An 11 year-old Ontario girl, whose family allowed her to refuse chemo treatment in favor of alternative ‘faith based’ medicine for her leukemia, has died this Monday.
Makayla Sault, who is a member of the First Nations indigenous group based in Canada, made headlines last year when she refused treatment for her lymphoblastic leukemia – a disease that is treatable and has a 90% success rate – with her family’s support. She instead sought out alternative indigenous medicine.
Her family published a statement saying 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,” the statement read.
“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.”
Makayla was receiving chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton when she decided to stop the treatment in the spring of 2014 after suffering some side effects.
But in the statement, her family blamed her past chemo treatment as a direct cause of her death.
“Chemotherapy did irreversible damage to her heart and major organs. This was the cause of the stroke,” the family’s 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.”
According to the National Post, there is little evidence to suggest that chemotherapy was responsible for Makayla’s stroke.
There appears to be little to no clinical precedent for chemotherapy drugs prompting a childhood stroke several months after treatment has ceased.
A stroke could be consistent with leukemia, however. As a blood disease, leukemia can form clots that cause stroke. Oncology sources contacted Monday night by the National Post, however, said that Makayla’s specific cancer is not consistent with a fatal stroke — unless the cancer had spread to her brain.
McMaster Children’s Hospital contacted child welfare authorities in an attempt to get her 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.