Calgary – The rights of a Jehovah’s Witness couple were violated when their newborn son was seized so that he could receive a blood transfusion, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adele Kent says that Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t always wrong when they oppose blood transfusions. “Baby M” was three weeks old in August 2001 when he developed a bowel infection. His doctor believed he needed to be given blood products, but the parents wanted antibiotics used instead. Blood transfusions are against their religious beliefs.
Child welfare workers intervened, obtained a court order to take custody of the boy and he was kept for 12 days while receiving blood transfusions, then returned to his family.
The parents’ lawyer, Shane Brady, says the couple – who didn’t speak English well – was only given an hour’s notice of the custody hearing. He says they should have been given time to introduce their own medical experts.
“My clients argued before Justice Kent that this indicated at the very least there should be serious questions about why social services or the director of child welfare was presenting that this case had to proceed immediately and denying them the right to be represented by counsel and denying them the right to call the expert evidence of two expert neonatologists who were of the expert opinion that the child was not in the need of any transfusion and that his condition was stable,” Brady said.
He said Kent’s decision means the “best interests of the child are presumed to be with the parents.”
Baby M is now three years old, and healthy.
The parents had also asked for $75,000 in damages, but Kent said she didn’t have that authority.