By now, you’re familiar with Makayla Sault (below), an 11-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The disease was treatable with two years of tough chemotherapy and had 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 only to see her conditions worsen.
Then it got worse.
Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice said in November that Makayla’s family had every right to decide her treatment and outsiders (like medical practitioners) couldn’t override their wishes.
Earlier this year, Makayla died.
Maybe that caused Edward to reconsider his decision, because he appears to be walking back on his ruling. In a “clarification,” Justice Edward now says that a child’s needs are “paramount” when deciding how to proceed in cases like this.
[Law professor Nick] Bala called it a “significant clarification” that recognized the earlier decision had not referred to the child’s rights as being paramount.
He said this decision makes it more of a balancing act between the child’s best interests and aboriginal rights, and that courts “very rarely” clarify decisions.
“The aboriginal rights are one factor to be considered, but not the only factor,” Bala said. “This is a significant qualification of the prior decision.”
To be sure, this doesn’t mean hospitals can override the wishes of parents when we’re arguing between real medicine and the “traditional” kind that doesn’t help. But at least the doctors won’t be shut out of the conversation automatically.
The clarification comes just in time. J.J., a pre-teen girl who was heading down the same path as Makayla, was recently taken by her mother to Florida to receive “alternative medicine.” With Edward’s ruling, made after a discussion involving all parties, J.J. is once again receiving chemotherapy… along with other useless aboriginal treatments. But at least she now has a fighting chance.
(Thanks to Jerry for the link. Portions of this article were posted earlier)