Jehovah Witness-blood transfusion case to go on until Christmas

The High Court has been told that an action brought by a Dublin Maternity hospital arising out of a decision to seek a court order to allow them transfuse a Jehovahs’ Witness who had suffered a massive blood loss after giving birth to may last until Christmas.

Today, at the start of the third week of the hearing, counsel for the Coombe hospital Dr Gerard Hogan SC and counsel for the 24 year old woman know as Ms K Mr John Rogers SC informed Ms Justice Mary Laffoy that there are over a dozen witness are yet to give evidence in the case.

Mr Hogan said that case would now go on much longer than the two to three weeks that had been originally estimated.

Mr Rogers stated that he did not think that Ms Justice Mary Laffoy was being “overly pessimistic” by stating that the case could run until December 21 next.

The action opened before Ms Justice Laffoy on the 2nd of October and broke for two weeks before recommencing two weeks ago.

Today the Judge acceded to an application made by Counsel for the AG, Mr David Barniville SC, to withdraw from the proceedings while evidence was being heard.

Counsel said that the AG could return if and when required, and would continue to receive daily transcripts.

Last week the Judge asked the parties to be mindful of the costs involved as it seemed the case was going to take much long than had been anticipated.

The hospital has brought the action against the woman, who on September 21st 2006 suffered a massive haemorrhage after what was a difficult birth declared that she would not accept blood on religious grounds, because they had not been informed she was a member of that faith until after the medical emergency arose.

The hospital went to court to seek an order that would allow it to transfuse the woman.

It contends it was entitled to seek the injunction, secured in September 2006 after the hospital told the court it believed the woman would die without a transfusion as she had lost some 80% of her blood.

Following the court order the woman was given a blood transfusion. The hospital claims Ms K’s constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion do not extend to enabling her to decline appropriate medical treatment.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood

“[T]he Jehovah’s Witnesses organization prohibits the use of blood transfusions. Individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to die or let their children die, rather than break this command, even though the Scriptures nowhere teach that blood transfusions are wrong.”
Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization

It further pleads that it would be contrary to public order and morality if Ms K could be permitted to place her life in immediate danger by declining routine medical treatment and a general duty to protect and safeguard the woman’s right to life and her personal rights generally and the family life of the woman and her child.

Ms K denies the claims.

In a counter-claim, she contends the administration of the transfusion was a breach of her rights and that she was entitled to refuse such medical treatment.

Ms K further also claims that the hospital committed assault and trespass on her person.

Today Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, Master of the Coombe Hospital concluded his evidence, after more than nine days in the witness box.

The court also heard yesterday Ms Catherine Manning, a midwife at the Coombe who had been looking after Ms K the day she gave birth, said that medical staff were shocked after learning that Ms K was a Jehovah’s witness, after she had started to haemorrhage.

Ms Manning said that there was so much blood that it was like “turning on a tap”.

She said that it was decided that Ms K should be given blood that was stored on the ward specifically for emergency use only.

Ms Manning told Gerard Hogan SC that it was her recollection that a friend of Ms K’s, who had been acting as a translator for the French speaker, that initially told medical staff that Ms K was a Jehovah’s witness and would not accept blood.

Ms K, she said, subsequently said, after speaking to her friend, “no blood” in English.

The case continues.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday October 31, 2007.
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