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DEC 16 - DEC 24, 2014

Bureaucratic Indifference, New York Style Contributes to Little Girl's Suffering, Death

By Mike Hudson

December 16, 2014

Their last Christmas. Donella and mother Lisa Miljour in a hotel room during the four-hour visit permitted between mother and daughter by Child Protective Services on Christmas Day.

To say that 8-year-old Donella Nocera -- who died last week at Women and Children's Hospital in Buffalo following a year-long battle with brain cancer – was a victim at every level of New York's nanny state bureaucracy would be an understatement.

From the Niagara Falls City Police, who intervened on a domestic dispute at the home of Nocera's mother, Lisa Miljour, to the Niagara County Department of Child Protective Services, who took little Donella from her home, to the Governor's Mansion in Albany, where foot dragging on the part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo prevented the girl from receiving medical marijuana treatments some believe could have staved off the cancer and certainly would have relieved her pain in a healthier way than the hard narcotics that eventually put her into a coma, the system failed the child in the worst way imaginable.

The story began with a phone call, shortly before the holidays in 2013. Lisa Miljour received the heartbreaking news that her beloved grandmother was dying from cancer in Cleveland. In a bad decision she's regretted ever since, Miljour and her boyfriend George Billings, the father of Donella's half-sister Maxine, reacted to the bad news by having some drinks.

The couple began arguing, and things escalated. The baby Maxine was asleep in her crib at the time, while Donella was away visiting her father, Nathan Nocera.

It wasn't long before there was a knock on the door.

"I thought they were just some nice guys from the neighborhood checking to see that everything was all right," Miljour told the Niagara Falls Reporter.

It turned out she was wrong. In reality they were undercover Niagara Falls Police Department narcotics officers, dressed in the down at the heels style common to many who frequent the louche saloons of Miljour's Cuddaback Avenue neighborhood.

The situation quickly deteriorated, according to both Miljour and the arresting officers. By the time it was over, the couple was under arrest, charged with assaulting each other, resisting arrest and endangering the welfare of a child. The baby Maxine was remanded to the custody of Child Protective Services, which placed her in foster care.

Despite the fact that there was no prior record of any kind of abuse in the home and that Miljour's previous criminal record had amounted to a single seat belt violation, Child Protective Services took a tough stand. Not only would Maxine remain in a foster home with strangers, but Miljour was forbidden from further contact with Donella and another daughter as well.

She could visit the girls under supervised conditions at the county welfare office for one hour each week, a county official ruled.

On one such visit, Miljour said, she noticed that her Donella, then 7-years-old, had developed a facial tic and that her hands were trembling.

"I told the supervisor something's wrong and she said it was nothing," Miljour said. "I said no, she's going to the hospital."

Donella was taken to Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and finally to Women and Children's Hospital of Buffalo where she was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer. Surgery was followed by a series of intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Still, the county forbade Miljour from visiting her dying daughter, beyond the one hour a week supervised meeting proscribed in the original order.

"It's inhuman," Miljour's mother, Donna Chew, told the Reporter. "That poor little girl, in intensive care, isn't even allowed to see the mother she loves."

The painful treatments, surgery and the pain of the cancer itself led doctors to administer an escalating series of narcotic painkillers, administered intravenously. Little Donella began lapsing in and out of consciousness and it wasn't long before her father, Nathan Nocera stepped in.

He made repeated, and desperate personal calls to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, begging Albany to speed up the availability of medical marijuana, which, under a state law passed earlier this year, will remain illegal in New York State until January 2016.

But his pleas fell on deaf ears.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana for treatment of a wide array of maladies ranging from anxiety to cancer. New York, known throughout the country as a liberal bastion, has remained remarkably conservative in getting with the program.

Montana, New Mexico, Maine and even Alaska would seem to be more progressive than the Empire State when it comes to patients and doctors being permitted to decide what the best course of treatment might be for any individual patient.

According to a report issued by the National Cancer Institute, marijuana – or cannabis, as the active ingredient is known – may retard the growth of tumors, block the growth of cancerous cells, act as an anti-inflammatory agent and as a far more benign painkiller than opiate based drugs, which were administered to little Donella.

Marijuana interferes with cancer’s reproduction methods and kills tumor cells.


Furthermore, the report cites a recent human study that would indicate that cannabis increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

In most medical applications, cannabis is administered using pills or an under the tongue mouth spray.

But Cuomo, perhaps worried about the conservative Upstate voters who largely opposed him in the 2010 election and again this year, has been anything but liberal in his approach to the matter.

Which may have cost Donella her life.

"Gov. Cuomo, I know you cannot turn back time to get us the medical marijuana that could have slowed the aggressive growth of the tumor in her brain. I know you cannot give us back the days, turned into weeks, turned into months that we lost Donella to a narcotic-induced sleep. But you have the power to end the needless suffering of so many New York families, and I urge you to use it," Nathan Nocera said in a written statement released Friday.

Admitting that he had illegally secured marijuana for his daughter, who at last lapsed into a coma because of the narcotics his daughter could legally be administered, the grieving father asked for help on behalf of other endangered children

"In the name of my little girl and at least two other children who have died waiting for medical marijuana, I urge you to take action. When you gather with your loved ones this holiday season, I ask that you keep my family in your heart as we suffer the loss of our dearest Donnie."

The nanny state that is New York was, in the end, created by liberal minded people to protect the innocents most of all. In the case of 8-year-old Donella Nocera, it succeeded in taking a little girl from a loving home, ignoring signs of serious illness and perhaps hastening her death through a bureaucratic nightmare paid for by you, the taxpayer.

Astoundingly, Donella, then seven years old, diagnosed with brain cancer remained at Buffalo Children's Hospital, while Child Protective Services of Niagara County refused to let her mother, Lisa Miljour, see her aside from weekly one-hour supervised visits.



Happier times: A smiling Donella (R) sisters Rubi (L) and baby Maxine pose for a family snapshot.






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