Teen wants quick decision from Supreme Court on transfusions

CBC News/May 7, 2002

Calgary -- A 16-year-old Alberta girl wants the country's top court to decide if she can refuse treatment for her leukemia.

The girl, who can't be identified under a court order, lost in the Alberta Court of Appeal last month. That court told her she had to continue to accept blood transfusions in spite of her religious beliefs.

"Interpretation of the legislation involved is something particular to Alberta," said lawyer David Gnam. "We're hoping now that the Supreme Court of Canada will bring a national perspective to the issue."

The issue is the girl's belief as a Jehovah's Witness that consuming blood is forbidden by the Bible and whether she is mature enough to make critical decisions about her health care.

She has leukemia. Doctors say without the transfusions and chemotherapy she will probably die.

Struggle divides family

"I will fight against the forced blood transfusions until I am either allowed to leave or until perhaps I die, or until I make it out of the hospital here," she said.

Three times courts in Alberta have denied her request to stop the transfusions.

The issue has caused a split in her own family, and she has been made a ward of the province. Her mother and sister stand with her against the system. Her father wants the treatments to continue.

On one occasion, hospital staff members had a physical confrontation with the mother as she tried to stop a transfusion.

"They were fighting with the doctors and my wife tried to pull the I.V. line out," said the father. "My daughter has something that was inserted by an operation into her chest and it's hooked to an artery. If that was torn out, she could bleed to death."

Though he's been a Jehovah's Witness for 20 years, the father wants the treatments to continue because he doesn't want his daughter to die.

"It didn't make any sense to me that we should just sit there and watch my daughter die and do nothing," he said.

While the girl waits for the Supreme Court to respond to her lawyer's request, her treatments continue.

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