Jehovah's Witness refuses blood for her unborn twins

The Independent, Ireland/April 23, 2008

A pregnant woman with severely anaemic twins has objected to the babies receiving a potentially life-saving blood transfusion when they are born on religious grounds, the High Court was told yesterday.

The HSE now plans to ask the court tomorrow for an order permitting it to give a blood transfusion to the babies after the birth if the woman carries out her threat.

In a brief application yesterday, Brian Murray, counsel for the HSE, told Ms Justice Mary Laffoy that the mother, a patient of Cork University Hospital, was 32-weeks pregnant and her expected babies are severely anaemic.

When advised about the need for a blood transfusion, the mother and her partner had made it clear they objected to the procedure.

Ms Justice Laffoy asked whether the objection was on religious grounds and Mr Murray replied that it was.

It is believed the parents, who cannot be named by court order, are non-nationals and are members of the Jehovah's Witness Congregation.

It is understood the expectant mother has not objected to their delivery being induced later this week and the HSE believes the babies are at risk and should be delivered before the weekend.

In those circumstances, Ms Justice Laffoy granted leave to Mr Murray to serve notice on the parents of the children of the HSE's intention to apply tomorrow for an order permitting the transfusion when the babies are born.

Mr Murray also secured an interim order restraining publication of the names of the parents. This is the second such case to come before the courts here in a matter of months. Last December doctors caring for a premature baby were authorised to give the child a blood transfusion if necessary.


This was in spite of objections by the parents who are Jehovah's Witnesses. Mr Justice George Bermingham said it would amount to brinkmanship and an abdication of responsibility if he did not extend an order giving the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin the right to intervene with a blood transfusion if necessary.

Earlier last year a Congolese woman who was a Jehovah's Witness and received a blood transfusion contrary to her religious beliefs said she believed an alternative remedy of coca-cola and tomatoes should have been given to her when she refused the transfusion.

Regardless of the medical considerations, Jehovah's Witnesses advocate that doctors should uphold the right of a patient to choose what treatments they accept or reject.

This religious position is due to a belief that blood is sacred and represents life in God's eyes. The parents of the the unborn twins were not present at yesterday's hearing.

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