EDMONTON – A two-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, ending further legal wrangling.
Doctors testified that the girl, known in documents only as M, would not live long after being removed from the machine.
Court has heard the girl, who had been in a coma for three months, had an irreversible brain injury and would never regain consciousness.
On Wednesday, Alberta’s top court upheld an earlier judge’s ruling that it was 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 hospital Thursday afternoon and, under guard, met separately with her for 20 minutes each.
The parents, who cannot be named, are charged with aggravated assault, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and failing to provide the necessities of life. Police have said if the girl died, the charges likely would be upgraded.
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 who was on life support was in cardiac arrest and quickly slipped into a coma. Her sister is now in foster care, as 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 for asking doctors to keep her alive. They did, however, sign a do-not-resuscitate order if her heart failed.
A lawyer appointed to represent the girl asked the court to side with her doctors, who all agreed that her medical treatment be stopped.
The doctors have said the girl suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia and would have needed an operation to keep using a breathing machine — the first of many invasive, risky procedures she would have had to 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.
The Alberta Court of Appeal quickly granted a stay of her decision so it could hear the parents’ appeal. On Wednesday, after unanimously siding with Ross, the three-member panel dismissed another request to stay the decision, so the parents’ lawyers could appeal to the Supreme Court.
Justice Frans Slatter said there was no legal issue that merited overriding the best interests of the child. “There is nothing further the legal system can do to improve the situation.”
The parents, denied bail after their arrest, are to appear for a bail review Friday.
Court has heard that the parents, who are banned from contacting each other, wanted that condition removed so they could discuss their daughter’s medical treatment. The Crown indicated it would not consent to the change.
The parents were initially allowed to see the girl at the hospital but the visits were stopped June 8.
Two doctors, including one who speaks Arabic, met with the parents at the remand centre to recommend the girl be taken off life support as soon as possible. The parents refused.
Ross wrote in her ruling that the impasse between the parents and the girl’s medical team was unlikely to be resolved. She said keeping the girl alive interfered with her dignity.