By now, you’re familiar with Makayla Sault (below), an 11-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease is treatable with two years of tough chemotherapy and has a nearly 90% survival rate… but Makayla no longer wanted to continue the chemo and her Ojibwe/First Nations parents were more than happy to oblige, seeking out useless faith-based treatments instead.
Makayla was allowed to quit the chemo, but we learned earlier this month that her condition had worsened.
There’s some depressing news coming out of Ontario this weekend:
Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice has said that Makayla’s family has every right to decide her treatment and outsiders can’t override their wishes:
A judge rejected an application from a Hamilton hospital that would have seen the Children’s Aid Society intervene in the case of the girl whose family had stopped her chemotherapy at the hospital in favour of traditional medicine…
Edward, citing the testimony of two McMaster Children’s Hospital doctors, agreed the child wasn’t capable of making her own medical decisions. But he found it was the mother’s aboriginal rights — which he called “integral” to the family’s way of life — allow her to choose traditional medicine for her daughter.
This is effectively a death sentence for Makayla. She had a strong chance of survival with chemotherapy, but that option’s off the table now. When you see the reaction from her family, you get the impression they don’t see the inevitable:
[Six Nations Chief Ava] Hill said the mother is “overjoyed,” with the news.
The mother, Hill said, “has the right to do whatever she wants to try and save her child.”
… even if her methods will ultimately fail, I guess.
Remember: No one’s suggesting her parents don’t care about her, only that their cultural methods of dealing with disease are ineffective — and potentially lethal. The ruling sends the message that cultural traditions should take precedence over the health and safety of a child. That’s precisely why it’s the wrong move.
I fear the next time I mention Makayla on this site won’t be because she’s getting any better.
(Thanks to everyone for the link. Portions of this article were posted earlier)