Best entered the public eye, his story is one that is frequently referenced in pediatrics, bioethics, and other related fields. Here, the authors examine the evolution of various features of this case, including treatment of Hodgkin lymphoma, the interplay between medicine and the media, the role of CAM in pediatric care, navigating entrenched disagreements and how best to integrate adolescents into health care decision-making, and the role of narrative in medical practice. The authors explore the unique role of each of these facets of Billy Best’s case, describing how each has or has not changed in the quarter century since that time amid the changing landscape of pediatric health care. Ultimately, although many advances have occurred since Billy Best’s time, significant work remains. Additional effort will be required in the future to optimize communication, improve treatment toxicities from Hodgkin lymphoma without decreasing survival, integrate the voice and perspective of adolescents into their treatment decisions, and navigate the roles of CAM and the media in pediatric health care.
Copyright © 2021 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.