Two Jehovah’s Witness parents have agreed to allow medical treatments deemed necessary by doctors to save the lives of their soon-to-be-born twins.
The parents had objected on religious grounds to the twins being given blood transfusions after birth.
But they agreed to abide by a High Court order handed down yesterday allowing doctors to administer whatever treatment was necessary.
The delivery of the 32-week-old babies is expected to be induced shortly in light of the suspected seriousness of their condition.
The HSE has said the “potentially critical” nature of the situation meant it had to get the court order now and could not wait until after the babies were born to seek it as it could risk their lives or health.
A consultant said transfusion “is almost certainly going to be medically necessary to save the lives of Babies C & D”. The refusal of the mother to take anti-D blood products herself or to allow blood be administered to the babies in her womb has placed the babies at risk of anaemia, which can lead to death, and has also risked them suffering jaundice, which can lead to deafness, cerebral palsy and lifelong severe disability, doctors told the court in sworn statements.
Doctors said the “ideal management” of the pregnancy would have been for a foetal blood sample to be taken and the unborn children to receive a transfusion in the womb to treat any anaemia. However, that was not possible because of the parents’ beliefs and doctors say the babies will instead have to be delivered prematurely, raising “all the risks associated with pre-term delivery”.
In a letter read in court yesterday, the babies’ 31-year-old mother said she and her husband “love our children with all our hearts” and did not want them “to die or cause them harm”. Their religious beliefs meant they could not consent to blood products being administered but they understood doctors believed there was no alternative and the parents would not interfere with the court’s decision.
The babies’ mother has a Rhesus D negative blood group while her husband is Rhesus positive. Their last baby, now aged four and healthy, was Rhesus D positive. The mother was advised to take anti-D blood products to avoid risk to future pregnancies but refused, on religious grounds, to do so. A consultant said that, because of the mother’s refusal to take anti-D, she had developed antibodies against Rhesus D positive blood cells, her twin babies are Rhesus positive and scans indicated the mother’s antibodies are destroying the babies’ red blood cells, placing their lives and health at risk.
Ms Justice Mary Laffoy yesterday granted the HSE a final order allowing doctors administer to the babies after their birth blood transfusions or other treatments considered “medically necessary” to avoid death or serious injury.
The judge remarked the approach to the case was “a prototype” of how such cases should be dealt with, noting the HSE had moved as soon as possible. The babies’ father was in court, she noted. The order was being made on the clear understanding that there would be consultation with the parents, she added.
Counsel Richard Daniels, who read out the letter from the parents, who cannot be named, said that because of their religious beliefs they could not consent to the order being made.
However, they recognised the court has power and authority to make such an order and it was “inevitable” it would be made to protect their babies.
Brian Murray, counsel for the HSE, said there was a close working relationship between the parents and the medical team treating the mother and the team were well aware of the parents’ wishes.
Meanwhile, the High Court will give its reserved judgment today on the separate action in which the Coombe Hospital has claimed it was entitled to administer a blood transfusion to a female Jehovah’s Witness.