Death of court case transplant toddler

Fairfax News, New Zealand/September 23, 2012

A Jehovah's Witness toddler, whose liver and kidney transplant became the centre of a court case, has died.

The two-year-old girl was put into the guardianship of the High Court in June because her Jehovah's Witness parents would not consent to the transplant she needed.

The operation almost certainly would have required the use of transfused blood, which is contrary to the Jehovah's Witness faith.

After an urgent application, chief High Court judge Justice Helen Winkelmann ordered the girl's treatment be placed in the hands of two doctors from Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital.

The court order included the authority to undertake the transplant, but the girl died in early August before she could receive the organs.

The Auckland District Health Board declined to comment, but the Sunday Star-Times understands the girl did not die because of delays caused by the religious stance of her parents.

The two-year-old suffered from polycystic kidney disease.

Her kidneys were removed and she was kept alive by renal dialysis.

At the time of the court proceedings the girl, known as M in court documents, was "relatively well" and a transplant was viable.

Her medical team said, however, that "without a liver and kidney transplant M will most likely die from infection within weeks to a couple of months".

The medical team identified a "small window of opportunity" for the transplant.

"She will most certainly become so unwell within a few weeks that it will not be possible to consider her for a transplant," Justice Winkelmann said.

The court heard the parents were said to be in step with the hospital's wishes and accepted the need for a transplant. The blood transfusion was the only sticking point, and the court took that decision out of their hands.

"It is common ground that it is in M's interests that this application be dealt with at this point so that she is in a position to be placed on the organ donor transplant list," the judge said.

"By making the orders which are sought, this resolves for M's parents what must be an agonising conflict between their firmly held religious beliefs and the pressing needs of M."

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