Oct 13

Life or Death Decisions: Are Children at Risk?

Serious Illness Respects No Boundaries!

The new BC Family Law Act provides that the only matter that a court is to consider when making decisions involving children is the “best interests of the child”.

However, this same principle doesn’t appear to apply in Ontario if it involves deciding what’s best for children with potentially life threatening medical conditions.

First, there was the situation of Makayla, an aboriginal child with a treatable but extremely serious form of leukemia, whose parents chose to end her treatment to pursue more “traditional” kinds of indigenous treatment.

Ontario Children’s Aid, over the protests and opinions of various medical professionals who were adamant that a cessation of treatment would cause Makayla’s death, chose not to step in and compel treatment to continue.

As of the date of this blog, there is some news that Makayla’s condition has potentially regressed and she is receiving medical attention from another hospital.

Certainly sad and distressing news if true. As I recently expressed on Roy Green’s radio program on the Corus Network if Children’s Aid had stepped in and compelled Makayla’s treatment to continue her prognosis might not be so grim.

Second, we have news yet again of another aboriginal child with a life threatening medical condition whose parents have also decided to stop treatment to pursue alternative aboriginal healing. Again, Children’s Aid has done nothing to intervene.

However, in this case the hospital has gone to court to seek an order that Children’s Aid be required to intervene and compel treatment to continue. To date no decision has been made.

This is why such legal proceedings are necessary. A child’s best interests must be decided only on the basis of maximizing a child’s survival, regardless of any cultural or ethnic considerations.

Nor do I believe that any such decision to stop painful medically effective treatment be based on the wishes of an ill young child, as some have suggested.

After all, what sick young child would ever wish to continue such treatments; even if life-saving, especially against the wishes of their parents?

What I believe we need are national health care protocols to ensure that children receive medical treatment that will optimize their survival, regardless of their cultural or ethnic heritage.

After all, serious illness respects no provincial, cultural or ethnic boundaries.