Jehovah's Witness teen not expected to survive; blood transfusions halted

CNews/July 2, 2002

Calgary -- The Alberta government has given up its efforts to force a teenaged Jehovah's Witness to receive blood transfusions as part of her leukemia treatment, saying the treatment has not been successful.

The girl had opposed the transfusions on the basis of religious belief, but her doctors said the treatment represented her only chance for survival. The court gave the province temporary guardianship last February to allow the treatment to proceed.

Doctors now say the girl has only a 10 per cent chance of surviving and they're prescribing palliative care.

In a makeshift courtroom at Alberta Children's Hospital on Tuesday, a judge ruled that there is no longer any reason for her to remain in the province's care.

The girl's lawyer, David Gnam, said his client is relieved she can now direct her own medical treatment. But he questioned what might have happened had her wishes been followed in the first place.

"She had different options that were available to her and were before other judges and were turned down," he said. "What if those had been acted upon? We'll never know the answer to that."

The legal battle has split the girl's family, with her father consenting to the treatment and her mother and two sisters opposing it.

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