Dying Jehovah's Witness teen awaits word on high court appeal

Associated Press/July 9, 2002

Ottawa -- A Calgary teen who fought blood transfusions in her losing battle with leukemia learns Thursday whether the Supreme Court of Canada will hear her case.

The decision won't likely affect the 16-year-old girl: the Alberta government last week stopped forcing treatments on the dying Jehovah's Witness after 38 transfusions and four rounds of chemotherapy failed to stop the cancer.

She is not expected to see her 17th birthday on Aug. 20.

But the high court, should it hear her appeal, could proceed even after her death to clarify the rights of young people who reject medical treatment.

Through 19 court proceedings, lower court judges ruled against psychiatrists and bioethicists who said the girl is a mature minor who could decide her own fate. They instead found that the Alberta Child Welfare Act supersedes individual rights because the law protects children's lives.

And the courts concluded the teen was pressured by her Christian-based religion to refuse transfusions.

The province had custody of the girl for five months, forcing her to take blood products until late June .

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