Top doctor dismisses claim blood transfusion 'like rape'

The Independent, Ireland/October 5, 2007

The Master of the Coombe Women's Hospital has strongly rejected a female Jehovah's Witness' description of a blood transfusion administered to her at the hospital against her wishes, after she suffered a massive, haemorrhage as being "like a rape".

Dr Chris Fitzpatrick said the woman had given an "inaccurate representation'' of what had happened to her after she experienced massive blood loss following the birth of her baby boy at the Coombe Women's hospital on September 21, 2006.

He was told the woman had said that during the transfusion process, people were around her terrifying her, that she wanted to fight the medical staff off before the transfusion was given but was unable to, that she was held and sedated before the transfusion was administered and had described the experience as like a rape.

Dr Fitzpatrick said he "found it difficult to reconcile" what had happened with that account of events. Staff at the hospital were "at pains'' to support the woman during what was a difficult time for everybody concerned, he said.

He was giving evidence in the continuing action by the hospital against the woman in which the hospital contends it was entitled to seek an injunction in September 2006 to give the woman a transfusion.

The hospital secured the order after it told the court it believed the woman would die without a transfusion as she had lost some 80pc of her blood and that the woman had refused the transfusion in light of her religious beliefs. The woman may be identified only as Ms K. She is 24 years of age and from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the proceedings before Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, the hospital claims Ms K's constitutional rights to freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion do not extend to enabling her to decline appropriate medical treatment. It further pleads that it would be contrary to public order and morality if Ms K could be permitted to place her life in immediate danger by declining routine medical treatment.

It also claims a general duty to protect and safeguard the woman's right to life, and her personal rights generally.

Ms K denies the claims. In a counter-claim, she contends the administration of the transfusion was a breach of her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights and that she was entitled to refuse such medical treatment. Ms K also claims that the hospital committed assault and trespass on her person. The case continues.

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