VANCOUVER – The Jehovah’s Witness parents of the four surviving sextuplets born in a B.C. hospital are accusing the province of violating their parental rights by seizing three of their children in order to administer blood transfusions.
A lawyer for the parents appeared in B.C. Supreme Court yesterday ready to appeal the government’s decision to seize the children — only to find the order had been withdrawn and the children returned back to the parents’ care.
The babies, who were born prematurely, are still being cared for in hospital.
However, two of three children seized over the weekend have received blood transfusions, a medical procedure that is opposed by Jehovah’s Witnesses as it offends their religious beliefs.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
Ontario lawyer Shane Brady, who represents the family, said the actions of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Families were “a gross violation” of the parents’ constitutional rights and he will be back in court for a hearing on the issue Feb. 23.
“Of course, it is too late (to prevent transfusions) … my client views what they have done as a sort of hit and run and they’ve suffered a gross violation of their constitutional rights,” Mr. Brady said in court yesterday.
Mr. Brady said he will be seeking a court order that the ministry abide by a 1995 Supreme Court of Canada decision that, he said, states governments should not interfere with parental decisions without first giving the parents a fair hearing.
The B.C. government, claiming it is bound by privacy laws, would not confirm the action or details of the case, which has been front-page news across the country.
B.C. Children’s Minister Tom Christensen only said that the government is bound by law to act in the interest of children.
“What I can tell you is that the ministry’s obligation any time we find that there’s a child in need of protection for any reason, including the need for medical treatment, the ministry will look at the situation and determine whether there’s action we need to take to ensure that the child is protected. That is the policy we follow.”
The sextuplets were born overnight on Jan. 6-7.
The parents have remained anonymous since the birth and their identities are all subject to a court-ordered publication ban.
According to an affidavit filed by the children’s father, the first of the babies was seized Friday afternoon after the ministry acquired a treatment order.
“The judge refused to give us any opportunity to testify, present expert evidence or cross-examine the doctors. The judge did not even hear from the doctors or the social worker,” said the affidavit.
“We want the best medical care for our children and want them to live. We have consented to all required treatment and have asked the doctors to more actively employ available alternatives to blood transfusions. We will not however consent to blood transfusions. We firmly believe our Creator commands us in scriptures … to abstain from blood,” the father wrote.
The four boys and two girls were born at 25 weeks, just over the half-way mark of an average 40-week pregnancy. Each weighed only 1.8 pounds and required intensive hospital care.
It’s common for premature babies to require blood transfusions due to the number of tests they undergo leading to blood loss.