OTTAWA – The Supreme Court reserved judgment today in a case that pits a teenage Jehovah’s Witness against the government’s right to force medical treatment.
Lawyers for the young woman asked the court to overturn a Manitoba child welfare law that forced her to have a blood transfusion against her religious principles.
The province acted under legislation that sets the cut-off age at 16 for medical decision-making – a provision which her lawyers say violated the teen’s constitutional rights.
The case could have far-reaching implications because several other provinces have laws setting 16 as a legal benchmark in such cases, and some set the cut-off point as high as 19.
The girl, now 16 and living in Ontario, was 14 when she was hospitalized in Winnipeg in 2006 with a flare-up of Crohn’s disease – a chronic illness that can cause gastrointestinal bleeding.
She insisted on being treated without transfusion, but Manitoba Child and Family Services obtained a court order compelling her to have the procedure after it was recommended by her doctor.
Her lawyers argued that decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis according to the intellectual capability of the young person involved – not according to an arbitrary age scale.