Blood transfusions needed for babies of Jehovah’s Witnesses, court told

Government lawyers say that the controversial blood transfusions given to four surviving sextuplets last year were medically necessary and presented a low risk to the infants.

A lawyer for the Jehovah’s Witness parents argued that there was no emergency and there were risks when the premature babies were given transfusions in January 2007.

But Margot Fleming, a lawyer for the director of Child, Family and Community Services, told B.C. Supreme Court Justice Donald Brenner that the approach of the treating physicians was in accord with Canadian law and medical practices. “They sought to provide transfusions only when they thought they were medically necessary.”

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

She said while there was no imminent threat of death, there was a risk of serious or permanent harm if they were not given transfusions.

Fleming said one of the two children seized by the ministry after the parents refused transfusions was “clinically very unstable,” requiring morphine sedation to deal with restlessness and other problems. The other child seized suffered a rapid drop in hemoglobin level and “was perhaps in the most urgent need of a transfusion,” she said.

Lawyer Kris Chen, also representing the ministry, told the judge that the evidence of the government’s expert witnesses ought to be preferred over the family’s experts. She described one of the family’s experts, a physician from New Mexico, as being almost “overzealous” in her advocacy of a blood-boosting agent known as erythropoietin or EPO.

The government lawyers made their comments during final submissions following the cross-examination in January of several doctors.

The family’s lawyer, Shane Brady, who is claiming that the parents’ rights were violated by the transfusions, told the judge that his clients chose to refuse the procedures not just out of religious conviction. “The parents were choosing within the range of medical practice. They were exercising reasonable and responsible decisions, religious convictions aside,” he said.

The judge reserved his decision.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 3, 2008.
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