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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Child M Case in Edmonton

The Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton rejected arguments to keep an abused child on life support. The parents, who are presently incarcerated facing charges related to the abuse of the girl and he twin sister, appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal. The appeal was dismissed and that court ordered that medical staff should disconnect the life support in 24 hours. The family then sought to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear the case. This too failed.

According to The Globe and Mail the child has now died as a result of the cessation of the life support systems.. Charges against the parents may well be upgraded as a result of the death.

The crucial element for the child protection systems, is that the courts looked at the best interest of the child as the crucial basis upon which to make the determination. The court is reported to have concluded that the child was suffering on life support and had no apparent hope of returning to a productive state.

Media reports suggested that the parents argued that they should be making the decision. In essence, that is an argument for the best interest of the parents who claim that there desire to keep her alive was based on religious grounds. By siding with what was in child M's best interests, the courts have again affirmed that the priority of the child when parental and child's rights are in opposition. This certainly doesn't mean that will always be the result in all cases but it does continue to uphold an important principle.

Justice Ross of the Court of Queen's Bench stated in her decision at paragraph 66,

"From the perspective of that general societal understanding, the evidence in this case that
it is in M’s best interests that life-sustaining treatment be stopped is clear and uncontradicted. A large number of specialists have been involved in her care, and it is their unanimous recommendation that treatment be stopped. M has no awareness of her surroundings and is completely dependent on mechanical supports to live. The unchallenged evidence of the doctors is that she will never regain consciousness and be interactive. The evidence is also that she will require invasive treatment, imminently, in the form of a tracheostomy, simply to be maintained on the ventilator, and that she will continue to contract pneumonia or other infections, and may require further invasive treatments in response. There is no potential benefit to her from these treatments, as they will not improve her current condition."

She adds at paragraph 72:
In considering this submission, I keep in mind that my role is to consider only the best
interests of M, not those of her parents or any other person

The full decision, only 15 pages, can be found at the Alberta Courts Website 

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