Calgary girl must get blood transfusions even if against religion: judge
Wednesday, April 10, 2002
CALGARY (CP) - A leukemia-stricken teen is upset that a second court is forcing her to continue blood transfusions even though it's against her firm beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness, her lawyer said Wednesday.
"She'll have to think what her next options are," lawyer David Gnam told reporters outside court, adding that another appeal will be considered. The girl lost her first appeal Wednesday when Justice Adele Kent of Court of Queen's Bench ruled that the state-imposed blood transfusions are essential treatment for the 16-year-old girl in her two-month battle against leukemia.
"Balancing all the factors, it is in (the girl's) best interest to have medical treatment proposed by the hospital," said Kent, who denied the girl's appeal of a lower-court ruling forcing the blood transfusions.
In mid-February, provincial court Judge Karen Jordan gave the Alberta government temporary custody of the girl and ordered her to undergo blood transfusions as part of her treatment.
The girl, who cannot be named because she is a temporary ward of the province, is a Jehovah's Witness. Believers say the Bible prohibits accepting any blood products and those who agree to transfusions won't go to paradise after they die.
The girl has been forced - sometimes by being restrained and sedated - to have 14 transfusions and is scheduled for 16 more. After the transfusions combined with intense chemotherapy, her leukemia is now in remission.
The girl's father has consented to the blood transfusions, while his wife and two daughters support the teen's wishes.
"It's been tearing myself and my family apart," the 51-year-old man said outside court.
"But there's only one happy ending and that's if my daughter survives."
The girl's lawyers raised the 1999 case of 13-year-old Tyrell Dueck of Martensville, Sask., whose Christian fundamentalist family wanted to refuse conventional treatment for the boy in favour of herbal remedies and alternative treatments at a Mexican clinic.
The judge in that case said the boy must be isolated from his loving, yet misguided parents to have his cancerous leg removed because Tyrell was not found to be a mature minor, the girl's lawyers said.
But Kent said even though the girl is deemed a mature minor, the teen has not looked "death in the face," because she has been told by fellow Witnesses that the blood transfusions are not essential to save her life.
"Because of incorrect information and the behaviour of some around her, she now believes that she will not die if she does not have transfusions," she said.
Her doctors at Alberta Children's Hospital say she has a 40-50 per cent chance of survival with the treatment but will die if she doesn't get blood products. They point out it's the best available treatment - standard North American protocol for acute myeloid leukemia.
In an affidavit, the girl's mother said her daughter's forced treatment bears a "chilling" resemblance to the way Nazis mistreated Jews.
Kent discarded that argument.
"If (the girl's mother) truly believes what she says, then it is a very strong indication that she has no perspective on her child's current medical situation," the judge said. "She cannot make decisions for her."
The judge said she found it "troubling" that the mother tampered with the IV line that carried blood to her daughter.
The girl said she wants to go to California, where she can get "peaceful" alternative treatment that doesn't include blood products. But the judge pointed out the same treatment is available in Alberta.
In Tyrell's case, the court decision allowing the state to make his medical decisions came too late. A few days later, doctors said the cancer had spread and they could do no more. Despite receiving alternative treatment in Mexico, Tyrell died June 30, 1999.
Child welfare legislation in most other provinces covers children under 16 years of age, but in Alberta it's 18. Some provinces such as Ontario allow some teenagers to choose their own medical treatment, as long as they are deemed mature minors who comprehend the treatment and its consequences.
The Alberta government maintains that the mandate of its director of child welfare is to protect children under 18 when parents are unwilling or unable to do so.
Kent agreed, saying the Alberta Child Welfare Act supersedes the common law of a mature minor because children sometimes need to have their lives protected.
© Copyright 2002 The Canadian Press
p.s.- did anyone pick up the fact that the mother tampered with the IV line.