VICTORIA (CP) – Two medical experts helped advise the B.C. government to seize three sextuplets and give two of them blood transfusions over the objections of their Jehovah’s Witness parents.
The case has once again ignited debate over the separation of church and state in cases where Jehovah’s Witnesses have refused blood transfusions. A lawyer for the family has accused the government of violating Supreme Court of Canada directives ensuring parents have a say before such procedures are done over their religious objections, but The Canadian Press has learned the government used the experts’ advice to apply a section of the B.C. Child, Family and Community Service Act in seizing the children.
Section 30 allowed the government to act before the parents had a hearing, even though one was scheduled for later this month.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
That section says the province’s regional director of child welfare doesn’t need a court order to move in as long as there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the child’s health or safety is in immediate danger.
“(My wife) and I could not bear to be at the hospital while they were violating our little girl,” the father of the sextuplets said in a court affidavit.
“We took our immense sadness and grief and tried to console each other in private.”
The parents, who cannot be identified under a court order, have refused to speak to the media since their children were born in the first week of January almost three months premature.
Two of the sextuplets have since died and the rest have remained in hospital.
Last Friday, the government took custody of three of the remaining children and the blood transfusions were done. On Wednesday, the government withdrew the seizure order and the parents regained custody.
However, the act allows the province to move in once again if the circumstances are repeated.
The group that speaks for the Christian sect in Canada was inundated with calls Thursday from reporters wanting to know its response to the current controversy and seeking clarification on why Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions.
The statement noted that an Alberta judge has concluded people shouldn’t assume parents are always wrong by refusing transfusions.
The release also said hospitals in Canada and the United States have treated extremely premature infants without blood transfusions by taking smaller samples of blood and accepting lower hemoglobin levels, among other things.
“It is important for the media and others to avoid making stereotypical assumptions regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the statement said.
When asked why the sect refuses blood transfusions, spokesman Mark Ruge directed reporters to the Jehovah’s Witnesses website.
On it, the group cites Bible passages to back up their belief. They include Leviticus 17:10-14, which reads in part:
“And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.”
The group also cites Acts 15:19,20, which states that God’s followers must “abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”
But Jehovah’s Witnesses are not barred from receiving organ transplants or from using blood products.
“Since the Bible makes no clear statement about the use of minor blood fractions or the immediate reinfusion of a patient’s own blood during surgery, a medical process known as blood salvaging, the use of such treatments is a matter of personal choice,” the site says.
Similarly, the faith has no problem with vaccines, some of which contain blood products.