Judge orders blood transfusion for critically ill baby

The Witness, South Africa/November 5, 2008

The Pietermaritzburg High Court granted an urgent order yesterday evening authorising pediatrician Shamila Singh to administer a life-saving blood transfusion to a four-day-old baby boy whose parents allegedly refused their consent on religious grounds as they are Jehovah's Witnesses.

Singh said in her affidavit presented to Judge Sharmaine Balton in chambers that if the blood transfusion was not carried out within hours the baby probably would not survive.

Balton granted an interim order authorising Singh to administer a blood transfusion and any further blood transfusions necessary to preserve the life of the baby pending finalisation of the case.

"Baby Masondo" was born by emergency Caesarean section 15 weeks premature on November 1 to parents Phaphama and Bongiwe Masondo at MediClinic Hospital.

Singh said she asked the baby's father, Phaphama Masondo, to sign a blood transfusion consent form soon after birth and explained that there was a great probability the baby would survive if transfused.

He immediately informed her he and his wife are Jehovah's Witnesses and would not consent as it is against their religious beliefs to consent to blood transfusions.

She described to the judge the deterioration in the baby's condition over the next few days, and said she impressed on the father that without a blood transfusion, the death of baby Masondo would be prolonged and result in him "enduring extreme suffering".

He replied that both he and the child's mother are nurses and aware of the consequences, but that she must not transfuse the baby as this form of treatment is against his religious beliefs. The baby's mother "unfortunately" agreed with him, Singh said.

Singh said she has obtained advice from numerous medical experts who agreed with her assessment.

On Tuesday she warned the parents that by complying with their wishes she was "agreeing to the death of baby Masondo, which was imminent", that withholding the blood transfusion meant she was going against the doctor's oath she'd taken, and that it was her duty to approach the court.

They remained unwilling to agree to the transfusion.

Her affidavit was drawn up urgently by attorney Anand Pillay, yesterday and presented to the judge by advocate Sash Nankan.

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