A Jehovah’s Witness teenager from British Columbia appears to have beaten cancer after receiving specialized treatment in New York that avoided blood transfusions.
She was to be sent home to the Okanagan Monday after being treated at the New York Schneider Children’s Hospital with a program aimed at avoiding or minimizing use of transfused blood.
The 15-year old girl — who can not be identified — had lost two court battles in Canada when she objected to receiving blood on religious grounds.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that blood is a sacred source of life not to be misused or tampered with under any circumstance. The faith interprets literally a passage from scripture that forbids the ingestion of blood.
Chemotherapy affects the body’s ability to replace blood cells and often requires transfusions. Adults have the right to refuse blood transfusions, but children under the age of 18 do not.
The girl, identified only as Sarah because of a court publication ban, began her treatment in New York in May and was able to complete it without having a blood transfusion.
She told reporters Monday that she hoped her experience would create change in the Canadian medical system. “I hope that other doctors and hospitals will learn from this experience [in New York],” she said. “They’ve treated me as a woman and not as a child.”
Sarah, who was diagnosed with cancer in her right leg last December, was being treated at Children’s Hospital in Vancouver but refused to consent to blood transfusions because of her religious beliefs.
She went to a B.C. court to fight for her right to refuse but lost the case. The family appealed to an Ontario judge, but again the request was denied.
She learned of the bloodless treatment centre in New York, but the courts would not hear her request to be treated there.
But in mid-May, the teenager was transferred to New York from Vancouver following a B.C. Supreme Court ruling. It was based on an agreement reached between the B.C. director of Child, Family and Community Service, the teenager and her parents.
The chemotherapy was for osteogenic sarcoma.