Doctors can go against parents wishes to grant life-saving blood transfusions to children, it was claimed today.
Brendan O’Farrell, chairman of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Dublin Hospital Liaison Committee, said a court’s permission was not necessary to give essential blood products to children whose parents forbid it on religious grounds.
Mr O’Farrell said: “When it comes to the crunch a doctor has the right, if he feels the child is going to die, under common law to administer blood. All he needs is to have a colleague okay it. Why pre-empt the whole thing by getting a court order?”
The High Court yesterday told surgeons at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Dublin’s Crumlin they could carry out a blood transfusion on a five-month-old baby girl.
The girl’s mother was objecting on religious grounds to the use of blood products needed during life-saving open heart surgery.
The court heard the baby’s mother had signed a consent form for the use of blood products but had withdrawn permission following “support” from her Jehovah’s Witness community.
Mr O’Farrell said he was not familiar with the specifics of the five-month-old girl’s case but that there was an alternative way of doing things.
He said communication between the hospital and parents must be the way forward to avoid the trauma of removing constitutional rights from parents.
“We believe there are alternatives to blood transfusion and that is why we have our hospital liaison committee,” Mr O’Farrell told RTE radio.
“We truly appreciate the dilemmas that doctors go through. Worldwide there is an upsurge in interest in bloodless medicine and surgery.”
Mr O’Farrell said the community which is against blood transfusion for religious grounds has a good relationship with the Crumlin hospital.
“There are many doctors in Crumlin, or some doctors who would go the alternative route,” he said.
“They would do the surgery and if the crunch comes administer blood rather than pre-empting everything and going and getting a court order which shifts everything.”