Court orders blood transfusion for Jehovah baby

The Journal, Ireland/January 13, 2011

A high court judge was forced to hold a emergency hearing in his own home over Christmas, in order to allow doctors give a blood transfusion to a critically ill boy against the wishes of his parents.

The Irish Times reports that the court order was issued shortly after 2:30am in the morning of December 27, after the baby boy - whose parents are Jehovah's Witnesses - became seriously ill on Christmas Day.

Because the parents of the boy (three months old) had opposed the blood transfusion, on the grounds of their religion, doctors from Temple Street Children's Hospital were forced to seek the emergency order allowing them to proceed with the procedure.

A hearing was therefore held at 1am in the morning of the 27th.

The boy - a twin, whose sister had died - had fallen ill from acute bronchiolitis on Christmas Day, the Irish Daily Mail adds, and by the evening of St Stephens' Day the situation had become critical. By 9pm that night,

Justice Gerard Hogan, announcing the order yesterday, said the hospital had contacted the High Court at 10pm that evening in an effort to seek an emergency order.

The baby's parents had attended the hearing, which PA said had taken place in the judge's house as a matter of necessity given the snowy weather, where it had emerged that the court had previously sanctioned a blood transfusion for one of the boy's elder siblings.

"They struck me as wholesome and upright parents who were most anxious for the welfare of their child, yet steadfast in their own religious beliefs," Justice Hogan said.

Members of the Jehovah faith oppose the practice of blood transfusions, citing Acts 15:29 which states that the faithful "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood".

While the Constitution gives citizens the freedom to practice religion freely, the court also had to recognise the State's duty to ensure that children are protected in face of these rights.

The parents are still entitled to appeal the decision. The child's condition has improved substantially since the transfusion.

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