Two children, one in Canada, the other in Arizona, were diagnosed with leukemia. Their stories are virtually parallel, until the end. Both began chemotherapy. When they asked to stop the treatment that was making them very sick, the outcomes were completely different. Canada has ruled that the state cannot force the medical treatment, while Arizona seized custody of the child and is attempting to sever all of his mother’s parental rights.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Makayla Sault of the Missisaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Ontario, Canada, is 11 years old, and was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Chemotherapy was prescribed. According to Indian Country Today, 11 weeks into the treatment Makayla told her parents that she couldn’t take it anymore, that she believes that Jesus will heal her, and that she wants to pray and use traditional healing methods.
She composed a heartfelt letter pleading for this option, and read it on a YouTube video.
Her parents, Pastors Ken and Sonya Sault, decided to stop her chemo treatments and try the alternative treatments. That is when things got really ugly. McMaster Children’s Hospital accused her parents of “failing to provide proper medical care for the child,” because they chose to take Makayla out of chemotherapy.
When the family went to Florida to pursue alternative healing, ABC News reports that the hospital tried to get the courts to force the Saults to return to McMaster Children’s and resume the chemotherapy, even though her condition was already improving with the alternative treatment. Hospital President Dr. Peter Fitzgerald told the court that, with the chemo, Makayla had a 90 to 95 percent chance of survival. (He did not note that, frequently, survival rates are based upon five year survival rates. If a patient dies in six years from a complication from the therapy, it is still considered in the survival success rate.)
On Friday, Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward ruled that the Sault family could not be forced to submit Makayla to the conventional medical treatment. The Toronta Star reports that the fact that the family is aboriginal played a significant role in the precedent-setting judgment, according to the judge.
“This is not an eleventh hour epiphany employed to take her daughter out of the rigours of chemotherapy. Rather it is a decision made by a mother, on behalf of a daughter she truly loves, steeped in a practice that has been rooted in their culture from its beginnings.”
The case is strikingly similar to the case of Christopher Reign Brown, an eight-year-old boy in Arizona. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. According to Health Impact News, he began a twelve-week regimen of oral chemotherapy. He too became sick from the treatment. Ten weeks into the process, he had a conversation with his mother, Tonya Brown, a Christian missionary. He asked, “Mom, if I am healed in Jesus’ name, then why are you giving me that poison?”
Dr. Jessica Boklan of Phoenix Children’s Hospital wanted to do a bone marrow transplant. Because his mother adopted Christopher as a baby from Guatemala, there was not any close relative who could donate bone marrow, which made the painful procedure much more risky. After much research and prayer, Tonya stopped the chemo treatments at ten weeks, and took her son home to seek alternative treatments, including prayer for healing.
Christopher got better. But the doctor alerted Child Protective Services. After 18 months of the Browns living their life, CPS showed up at their doorstep. The social worker had been told to expect a child on his deathbed. What she found was a happy child, thriving in his mother’s love.
Less than two weeks later, after months of good health, he began to relapse. When Tonya took him to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Dr. Boklan wanted to begin chemo treatment again. Even though Tonya accepted her treatment plan at this time, CPS seized custody of her son the very next day.
Whereas the alternative treatments, including prayer, were part of the Christian family’s faith and tradition, their heritage was not met with the same tolerance that Makayla’s family found. It is her very faith that the CPS-appointed psychiatrist called “delusional.” Though prayer and healing is an ancient part of Christian doctrine, Christopher’s removal from the mother he has grown up with was based on the accusation that Tonya “continues to cling steadfastly to her bizarre religious beliefs.”
She is charged with neglect because she chose to seek alternatives, including prayer and healing, before agreeing to a procedure that her research said was risky and very painful.
Christopher has been forbidden to see his mother since January, and has not been allowed to speak with her since March. It is now up to a judge to decide whether Christopher Reign Brown will be allowed to return to his mother, or if Tonya Brown’s parental rights to her son will be completely cut off. Another family allegedly is waiting to adopt him.
The last hearing was on Friday, November 14, the same day that the Canadian judge ruled that parents have the right to make these decisions for their children, upholding the rights of families to adhere to their religious and cultural beliefs when seeking treatment, even for something as serious as leukemia. Hundreds of people on the Facebook page set up by supporters are hoping and praying for the Arizona judge to make what they see as the Constitutional decision to FreeChristopher. A Canadian judge saw fit to uphold a family rights; perhaps an American judge will do so, too.
[images via Facebook and YouTube video screenshot]