The Canberra Hospital is preparing to turn off life support for a 20-week pregnant Canberra woman, despite frantic court action brought by the baby’s father.
- 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 has been on life support in the Canberra Hospital since the crash, and her partner 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 today 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.
Outside court today, 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.
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.
The judgement noted medical records from May 18 showed doctors told Mr Millard that Ms Reno may be progressing to brain death, and the foetus was not viable.
Chief Justice Murrell said the court did not have jurisdiction to overturn the hospital’s decision.
“Nevertheless, there is no suggestion of mala fides [intent to deceive] on the part of anyone, and the hospital succeeded in establishing that the court lacked jurisdiction,” she said.
‘Traumatic for all concerned’
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.
Today Chief Justice Helen Murrell noted there was tension between Mr Millard and Ms Reno’s family.
She said there was also tension between Mr Millard and the hospital, which became apparent when he was given an ultimatum by the hospital’s lawyers.
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”.
She noted some things changed when he produced the enduring power of attorney document.
“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.”