A Jehovah’s Witness who suffered massive blood loss after giving birth refused a transfusion on a number of occasions, a witness told the High Court yesterday.
The 24-year-old Congolese woman, referred to as Ms K, is at the centre of an action brought by Dublin’s Coombe Hospital, arising out a decision to seek a court order to allow it transfuse her.
This decision was made after she objected because it was against her faith to accept blood.
Fifina Paulo told the High Court she acted an interpreter for Ms K on the day of the transfusion.
She said Ms K spoke little English, had lost a lot of blood and she told Ms K, in her native French, that medical staff believed she needed a transfusion and her life was at risk.
Ms K asked Ms Paulo to explain to staff that she was a Jehovah’s Witness and “did not want blood”.
The hospital brought proceedings against Ms K who, on September 21, 2006, suffered a massive haemorrhage after a difficult birth. It said it 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 80pc 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.
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. It had 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.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
Ms K denies the claims. 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 also claims the hospital committed assault and trespass on her person.
The action is expected to run into the new year.
Yesterday, counsel for Ms K said that Ms K came to Ireland first in late 2005, and then again in April 2006.
She said Ms K had lost three babies in the Congo and, after becoming pregnant, was afraid it might happen again.
Ms Paulo said Ms K sought refugee status in Ireland, although her husband did not, and after a time in Sligo came back to Dublin.