Canadian Parents Fight Hospital to Not Withdraw Life Support in Futile Care Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 21, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Parents Fight Hospital to Not Withdraw Life Support in Futile Care Case

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 21
, 2010

Edmonton, Canada ( — Canadian parents are fighting a hospital in the latest futile care case to gain attention. Such cases involve medical centers that want to terminate treatment in supposedly hopeless cases and this one involves an infant named Isaiah, whose parents are fighting a hospital seeking to unilaterally remove treatment.

According to a Calgary television station report, Isaiah was born in October and suffered severe oxygen deprivation.

Doctors say they’ve done everything possible. But his parents believe their son is showing signs of improvement.

The boy was then placed on a ventilator in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and then Alberta Health Services sent the parents a letter January 13 saying the boy’s doctors believed all medical procedures had been exhausted.

“The diagnosis is unchanged; your son suffered severe anoxic brain injury at birth and has irreversible brain damage. There is no hope of recovery for Isaiah,” the letter said.

Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has been following the case closely.

"The parents of Baby Isaiah are fighting to keep their son alive. He is at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton," he writes. "For a baby who is supposedly brain dead, then how come he moves on his own?"

He recently posted a video on his blog and responded, "After watching him move in the video, don’t tell me that this case has nothing to do with futile care theory and cost containment."

Also, American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith has talked about the case.

"What does ‘no hope of recovery’ mean? Does it mean the baby will die, even with life support? But he has been alive for 90 days and hasn’t succumbed yet. Or instead, does it mean he will be permanently disabled?" he asks.

"If so, that should not be reason to cut off wanted care. Indeed, doing so is discrimination," he says.

Isaiah’s mother Rebecka May says in a court filing that her son has continued to grow since his birth even though doctors predicted that would not happen.

Hay mentions her son’s pupils dilate, his eyes open daily, and he moves his hands, arms and feet with “increasing frequency.”

"Doctors are not perfect, and prognoses are sometimes wrong, particularly when it comes to children,’ Smith cautions.

He points to the case of Haleigh Poutre "who doctors said would never recover–but who was saved when she showed signs of awareness before the ‘plug could be pulled’ and is now receiving special schooling, much improved."

"This case is in court, where it belongs rather than being decided behind closed doors by an ethics committee. The parents want to give it another 90 days, but the hospital has “offered” 30–haggling as if this were a lawsuit over the value of a damaged car," Smith explains.

"At least the judge is clearly taking this matter very seriously and has decided to get another medical opinion. But it seems to me, that when parents want their baby to be able to continue to fight for life, when he seems to be showing apparently unexpected signs of improvement, a tremendous burden of proof should be required for hospital administrators to veto the parents’ decision," he concludes.

For more information go to the – Prayers for Baby Isaiah James FaceBook page at:

Sign Up for Free Pro-Life News From

Daily Pro-Life News Report Twice-Weekly Pro-Life
News Report
Receive a free daily email report from with the latest pro-life news stories on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here. Receive a free twice-weekly email report with the latest pro-life news headlines on abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Sign up here.