Court saves Jehovah's Witness girl's life

The Star, South Africa/February 20 2009

A 12-year-old Jehovah's Witness girl has received a life-saving blood transfusion that she did not want after a Johannesburg High Court order gave doctors the go-ahead.

The girl, who suffers from leukaemia, was admitted to Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital on Tuesday. Despite being told that a blood transfusion was needed to save her life, the girl and her parents refused to consent to the procedure.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it's against God's will to take other people's blood, or one's own blood that has been stored, into one's body.

The official website of Watchtower, a Jehovah's Witness organisation to which The Star was referred by the Jehovah's Witnesses of South Africa, says: "True Christians will not accept a blood transfusion. They want to live, but they will not try to save their life by breaking God's laws."

The Gauteng Department of Health said doctors consulted the girl's parents and church elders to explain the need for the transfusion. When their explanations were rejected, they brought an urgent application before the High Court on Wednesday.

The court order was issued on the same day, and the girl was given a transfusion immediately.

According to Department of Health spokesperson Phumelele Kaunda, the parents respected the court's decision.

The girl is doing well.

SA Human Rights Commission chairperson Jody Kollapen said that in such cases, the right to life took precedence over the right to religion.

He said adults were regarded as fit to make informed decisions about their own bodies, but in the case of a child, state intervention was sometimes necessary.

Jehovah's Witnesses argue that there are often alternatives to a blood transfusion, and they want to be allowed to consider other options.

They base their beliefs on biblical text such as Acts 21, verse 25: "As for the believers from among the nations, we have sent out, rendering our decision that they should keep themselves from what is sacrificed to idols as well as from blood and what is strangled and from fornication."

In November, the Pietermaritzburg High Court granted an urgent order authorising a blood transfusion for a four-day-old baby boy who was born 15 weeks premature. His Jehovah's Witness parents had refused to give their consent, despite a prognosis from the doctor involved.

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