Top court rejects life support case
EDMONTON — A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for doctors to take a two-year-old Edmonton girl allegedly abused by her parents off the breathing machine that is keeping her alive.
Lawyers for the child’s parents applied Thursday morning for an emergency stay of an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling that allows doctors to remove the girl from life support.
The lawyers wanted time to file an application for the court to hear an appeal.
But a panel of three Supreme Court justices rejected the stay Thursday evening, putting an end to any further legal wrangling.
Doctors have testified that the girl, known in documents only as M, will not live long after doctors take her off the machine.
But because of privacy concerns, health officials could not say when doctors planned to make the move.
Lawyers representing the parents and the girl could not be reached for an update.
Court has heard the girl, who has been in a coma for three months, has an irreversible brain injury and will never regain consciousness.
On Wednesday, Alberta’s top court upheld an earlier judge’s ruling that it’s in the girl’s best interest to let her die.
The Alberta court further ordered that the parents be allowed one last visit with the girl.
They were escorted from the Edmonton Remand Centre to the Stollery Children’s Hospital on Thursday afternoon and, under guard, met separately with her for 20 minutes each.
The parents, who cannot be named, have been charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life — charges that police say are likely to be upgraded when the girl dies.
Paramedics responding to a 911 call found the girl and her twin sister, both malnourished and suffering from injuries, in an Edmonton home May 25.
The girl on life support was in cardiac arrest and quickly slipped into a coma.
Her sister is now in foster care. So is an older brother, who had also been living in the home but wasn’t injured.
The parents, who are Muslim, cited their religious beliefs and love for their daughter in asking doctors to do all they can to keep her alive.
They did, however, sign a do-not-resuscitate order in case her heart fails.
They still have guardianship of their daughter, although Alberta Child and Family Services has custody.
A lawyer appointed to represent the girl asked the court to side with her doctors, who all agree that her medical treatment should be stopped.
The doctors have said the girl has suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia and soon needs an operation to keep using a breathing machine.
The tracheostomy would be the first in a series of invasive, risky procedures she would face.
Last week, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross cast doubt on the parents’ motives for wanting to keep their daughter alive and ruled she should be taken off life support.