A teenage Jehovah’s Witness who was crushed by a car refused a blood transfusion before he died.
Joshua McAuley, 15, is understood to have declined the treatment advised by doctors and was not overruled by members of his family.
The teenager was a member of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Smethwick.
A spokesman from Selly Oak hospital said: “There’s not one single policy and not one single law regarding transfusions. There’s no automatic right to override parental wishes or that of a minor. It’s a very complex area that has to be approached on a case by case basis. ”
Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught that passages of the Bible forbid blood transfusions. Members who do accept such treatment can be cast out of the church. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses carry a signed and witnessed advance directive card absolutely refusing blood and releasing doctors from any liability arising from this refusal.
Clive Parker, an elder at Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses where Joshua and his family worshipped, said: “I believe he was conscious enough after the accident and he made a stand on the blood issue. He made the choice personally.”
From a legal point of view doctors who administer blood in the face of refusal by a patient may be unlawful and could lead to criminal and/or civil proceedings.
There have been cases where doctors have gone to court to get permission to give blood to children against the wishes of parents who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If doctors consider a minor to be competent they can consent to medical treatment, but their refusal can be overruled by the consent of a person with parental authority or by the court.
If the child is deemed not legally competent, consent will need to be obtained from someone with parental responsibility, unless it is an emergency.
Emergency treatment can be provided without consent to save the life of, or prevent serious deterioration in the health of, a child or young person.