A young mother, whom the High Court ordered should be given a blood transfusion against her will in a bid to save her life, was recovering at a Dublin maternity hospital last night.
The 23-year-old Congolese woman suffered massive blood loss following the birth of her first child at the Coombe Women's Hospital early yesterday. However, speaking in French and through an interpreter, she told hospital staff she did not want a blood transfusion as she was a Jehovah's Witness.
The hospital's master, Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, rushed to the High Court for direction and, at an emergency lunchtime sitting, Mr Justice Henry Abbott was told the woman, known only as Ms K, had lost 75-80 per cent of her blood and was likely to die within hours unless a transfusion was authorised by the court.
The judge directed the hospital to do everything in its power to save the life of the woman and said staff could restrain her if she physically attempted to stop doctors administering to her a life-saving transfusion.
He said the interest of her newborn child, a boy, who he was told was "in good shape", was paramount and the baby could be left with no one in the State, as far as was known, to look after its welfare, if its mother passed away.
The Coombe would not say if the woman received a blood transfusion. In a short statement it said: "The Coombe Women's Hospital cannot comment on, or discuss, any individual cases".
But it is understood the woman did receive a transfusion and was recovering at the hospital last night.
The hospital's statement added: "The Coombe Women's Hospital is committed to act in the best interests of its patients at all times. In the event of a patient refusing medical treatment and where the case is deemed to be life threatening, it is the policy of the hospital to seek legal advice and in some cases this may lead to court proceedings. In the event of the proceedings being deemed appropriate, the hospital is obliged to follow any order which the court may make".
The Humanist Association of Ireland described the court decision as "absolutely outrageous". Its vice-chairman Dick Spicer said the decision set a dreadful precedent. "It overrides individual religious rights. It overrides the right to refuse treatment and the ramifications of this could be enormous in the future", he said.
The Ms K case is understood to be one of the first of a compos mentis adult refusing a transfusion to come before the Irish courts.