Canadian Judge Rules Medical Care For Baby Isaiah Can Continue For Now

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 27, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Canadian Judge Rules Medical Care For Baby Isaiah Can Continue For Now

by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 27
, 2010

Edmonton, Canada ( — A Canadian judge has ruled that medical care and treatment for Baby Isaiah can continue for now while attorneys re-examine what has turned into a controversial case of potential euthanasia. Baby Isaiah was born in October and suffered severe oxygen deprivation.

His parents are fighting a hospital in the latest futile care case to gain attention that has Alberta Health Services wanting to terminate treatment because Baby Isaiah’s case is supposedly hopeless.

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

The boy was 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.

Now, a judge ruled today that Isaiah James May can stay on life support at Stollery Children’s Hospital for a few more weeks while attorneys for the parents and the hospital battle it out.

Madame Justice Michelle Crighton ruled care and treatment can continue until February 19, as Rebecka and Isaac May point out how their son’s condition continues to improve.

The Mays will now turn to finding an independent doctor to review their son’s medical prospects.

"We’re happy that someone has come forward and offered to assess him, but we’ll see what the report says," the baby’s mother said.

"Every time I hold him, he’s non-stop moving, and he moves his head," Isaiah’s father added. "He opens his eyes, his eyelids, a little bit and I mean, every little thing is an improvement, right?"

The case has garnered national and international attention, with more than 24,000 people signing up for the family’s FaceBook page to show their support.

The letter the hospital sent to the parents read, "“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."

Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, has been following the case closely and told, "The parents of Baby Isaiah are fighting to keep their son alive. He is at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton."

"For a baby who is supposedly brain dead, then how come he moves on his own?" he said.

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.

May 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.

Smith 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:

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