Ottawa: A judge on Friday rejected a bid by Canadian doctors to force an aboriginal girl into chemotherapy treatment in a groundbreaking ruling that affirms the right to pursue traditional healing over mainstream medicine.
The decision allows the parents of the 11-year-old girl to pursue a course of cancer treatment rooted in their centuries-old native traditions, but critics warn the unproven treatment risks the girl`s life.
Doctors at McMaster Children`s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario sued to have her placed in protective custody in order to force her into care after the family removed her from their care.
Government child protection services had refused to intervene, citing indigenous peoples` rights and concerns about splitting her from a loving family.
Doctors insisted that chemotherapy had a very high chance of curing her before she quit treatment in August.
"I cannot find that (the girl) is a child in need of protection when her (mother) has chosen to exercise her constitutionally-protected right to pursue their traditional medicine over the (doctors`) stated course of treatment of chemotherapy," Ontario Court Justice Gethin Edward was quoted as saying by public broadcaster CBC.
Another aboriginal girl whose parents pursued the same alternative treatments for acute lymphoblastic leukemia is now reportedly critically ill.
Critics urged the McMaster doctors to appeal the ruling, while outside the court the family`s supporters cheered.
"This is monumental," said New Credit First Nations Chief Bryan Laforme. "It reaffirms our right to be Indian and to practice our medicines in the traditional way."
The Ontario Children`s Aid Society also applauded the outcome saying it will spare the girl the "trauma" of being separated from her family during treatment.