Young Girl’s Life Could Be Saved with Chemotherapy, but Her Parents Prefer a Faith-Based Alternative

We hear too many stories about faith-healing parents who think prayer has a better chance of curing their sick children than modern medicine. Too often, those children die because of their parents’ faith-based negligence.

Makayla Sault (below) is an 11-year-old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It’s a treatable disease with a survival rate of nearly 90% — if you go through two years of chemotherapy. She obviously has a tough road of her, but getting the treatment at McMaster Children’s Hospital (in Ontario, Canada) may be her only viable option.

Here’s the problem: Makayla hates chemotherapy, which is fully expected, and her Ojibwe/First Nations parents would rather use “traditional medicines” on her in lieu of the proven solution.

In a YouTube video, Makayla explained that she agreed with that decision:

Was that sincere? I can’t tell. But the truth is that it doesn’t matter. She’s underage and the hospital has an obligation to protect her — even if she says she saw Jesus and he told her she was healed.

The hospital turned the case over to the Children’s Aid Society of Brant, letting them have the final say in what her care should be — but indigenous health researcher Dawn Martin-Hill says there’s only one non-catastrophic option: Let Makayla out of the chemotherapy:

“I don’t think CAS would want to deal with the wrath of First Nations everywhere by trying to take Makayla,” said Martin-Hill.

Martin-Hill stresses the issue is indigenous rights not religion.

“According to the United Nations declaration on indigenous rights, they do have the right to seek traditional medicine. It’s a protected right for indigenous people worldwide.”

However, Martin-Hill points out that Makayla will be treated with traditional approaches including nurturing her psychologically to get her fighting spirit back, feeding her a healthy diet to repair the damage done by chemotherapy and giving her herbs chosen specifically for her cancer.

In essence, Makayla’s parents want the opportunity to sacrifice their child even though there’s an alternative (albeit painful and difficult) solution at their fingertips. Even worse, they’ve convinced their daughter to go along with it as if she’s doing something noble.

CAS officials will meet with the parents this week to see if they can work something out, but I can imagine what a compromise would look like here. There’s one option approved by expert doctors… and a non-option approved by people who don’t understand science. As the saying goes, if alternative medicine worked, it’d be called medicine. The chemotherapy is undoubtedly one of the hardest things she will ever experience in her life — but at least there’s a good chance she’ll be around to live a complete life.

For Makayla’s sake, let’s hope the evidence-based treatment wins out over herbal remedies and spiritual magic words.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.