Ruling on baby's blood transfusions

Mid Devon Star: The baby's parents object to their child receiving blood transfusions for religious reasons The baby's parents object to their child receiving blood transfusions for religious reasons

A High Court judge has given permission for a baby boy to undergo blood transfusions during an operation notwithstanding his parents' objections on religious grounds.

Mr Justice Keehan had been told by a specialist that the baby - whose parents are Jehovah's Witnesses - had complex heart disease and no "long-term prospect of survival" if he did not have cardiac surgery.

The baby's parents had agreed to surgery but said they could not consent to their son - who is a few weeks old - receiving blood.

But Mr Justice Keehan concluded that receiving blood was in the little boy's best interests - notwithstanding his parents' "understandable objections".

The judge did not identify the little boy but said doctors at the Birmingham Children's Hospital had applied for an order that surgery could proceed with blood transfusions.

Detail emerged in a written ruling following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

"Their objection is on the basis of their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses and they cannot consent to (their son) receiving blood products during or subsequent to the surgery. I entirely understand and sympathise with the stance of these parents," said Mr Justice Keehan.

"Standing back and looking at (the baby's) welfare best interests, I am in no doubt whatsoever that it is in his best interests to undergo the surgery that is proposed."

He added: "On the basis that that is my view, it is inevitable that he must receive blood transfusions during the course of or subsequent to the surgery.

"Accordingly, I am again of the view, notwithstanding the parents' understandable objections on religious grounds, that it is in (his) welfare best interests to receive blood products both during the surgery and, if necessary, subsequent to it."

Two weeks ago another High Court judge gave doctors permission not to administer blood transfusions to a 63-year-old woman who was a Jehovah's Witness.

The woman subsequently died.

Doctors working for Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust asked for permission to withhold a blood transfusion at a hearing in the Court of Protection in London on February 18.

They said the woman, who had been a Jehovah's Witness since the 1970s at least and had a history of depression and paranoid schizophrenia, was ''gravely ill''.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson said when doctors made the application the woman had ''clearly lacked'' the mental capacity to make or communicate decisions about treatment.

But the judge said after being admitted to hospital in early February the woman had been ''adamant'' that she did not want treatment with any blood products.

He concluded that the woman had made a decision - when she had the mental capacity - that doctors rightly considered had to be respected.

He said human right to life was ''fundamental'' but not absolute. He said there was no obligation on a patient to accept life-saving treatment and doctors were not entitled or obliged to give treatment.

Jehovah's Witnesses say their attitude to blood is a religious issue.

"Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood," says the religion's website www.jw.org.

"God views blood as representing life. So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life."

The website highlights a number of Biblical references, including passages in Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Acts.

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