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Chief Justice Helen Murrell said there was no suggestion the Canberra Hospital intended to deceive anyone. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)
Canberra Hospital

A tragic story enacted in Canberra Hospital

Canberra Hospital can turn off life support for 20-week pregnant woman despite wishes of baby's father, court rules

Extract of Article - ABC news by Elizabeth Byrne 28 May 2020

The Canberra Hospital has turned off life support for a 20-week pregnant Canberra woman, despite frantic court action brought by the baby's father.

Mr Jamie Millard outside the ACT law courts.(ABC News)

Mr Jamie Millard outside the ACT law courts.(ABC News)

  • ACT Chief Justice Helen Murrell found the ACT Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction to overturn the Canberra Hospital's decision
  • The court heard Khayla Reno had been declared dead and the baby's life deemed unviable on May 18
  • Jamie Millard said he felt like a "condemned man" as he prepared for his final visit with Ms Reno
  • Khayla Reno, 29, was seriously injured in early May when her car and a truck collided in Tumut.

Two of her children in the car were also badly hurt; one has since died, while the other is still receiving critical care.   Ms Reno had been on life support in the Canberra Hospital since the crash, and the baby's father Jamie Millard sought an injunction from the ACT Supreme Court to stop her life support being turned off in order to prevent their baby dying.

He had succeeded in stalling the action for more than a week, but on Thursday the ACT's Chief Justice ultimately found the court had no jurisdiction in the case, partly because Ms Reno had been pronounced dead by doctors and the baby deemed unable to survive before the case began.   Ms Reno's life support was turned off later that day. Outside court, Mr Millard said he was preparing for a final visit with Ms Reno.

"I cannot do anything to stop the hospital committing this crime against this poor defenceless baby," Mr Millard said.  "I go now to my final hour visit feeling like a condemned man proceeding to execution."  Mr Millard said he and Ms Reno had had an argument before the crash, and a court judgement said members of Ms Reno's family believed she had been planning to leave him.  But Mr Millard said he was devastated because he and Ms Reno were both looking forward to having the baby.

No jurisdiction to delay turning off life support

The ACT Supreme Court ultimately did not rule in Mr Millard's favour to delay turning off Ms Reno's life support because it lacked the jurisdiction to do so.…....Chief Justice Murrell said the court did not have jurisdiction to overturn the hospital's decision.

The court also examined whether Ms Reno's organs should be donated.  The court heard Ms Reno's family had agreed that they should, but Mr Millard believed Ms Reno did not want that to happen.... The lawyers had said that if he withdrew his court action and agreed not to interfere with the plans for organ donation, he would be allowed to visit Ms Reno and his unborn child for a final hour.  Ultimately he produced a document giving him enduring power of attorney to decide health matters on Ms Reno's behalf, signed a week before the crash.

"We've stopped them from taking her organs," he later said….  In her judgement, Chief Justice Murrell said that it was "unfortunate the plaintiff felt compelled to commence the proceedings".  "With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that the hospital's attitude to the plaintiff and associated communication deficiencies fuelled this unfortunate litigation, which has been traumatic for all concerned," she said…."The series of 'deadlines' imposed by the hospital … suggests that the hospital was anxious to proceed with an organ donation and gave some priority to that desire."

Full article available at ab.co/316LM7E
To read the full Supreme Court decision Millard v Australian Capital Territory [202] ACTSC 138 click here bit.ly/2V5eHoV.

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