Jehovah’s Witness parents became victims of “religious profiling” when the Alberta government apprehended their son and gave him a blood transfusion they say was not only against their beliefs, but not medically necessary, lawyer Shane Brady charged Tuesday.
The couple, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their son, is appealing an August 2001 treatment order issued in provincial court that gave a social worker temporary custody of their infant son to allow for the blood transfusion.
Representing the family, Brady argued before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adele Kent that the province’s director of child welfare was “closed-minded” when she failed to do a thorough investigation into the situation surrounding the baby’s bowel infection.
Furthermore, Brady said, the director didn’t question Dr. Douglas McMillan’s assertions that it was urgent the three-week-old, premature baby be given a transfusion, nor did she call the parents to ask for their input or any other doctor for a second opinion.
“It would have taken very little time for her to have spoken to another doctor,” said Brady, a Toronto lawyer who previously represented the mother of Calgary teen Bethany Hughes, who died from leukemia after receiving blood transfusions against her will.
“There is no evidence that demonstrates this was an urgent situation, no evidence to suggest the parents couldn’t be given their fundamental rights,” he said.
A lawyer for the director of child welfare, however, said not only is the director not qualified to discuss complex medical issues, but obtaining second opinions would have been untimely in a case in which McMillan felt the child’s life was at risk and the parents knew the treatment hearing was imminent.
Brady maintains the parents, both of whom were in court with their now two-year-old son Tuesday, were denied their right to a lawyer, to disclosure (access to other legal parties’ material) and to call evidence at the treatment hearing due to the swiftness of the hearing.
“It is the constitutional right of the parents to a fair hearing and the state has interfered in the parent/child relationship,” he said.
The boy developed the bowel infection on Aug. 9, 2001.
According to testimony, McMillan was aware of the parents’ religious beliefs and even waited a day before going to the courts to ask for permission to give the transfusion.
On Aug. 10, family court Judge Sharron Prowse-O’Ferrall ruled the transfusion could proceed.
Tests determined it was a bacterial infection and the parents wanted it treated with antibiotics.
This, said Brady, was well within the medical range of treatment for the diagnosed infection.
“The parents were not refusing an indispensably medically necessary treatment,” he said.
At that point, McMillan should have either treated the boy without a blood transfusion, asked another doctor to take over the case or asked the parents to find another doctor, said Brady.
Kent will hear arguments today from both sides pertaining to the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The family is also suing the province, for the same reasons, claiming $50,000 in damages, alleging the blood transfusion was contrary to their legal rights and religious beliefs.
We appreciate your support
One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.
Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission — at no additional cost to you — for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this service free of charge.