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Best Interest of the Child - Death
September 14, 2012 permalink
Baby M is on life support in Alberta and her parents are charged with child abuse. If she dies, charges against the parents could be elevated to homicide. A judge wants life-support terminated, the parents want it to continue. There have been other cases where the legal/medical system let a child die and blamed the parent(s). For example, a hospital starved Baby Cassidy to death. The next time mother Jessica Pelissero gave birth, Cassidy's death became the justification for taking her new baby.
Judge’s decision to remove Edmonton child from life support stayed
An Edmonton judge has ruled that a two-year-old girl currently in a coma should be taken off life-support and put into palliative care despite objections from the girl’s parents, who are accused of abusing the child.
However, Justice June Ross’s decision was stayed by an appeal court within hours so an appeal by the girl’s parents could be heard.
"It is a difficult situation," said Appeal Court Judge Jean Cote after his ruling late Friday afternoon. "There are some drawbacks to any possible decision here."
Paramedics found the girl, identified as Baby M, and her twin sister in an Edmonton home on May 25. Both girls were malnourished and suffering from injuries and Baby M was in cardiac arrest.
The child’s parents, both 34 years old, have been charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life.
They cannot be named to protect the identity of the children.
The parents, originally from Algeria, are asking to keep their daughter alive against doctors’ recommendations because of their Muslim beliefs.
In an affidavit, the father wrote: "My religious belief is that if it is Allah's will that despite all the doctors can do for (her) that she passes from this life, then it is God's will. As a devout Muslim and loving father I find it unthinkable to agree to limit or withdraw medical treatment."
However, because the parents’ charges could be elevated to murder if Baby M dies, Justice June Ross found their desire to keep her alive suspicious.
"They are, inherently, in a conflict of interest," she wrote in her decision Friday. "I am left with a concern that their decision may in fact be affected by self-interest."
Doctors have testified that Baby M’s condition is believed to be permanent and she is close to brain dead.
Since being admitted to hospital her condition has remained unchanged and she has suffered three bouts of pneumonia.
Doctors said the toddler is deeply comatose and completely dependent on technology to survive.
If Baby M remains on the respirator she must undergo a tracheostomy, which involves making an incision in the girl’s neck to make a direct airway.
Ross rejected the arguments that religious beliefs should be considered, as the girl is too young to have her own beliefs.
"The beliefs are those of (the girl's) parents, not her own," Ross wrote.
The judge also said the parents' beliefs do not trump the needs of the child.
"The religious practices of (the girl's) parents are properly limited where they are contrary to (the girl's) best interests in a fundamental way."
The lawyer representing the parents told the appeal court on Friday that her clients have lost the right to make decisions on behalf of their child, despite the fact they remain her legal guardian and that the charges against them haven't been proved.
"When we apprehend a child and we charge the parents, do they then lose the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of their children because of a situation they're put in?" April Kellet asked.
Lawyer JoAnn Quinn, who spoke on behalf of the girl, said it is her best interests that should prevail.
"(Her) emaciated, paralyzed, lifeless body must speak for her."
The parents were arrested in May after police found Baby M in cardiac arrest.
The 27-month-old girl and her twin sister were both severely underweight.
The couple’s son was found to be in good health. He was taken to foster care.
Addendum: After a flurry of last-minute appeals, Baby M has died.
After a short life and a long legal battle, ‘Baby M’ dies in Edmonton hospital
CALGARY — A two-year-old Edmonton girl allegedly abused by her parents has died after the Supreme Court of Canada rejected a request to keep her on life support.
Sources confirmed that the toddler died Thursday night at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton after being removed from a ventilator.
The parents, facing child-abuse charges and being held at the Edmonton Remand Centre, had asked the Appeal Court of Alberta that they be allowed to visit their daughter one last time.
“My understanding is that [the parents] have been taken to the hospital and were allowed 20 minutes, as per court order,” said Michelle Davio, spokeswoman for Alberta Justice. “They were separate visits.”
Earlier in the day, the parents of Baby M lost a last bid to keep their daughter on life support — and avoid being charged with her murder.
The Supreme Court of Canada rejected their request for an emergency stay, which would have kept the toddler alive long enough for the court to hear an appeal of the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to let the girl die.
The two-year-old has been in a vegetative state for months, ever since paramedics were called to her Edmonton home on May 25 to find her emaciated — she weighed only 13 pounds — and with a head injury. Her twin sister was also malnourished, at 16 pounds.
The sister is now in foster care, as is an older brother, who had also been living in the home but wasn’t injured.
Her 34-year-old parents are charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life, charges that are likely to be upgraded now that the child has died.
Doctors told the courts Baby M was virtually brain- dead with no hope of recovery.
On Wednesday, the Alberta Court of Appeal denied the parents’ request to keep the toddler on life support.
In her judgment, Justice Frans Slatter confirmed the lower court’s decision, saying there were no overriding legal concerns that should obstruct the child’s best interest, which is to let her die.
“Upon review, we cannot see any error in that previous decision that would warrant interference by this court,” the judge said.
“The sanctity of human life is one of the core values of our society and justice system, but life is not without end.”
The parents, who cannot be identified, filed a motion with the Supreme Court of Canada asking it to intervene. They said love and their religion — they are Muslims — demanded they keep the child alive.
They did, however, sign a do-not-resuscitate order if her heart failed.
Muslim scholars have questioned the couple’s reasoning, claiming Islam does not mandate extraordinary measures to keep people in vegetative states alive.
Carissima Mathen, an associate professor who specializes in constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, said there was an argument for keeping the child alive long enough to hear the case. However, the court does not have to explain why it would not hear the appeal.
Tim Caulfield, a specialist in health law and policy at the University of Alberta, said the previous rulings were all sound.
“The decision was so sensible. [The judge] touched on all the factors, the religious belief issue, she touched on the potential conflict of interest issue. At its core, this was really about the best interest of the child and she really kept the focus on there,” he said.
Denied bail after their arrest, they are to appear for a bail review Friday.
Source: National Post