The parents of a premature newborn baby are claiming that hospital authorities refused to even consider using an alternative drug to save the life of their ailing infant and insisted on a blood transfusion, even though this procedure was against their religious belief.
Gordon Headley, an elder of the Jehovah Witness faith who holds responsibility as this country’s representative on medical matters, stated yesterday that the “uncooperative attitude” of the doctors “has mystified the parents of this infant and heightened their anxieties over the immediate and long-term welfare of the child”.
In a media statement issued by the Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, signed by Headley, it stated that members of his faith are concerned about the public’s perception of their religious beliefs.
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On Thursday, head of the Neonatal Unit at the Port of Spain General Hospital Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne sought legal help to allow her to treat an infant born to Joanne and Winston Ammon Jr, on November 25.
The mother had given birth to twins and they were diagnosed as suffering from a low blood count. Hours after their birth, one of the babies died of shock and the other developed complications on December 3, prompting doctors to recommend an urgent blood transfusion.
As a result, Manning-Alleyne approached lawyers at the Solicitor General’s Department to petition the High Court to make an application for the Ammon infant to be made a ward of the court. In an almost immediate response, Attorney General John Jeremie authorised the legal process and within hours the doctors were preparing to carry out the blood transfusion.
High Court judge Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, presiding in the Family Court, granted the application, paving the way for doctors to proceed with the blood transfusion and any other medical procedure to ensure the health of the child.
The baby was reported to be resting comfortably at the Neonatal Unit yesterday.
Headley stated that contrary to media reports, there were no objections to the medical treatment being considered by the doctors since members of his religion “do not believe in faith-healing and we hold dear the sanctity of life”.
“For these reasons, we do not support abortions or have a death-wish for out children or ourselves,” he added.
Regarding the Ammon case, Headley said, it was neither ethical nor appropriate for him to make any specific comments.
“However, the parents are intensely interested in preserving the life of their surviving infant. They did not refuse treatment for their child. Without presuming to dictate to the doctors they simply wanted the bleeding stopped and the blood count raised by the use of approved medical products,” the release said.
In an attempt to convince the doctors to use the alternative drug, members of the faith Hospital Liaison Committee provided doctors at the Neonatal Unit with information from medical journals about the drug, its dosage, and even the willingness to provide the drug, the release added.
“It is significant that this offer was made even before complications arose with the surviving Ammon twin,” Headley stated.