Doctors at the Pretoria Academic Hospital have obtained an urgent court order enabling them to give a month-old baby a blood transfusion. They felt the life of the infant – one of twins – was at stake.
But the baby’s family, who live in Sunnyside and are Jehovah’s Witnesses, are deeply distressed.
The baby’s grandmother said the hospital knew about their faith and the fact that blood transfusion was against their religion.
To make matters worse, the 22-year-old mother of the child had to witness the blood being transfused to the baby, the grandmother said.
“They obtained the order late on Saturday night because they said it was urgent. Urgent means urgent, so why, when my daughter got to the hospital the next afternoon, did she have to witness the transfusion?
“We were told it would only take four hours to administer. Why did they only have to do it the next afternoon? Seeing the transfusion had upset her terribly,” she said.
The twins were born on September 20 and they were premature: her daughter had been due to give birth only in December.
The infants were placed in an incubator, but one boy developed complications. He became anaemic and the doctors told the family that he urgently needed a blood transfusion.
“I told them that I signed a form during admission that transfusions are against our religion.
“I eventually even got our priest to explain the situation to them. I told them that we would rather pray and hope he would survive.”
The grandmother said to the surprise of the doctors the infant did seem a bit better. “We were so happy we cried with joy.”
But she said a week later he experienced another setback and the doctors once again insisted on a transfusion.
The family again refused and the grandmother said a doctor suggested alternative medication, which would increase the infant’s haemoglobin levels. “The doctor said the medicine would take about three weeks to work,” the grandmother said.
On Saturday, while the family was visiting the infants, the doctors again insisted on a transfusion. The family was told on Saturday evening that the doctors were headed for the Pretoria High Court to obtain an order.
Judge Willie Seriti heard oral evidence late that evening from paediatricians and a neurologist who said the baby suffered from severe anaemia, coupled with secondary heart failure, and that his life depended on a transfusion.
The doctors asked the court to override the family’s wishes that the child should not be given a transfusion.
Before granting the order, the judge also heard from the family, who still persisted that they opposed a transfusion.
The grandmother said she believed a transfusion was unnecessary as the doctor said the child should recover from the alternative treatment which was administered about two weeks ago.
“They said it would only work after three weeks. Why go to court and not wait for it to work? I believe the only reason is that we are being discriminated against based on our religion,” the grandmother said.
She said by late on Monday afternoon she could not detect a change in the baby’s condition. He was still attached to a ventilator. The other twin, however, is doing fine, although he is also still in hospital.
A Pretoria Academic Hospital spokesperson, Fredah Kobo, declined to comment on Monday.
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