A court has rejected a man’s eleventh-hour bid to keep a pregnant woman on life support following a horror crash in southern New South Wales.
Khayla Ann Reno, 29, suffered serious head injuries when her car collided with a truck on the Snowy Mountains Highway in Tumut on May 15.
Ms Reno’s passengers, two girls aged four and 11, were flown to Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney, while she was taken to the Canberra Hospital and placed in the intensive care unit.
The 11-year-old girl died of her injuries.
Doctors at the Canberra Hospital declared Ms Reno “life extinct” on May 20. She was 19 weeks’ pregnant at the time of the crash.
A foetus is considered viable from 23 weeks. The father of Ms Reno’s unborn child, Jamie Damian Millard, was told “to say his last goodbyes” as her life support would be switched off and no attempt would be made to save the foetus.
But Ms Reno had given power of attorney to Mr Millard a week before the crash, and an ACT court granted him an injunction to keep Ms Reno on life support while he sought a doctor’s opinion on whether the foetus could survive.
Mr Millard also didn’t want her organs harvested due to her Aboriginal heritage, despite her father telling medical staff she’d never expressed opposition to organ donation.
The hospital refused Mr Millard further visits as he had already been “provided an opportunity to visit and say goodbye”.
Court documents reveal family believed Ms Reno was planning to end her relationship with Mr Millard.
The hospital gave Mr Millard several deadlines for when Ms Reno’s life support was to be turned off, with the final cut off at midday today.
Mr Millard’s lawyers argued continuing life support wasn’t futile, but the court determined ACT law considers an unborn foetus to be part of the mother.
Further injunctions were refused, with the court ruling it didn’t have jurisdiction to overturn the hospital’s decision.
The hospital did allow Mr Millard a final visit before life support was switched off.
Outside court Mr Millard said he was devastated.
“We’d both been looking forward to having this baby,” Mr Millard said.
“I go now to my final hour visit, feeling like a condemned man going to execution. “I just don’t know how they could do this to an unborn child.”
ACT Supreme Court Chief Justice Helen Murrell said it was unfortunate Mr Millard felt compelled to commence legal proceedings.
“He felt alienated from the decision-making process as the hospital chose to communicate primarily with other members of Ms Reno’s family,” Chief Justice Murrell said.
“With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that the hospital’s attitude to [Mr Millard] and associated communication deficiencies fuelled this unfortunate litigation.”
The court ruled there was no suggestion of bad faith or intent to deceive by anyone involved.