Parents drop fight to treat baby with cannabis oil as she breathes on her own

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VANCOUVER — Parents of a severely ill baby girl in British Columbia have dropped a court action seeking greater control of her care, including the right to treat her with cannabis oil.

Justin Pierce and Michelle Arnold withdrew their application to share custody of their five-month-old daughter with B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development on Wednesday.

The parents’ lawyer, Erin Haupt, says Mary Jane Pierce has been breathing on her own without a ventilator for two weeks and the parents are hopeful they can bring her home someday.

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The ministry obtained a temporary custody order in August, and Haupt says the province is still planning to make the order permanent.

But she says the protection hearing won’t likely be held for several weeks, allowing the parents time to show they can be good caregivers to Mary Jane.

The baby was born premature at 25 weeks and has been in hospital ever since with serious health problems including seizures, which the parents say were helped by the cannabis oil treatment.

The family’s court battle began in August when the ministry moved to remove the baby’s ventilator and place her in palliative care.

Pierce and Arnold, who live in Chilliwack, B.C., won a temporary injunction to keep her on life support. At a subsequent hearing, the ministry agreed not to take her off the machine without the couple’s consent.

A lawyer for B.C. Women’s Hospital told court last month that the cannabis oil did nothing to alleviate the girl’s seizures and might have instead increased them.

Penny Washington said the extensive medical treatments were taking a toll on Mary Jane, who has cerebral palsy and suffers bleeding in her brain.

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“In my view, it’s becoming inconsistent with human dignity,” she said.

But Haupt said on Wednesday the girl has made remarkable progress in the past two weeks. She still needs some support to breathe, but no longer needs the ventilator.

“The parents are very excited that she is getting better and better, and they want to show that they can be parents, so that’s how we’re proceeding,” she said.

“It’s fantastic, given a couple weeks ago we never thought we’d be in this position. They are very, very hopeful that she will at some point be able to be discharged.”

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

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Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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