Parents, hospital at odds over baby's care

Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs prohibit blood transfusions, which doctors say she needs.

The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne/May 27, 2009

A baby's life may hinge on whether a hospital's petition trumps the religious beliefs of her parents.

A petition filed by Dupont Hospital on Thursday in Allen Superior Court asked the court to order blood transfusions if they are necessary for "Baby Girl Binns," who is anemic and was born prematurely May 14, at about 25 weeks into her mother's pregnancy.

According to court documents, the baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit and will need at least one blood transfusion and possibly more.

The petition says the mother, Stephanie C. Binns, and her husband, Pierre Binns, who are both Jehovah's Witnesses, are placing their daughter at risk by refusing transfusions based on their religious beliefs.

"The lack of transfusions might cause her serious injury and even potentially life threatening complications," the petition said. The hospital's attorney, Charles W. McNagny, would not comment further on the case.

The hearing on the case was held Friday, but the judge's ruling has been sealed. Allen Superior Judge Daniel Heath said he could not comment on pending cases.

Geoff Thomas, spokesman for Lutheran Health Network, said the hospital does not comment on court cases.

"All our beliefs are Bible-based," Stephanie Binns said in a brief interview at her home Tuesday evening. "It's not like we're trying to hurt our child. We're trying to prevent our child from being hurt."

Stephanie Binns declined further comment and cited objections to transfusions on the official Jehovah's Witnesses Web site, The site refers to blood contamination incidents and biblical passages from the New and Old Testaments prohibiting eating meat with blood in it. Genesis 9:4 of the Jehovah's Witnesses translation of the Bible, the New World Translation, says, "Only flesh with its soul - its blood - YOU must not eat," according to the Web site. Leviticus 17:10 and Acts 15:29 also cite similar passages.

While Jehovah's Witnesses allow medical treatment, the site said the issue of blood transfusions is nonnegotiable. "Those who respect life as a gift from the Creator do not try to sustain life by taking in blood," the site said.

That wasn't always the case, according to University of Toledo professor and biologist Jerry Bergman, author of "Blood Transfusions: A History and Evaluation of the Religious, Biblical and Medical Objections." Until 1961, blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses were discouraged, but allowed.

Bergman, who is not a current Jehovah's Witnesses member, said in transfusion disputes courts usually temporarily award custody of Jehovah's Witnesses' children to medical authorities until the transfusions are finished, then return custody to the parents.

"It gets the parents off the hook in a sense because they're not sinning," Bergman said.

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