Child can be given blood, judge rules

Irish Times/November 27, 2008

A High Court judge has directed that a Dublin hospital can, provided it is absolutely necessary, give a possible life-saving blood transfusion to a four-year-old girl despite the religious objections of her Jehovah's Witness parents.

The hospital made an emergency application to Ms Justice Mary Laffoy on Tuesday seeking an order allowing it to administer a transfusion after the parents refused to give consent.

The court heard the child was admitted to the hospital last Sunday suffering from pneumonia and an X-ray had revealed she needed to have fluid drained from her lung. It was possible the draining procedure would lead to severe loss of blood and the child would need a transfusion.

The parents, whose religion prohibits blood transfusions, had objected to any transfusion and the father had said he would go to court to stop it, it was stated.

The hospital then took its proceedings seeking permission for the transfusion.

Yesterday, the mother of the child appeared in court accompanied by two Jehovah's Witness members of a liaison committee with the hospital, which works with patients and their families in situations like this.

One of the committee members, Harry Homan, said that while the mother did not wish to address the court, she wanted it to be known that she was very happy with the hospital's treatment of her child but was objecting on deeply-held religious grounds to a transfusion.

Ms Justice Laffoy said she was satisfied she had the power to make an order directing the hospital to provide all necessary care for the child, including, if necessary, a blood transfusion but only where no other method is available and where the child requires medical intervention. "It is only if it is absolutely necessary", the judge added.

Mr Homan asked the judge if it was possible for a protocol to be issued for dealing with cases like this because they were very upsetting for those involved. The judge said she would leave that up to the hospitals and the Medical Council.

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