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Jehovah’s Witneses parents of sextuplets win right to question doctors, social workers

CanWest News Service, via the Times Colonist, Canada
Oct. 3, 2007
Susan Lazaruk • Wednesday October 3, 2007

VANCOUVER — After several legal bids, lawyers for the parents of Canada’s first sextuplets have been granted the right to cross-examine the doctors who approved their blood transfusions.

“It took us a while to get there, but we’re happy,” said lawyer John Burns.

Four of the six babies, born Jan. 7, were taken and given transfusions with little or no notice to their parents after a secret court hearing when the babies were just weeks old.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood

“[T]he Jehovah’s Witnesses organization prohibits the use of blood transfusions. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to die or let their children die, rather than break this command, even though the Scriptures nowhere teach that blood transfusions are wrong.”
- Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization

The parents, referred to only as V.M. and C.M., belong to Jehovah’s Witnesses, a faith that prohibits blood transfusions.

They maintain there are medically approved alternatives to transfusions and wanted the opportunity to question the doctors and social workers about the authority they relied on to approve the transfusions, said Burns.

“In other provinces, you get a hearing,” he said. “These parents feel that an injustice was done. Legally, we’ve never had a chance to reply” to the court-ordered apprehension.

After being turned down in April on a request to cross-examine the doctors by B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Brenner, Burns and co-counsel Shane Brady asked for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal twice and were turned down both times.

Brenner approved their second application in Supreme Court to cross-examine Dr. John A. Smyth, Dr. Robin K. Whyte and Dr. Alfonso Solimano, who swore affidavits approving blood transfusions for the babies.

He has yet to rule on whether social workers Samuel Bruce McNeill, Dannielle Dunn and Tricia Cromie can be cross-examined.

Two of the babies died soon after birth. The others, two boys and two girls, are living at home and thriving.

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