An 11-year-old aboriginal girl who made headlines with her choice to abandon chemotherapy in favour of alternative healing methods to treat her cancer has died.
Makayla Sault, a member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, located near Brantford, Ont., suffered a stroke on Sunday and died early Monday, her family said.
In a statement issued in the Two Row Times, a weekly newspaper covering indigenous issues, Sault’s parents called their daughter’s death “a tragic loss.”
“Makayla was on her way to wellness, bravely fighting toward holistic well-being after the harsh side effects that 12 weeks of chemotherapy inflicted on her body,” her family said.
“Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke.”
Sault’s family added that they continued to support their daughter’s choice to stop chemotherapy, and called her battle against a form of leukemia “a valiant fight.”
Sault wrote a letter last year asking to be taken off chemotherapy, saying that the treatment was “killing” her body.
“I have asked my mom and dad to take me off the treatment because I don’t want to go this way anymore,” she wrote.
“I was sick to my stomach all the time and I lost about 10 pounds because I couldn’t keep nothing down. I know that what I have can kill me but I don’t want to die in a hospital on chemo, weak and sick.”
The McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, which had administered chemotherapy to Sault, offered its condolences to her family.
“Everyone who knew Makayla was touched by this remarkable girl. Her loss is heart-breaking,” hospital president Peter Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathy is extended to Makayla’s family.”
Sault’s case was among two recent instances in Ontario where aboriginal families opted for alternative therapy to treat children with cancer.
The second case, which also involved the McMaster Children’s Hospital, ended up in court when the hospital sought to have the child apprehended and placed back into chemotherapy after her mother pulled her out of treatment.
The child’s mother took her to Florida for alternative therapy, which involved herbal treatments and lifestyle changes.
An Ontario judge ruled in November, however, that doctors could not force the girl to resume chemotherapy to combat her cancer.
The decision didn’t prevent the girl from seeking treatment in a hospital in the future but recognized the right of the family to treat the girl with traditional aboriginal medicine.
The hospital that treated the second girl said it remained hopeful she would return to treatment because without it there would be “no chance of survival.”
Supporters of the girl’s family hailed the ruling as a victory. But others condemned the decision.
The family of the girl, who cannot be named under a court-ordered publication ban, sent their condolences to Sault’s family.
“We mourn your loss,” the family said in a statement issued in the Two Row Times. “I offer you strength to endure through your dark time. That one day you can adjust to the loss in your family circle.”