A life-saving blood transfusion was administered to a critically ill baby under a court order secured by a Dublin hospital at a late-night hearing in a High Court judge’s home.
The child’s parents, members of the Jehovah Witness faith objected on religious grounds to the procedure.
The baby boy, who became very unwell on Christmas Day and whose condition continued to deteriorate, received the transfusion shortly after a hearing which concluded at 2.30am on December 27th in Mr Justice Gerard Hogan’s home, the judge said yesterday.
The child’s condition had improved since and he was no longer critically ill, the court heard.
Mr Justice Hogan yesterday outlined his reasons for granting the Children’s University Hospital at Temple Street, Dublin, an order allowing the transfusion. He also made orders preventing identification of the child.
The court had previously sanctioned a transfusion for another child of the parents and they seemed resigned it would order one, the judge noted. The parents struck him as “wholesome and upright” and most anxious for their child’s welfare yet steadfast in their religious beliefs.
The Constitution guaranteed freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion, Mr Justice Hogan added. It also gave parents the right to raise their children by reference to their own religious and philosophical views but that right was not absolute.
The State had a vital interest in ensuring that children were protected which could prevail even in the face of express and fundamental constitutional rights, he said.
Dramatic court hearing held in judges home during early hours
The judge said while the boy’s parents were clearly anxious for his welfare and had allowed the use of blood products earlier that day, as committed Jehovah Witnesses they were steadfast in their opposition to this procedure.
The parents were not legally represented at the judge’s house, but were aware of the issues as the court had previously sanctioned a blood transfusion for another child of theirs.
Judge Hogan continued: “There is no doubt as to the sincerity of the religious beliefs of the parents.
“They struck me as wholesome and upright parents who were most anxious for the welfare of their child, yet steadfast in their own religious beliefs. An abhorrence of the administration of a blood transfusion is integral to those beliefs.”