Jehovah's Witnesses considering lawsuit over blood transfusion

The Examiner (Ireland), March 4, 2000
By Linda McGrory

Jehovah's Witnesses are considering suing the State on behalf of the parents of a child who was given a life saving blood transfusion against their wishes.

National co ordinator for the religious group, Arthur Matthews, said they were disturbed at the decision to put the boy in temporary State custody so surgeons could operate on injuries he sustained in an accident.

The 22 month old was hurt in the chest and legs by falling rubble when a car crashed through the garden wall as he played at his home in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Gardaí enacted Section 12 of the Childcare Act five hours later at Waterford Regional Hospital when his parents refused surgeons permission to transfuse blood, which is against their faith. Mr Matthews said the constitutional rights of the parents as legal guardians were ignored during the incident and the matter was now with the group's lawyers.

"We are taking advice from our solicitors and are considering legal action against the agencies who brought this about.

"These parents were not given the opportunity to discuss alternatives to blood transfusion with doctors and this swept away their constitutional rights as the child's legal guardians," he said.

The Jehovah's Witnesses' lawyers will be instructed to find out the extent of the threat to the child's life and the amount of blood transfused.

"About five hours had elapsed between the accident in Clonmel and the decision by gardaí in Waterford to take temporary custody.

"We also understand that the amount of blood transfused was quite small which would indicate that a synthetic product could have been used in its place," said Mr Matthews.

The injured child is now under observation at Cork University Hospital, where he was transferred after the operation in Waterford.

Superintent Michael McGarry of Waterford Garda Station last night said his staff understood from doctors the child's life was in danger without a transfusion.

"We invoked the Act in good faith within the law and are delighted the child is making a good recovery.

"It was never our intention to offend anyone," he said.

This is the first time Section 12 of the Act has been invoked under these circumstances. Members of the Jehovah's Witnesses believe the move sets a dangerous precedent for all families.

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