British Columbia

Parents of baby Mary Jane Pierce win temporary injunction to keep her on life-support

A Chilliwack couple fighting to keep their four-month-old baby alive won a temporary injunction Tuesday at B.C. Supreme Court to stop doctors from removing life-support.

Couple say they did not consent to end the life of 4-month old daughter, who is in government care

'I definitely feel like there is still somebody there ... she'll grab your finger. You tickle her foot, she'll kick you,' says father Justin Pierce about his daughter, Mary Jane. (Justin Pierce)

A Chilliwack, B.C., couple fighting to keep their four-month-old baby alive won a temporary injunction Tuesday at B.C. Supreme Court to stop doctors from removing life-support.

Mary Jane Pierce was born prematurely at 25 weeks, and has been in hospital since she was born, with multiple serious health problems, including brain bleeding, cerebral palsy, infections and severe seizures. She remains on a ventilator at B.C. Women's Hospital.

The parents of Mary Jane Pierce, who was born prematurely at 25 weeks, won a temporary injunction to keep the four-month-old baby on life-support. (Justin Pierce)

Her parents, Michelle Arnold and Justin Pierce, both 21, say they were pressured last Friday into signing temporary custody of Mary Jane over to the care of an agency under the province's Ministry of Children and Family Development.

By Monday, the doctor caring for Mary Jane planned to remove the ventilator and transfer the infant to palliative care, according to an affidavit from the parents' lawyer.

Pierce said they never consented to that.

"They thought that she wasn't going to make it. So the ministry got involved and tried to pull her off life-support without our permission," he told CBC News.

An hour before the ventilator was to be removed Tuesday morning, a B.C. Supreme Court judge granted the injunction, according to Jordan Grey of the Hayley Rose Foundation, which has been helping the young couple.

"We presented our case … saying there isn't enough evidence that this baby is suffering," said Grey.

Plan to remove life-support unclear

It's not clear who decided the infant's ventilator should be removed, or on what basis that decision was made.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development said it could not comment on the specifics of the case, but said in general, "a delegated agency would work with the family to make the best possible decisions."

It also said "the wishes of the biological parents would not be contested — and the ministry does not and would not consent to a DNR [do not resuscitate order] upon removal."

Justin Pierce says he and mother Michelle Arnold did not consent to a plan to remove Mary Jane from life-support. (CBC )

It's also not clear why social services became involved in the care of Mary Jane.

The couple allege they were told "that if they did not agree to allowing [the agency] to have temporary custody, all future children of theirs would be taken into care immediately upon birth," according to their lawyer's affidavit.

Pierce told CBC News the ministry did not consider him and the child's mother to be fit parents to care for a daughter with disabilities, as they have epilepsy themselves.

'There is still somebody there'

Mary Jane's parents have been told she has little to no brain function, but her father said he's seen her open her eyes and respond to various stimuli.

"I definitely feel like there is still somebody there," said Pierce.

"She'll grab your finger. You tickle her foot, she'll kick you. She definitely has a lot of response. If you talk to her she'll definitely open her eyes and look at you."

He said she's being treated with cannabis oil, with the hospital's permission, which has helped reduce her seizures.

B.C. Women's Hospital and Health Centre also declined to discuss specifics of the infant's care.

"Situations such as this one are difficult for everyone involved and the team at B.C. Women's Hospital will continue to work with the family and caregivers to make the best possible decisions," said the statement attributed to Cheryl Davies, senior vice-president of patient care services.

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With files from Belle Puri

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