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Edmonton toddler dies after Supreme Court refuses bid to continue life support


A 2-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.

A source confirmed to The Canadian Press that the toddler died Thursday night at the Stollery Children’s Hospital after being removed from a ventilator that was keeping her alive.

Lawyers for the child’s parents applied to the Supreme Court Thursday morning for an emergency stay of an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling that allowed 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 late Thursday afternoon, ending further legal wrangling.

The Alberta Court of Appeal agreed Wednesday with a lower court’s ruling that keeping the toddler, who doctors said had an irreversible brain injury and could not breathe or eat on her own, on life support would not have been in her best interests.

The girl, who could not be named under child welfare laws, was found in cardiac arrest by paramedics at her parents’ home on May 25. Paramedics managed to resuscitate her after 40 minutes of CPR, but not before the girl suffered a severe brain injury.

Her parents face charges of aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life. They are alleged to have beaten and starved the girl and her twin sister, who is now recovering. An older brother who was also found in the home, but wasn’t injured, is now in foster care.

While the parents signed a “do not resuscitate” order if the girl’s heart should stop, they had asked that any treatment that would keep their daughter alive be continued.

In an affidavit, the girl’s father said his religious beliefs prevent him from consenting to a withdrawal of treatment.

“As a devout Muslim and loving father I find it unthinkable to agree to limit or withdraw medical treatment for (the girl). I ask that the court to honour my beliefs that the ultimate course of (the girl’s) life not be made by doctors limiting or withdrawing treatment,” he said.

But the three-judge appeal court panel agreed with the decision made by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice June Ross, who had been asked by Alberta Children and Youth Services to determine the course of the girl’s medical care in place of her parents.

Ross agreed with the recommendation by the girl’s medical team that she be withdrawn from life-sustaining treatment. The judge noted that the parents are in a conflict of interest because they could face more criminal charges now that the girl has died.

“Even assuming that (the girl’s) parents think that their decision is motivated by religious beliefs and love for (the girl), I am left with a concern that their decision may in fact be affected by self interest,” Ross wrote in her Sept. 14 ruling.

The appeal court panel was of the same opinion.

“The sanctity of human life is one of the core values of our society and our legal system. But life is not without end,” wrote Appeal Court Justice Frans Slatter. “Upon review, we cannot see any error of principle in that decision which would warrant interference by this court.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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