The 14-year-old cancer patient from British Columbia who’s refusing a blood transfusion is still hoping to go to the U.S. this week to begin an alternative treatment.
The teen — who can’t be named because of a publication ban — is a Jehovah’s Witness and says the Bible forbids her from receiving blood products.
She has been undergoing chemotherapy after having a cancerous tumour removed from her leg last fall. The chemo has stripped her blood of red blood cells, prompting her doctors to recommend a transfusion.
While the girl has tried to refuse a transfusion, under B.C. law, only those 19 and older can refuse medical treatment.
Her family has arranged for her to be treated at Schneider Children’s Hospital in New York which has a “bloodless” cancer treatment program. But earlier this week, after the girl and her family fled to Ontario, a judge there refused to hear her arguments and ordered her home to B.C. to start treatment immediately.
The judge said entertaining other treatment options at this late stage represented a delay and threatened her life.
Dr. Michael LaCorte, the director of the bloodless medicine program at Schneider Hospital, told Canada AM Thursday that his team is hopeful that a hearing can be held quickly so that the girl can be flown to his hospital today.
“We’re pretty optimistic we can start treatment as early as tomorrow,” he said.
LaCorte believes the teen is a good candidate for the alternative program at his hospital’s oncology department.
The treatment at Schneider’s is based on a philosophy of conserving a patient’s blood by limiting blood draws. It would also see her given medication to stimulate her bone marrow to keep her blood levels as high as possible.
“The major thing in a case like this is allowing her blood counts to go below levels that traditional medicine may dictate,” he says. “In our program, we watch the child very, very carefully. We allow the hemoglobin to drop below traditional levels. We believe it’s safe and there are many centres like this around the country that believe it’s safe.
“We only transfuse if there’s indication that the individual really, really requires blood.”
LaCorte says that the patient and her family realize that there is still a possibility that a transfusion may at some point be the only way to keep her alive but she has still signed on to the treatment.
“Since they’re aware of the fact that we’ve done this before, and that we use all the techniques that we possibly can, they understand that their child may, at an extreme instance, need blood. And they have accepted that, as has the child.
“That’s really the difference is the trust between the team and the family, that we will do everything in our power, and we have had experience, and we will consult with anybody today they ask us to for any methods that could protect her from getting a transfusion.”
LaCorte says his hospital and the patient’s family have worked out an agreement so that the costs of the treatment will be shared by the hospital, by various charities and by the family.
He adds that because she’s had such excellent care from her hospital in British Columbia and is nearing the end of her treatment, he believes the girl has a good prognosis.
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