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Court rules doctors can override patient’s wish

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Australia
Feb. 19, 2005 • Saturday February 19, 2005

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says doctors are obliged to provide the best care possible to seriously ill children, even if it conflicts with their parents’ religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court of Western Australia has ruled staff at Princess Margaret Hospital can give a 15-year-old cancer patient blood transfusions, even though he and his parents object to the treatment because they are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The court heard the teenager may need transfusions because of potentially fatal side effects from chemotherapy.

The court found the hospital had the right to go against the boy’s wishes because there was a chance he would die without the treatment.

The AMA’s Dr Rosanna Capolingua says the doctors have acted in the best interests of the child.

“That is all you expect from a doctor to want to make sure that the patient is the priority,” she said.

“Doctors in fact do have to go through a court situation to get the legal back-up in order to provide the care that the patient needs.”

Dr Capolingua says the matter needed to be resolved by the court.

“Sometimes it’s better to make sure that things are handled sensitively but sometimes the court orders are required.”

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