TORONTO – Makayla Sault, the 11-year-old Ontario girl who refused chemotherapy treatments in favour of indigenous medicine, died Monday.
Makayla, a member of the New Credit First Nation near Caledonia, Ont., made national headlines last year when she refused chemo for her leukemia. The province’s Children Aid Society chose not to intervene after her family decided to pursue alternative medicine.
A statement from the family published in the Two Row Times said Makayla died on Monday at 1:50 p.m. after suffering a stroke Sunday morning.
“After a valiant fight, almost a year from diagnosis, our daughter, Makayla Sault suffered a stroke on Sunday morning that she just couldn’t recover from,” read the statement.
“Surrounded by the love and support of her family, her community and her nation – on Monday, January 19 at 1:50 PM, in her 12th year, Makayla completed her course. She is now safely in the arms of Jesus.”
She had been receiving chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton when she decided to stop the treatment in the spring of 2014 after suffering severe side effects.
“Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke,” the family statement said. “We continue to support Makayla’s choice to leave chemotherapy. At this time we request privacy from the media while we mourn this tragic loss.”
McMaster Children’s Hospital contacted child welfare authorities to force the girl to resume chemotherapy, but an Ontario Court decision in the case of another First Nations girl who also refused chemo ruled aboriginal parents have a constitutionally protected right to choose traditional treatments for their children.
The hospital respected the court’s decision and did not appeal the ruling.
The hospital offered it’s condolences to the girl’s family through a written statement.
“Everyone who knew Makayla was touched by this remarkable girl. Her loss is heart-breaking,” hospital president Peter Fitzgerald said in a statement. “Our deepest sympathy is extended to Makayla’s family.”
Sault’s case was among two recent instances where McMaster Children’s Hospital tried to force a child to undergo chemotherapy.
In the other case, the child’s mother pulled her out of treatment and took her to Florida for alternative therapy. An Ontario judge ruled in November that doctors could not force the girl, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, to have chemotherapy.