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Child to be given medical treatment despite mother’s religious beliefs

A High Court judge has ruled that a 13 year old facing “potentially catastrophic ill-health” is to be treated despite his mother’s religious beliefs.

In M Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust v Y, the child was diagnosed with CNS Demyelination, which is an inflammatory disease which tricks the body into attacking its own brain tissue. It usually occurs following a bacterial or viral infection.

The boy’s mother is a Jehovah’s Witness and was therefore “unable, by virtue of her religious principles” to consent to a course of treatment involving a potential blood transfusion and the use of frozen plasma.

Neither parent was present at the hearing but they were notified it was taking place. They said they were not “happy” about it, but took no steps to formally oppose the application or the treatment.

Mr Justice Cobb was advised that if the boy went untreated, there was “a high chance of long-term neuro-disability”. He added that such an outcome would have a detrimental impact on the boy’s “independence, his self-esteem, his quality of life and his life expectancy”.

When the boy was conscious, doctors explained the treatment options to him. When he was informed about the use of blood products, he “nodded his head in agreement with a “thumbs-up” to go ahead with this treatment”.

The judge said it was the “unanimous view” of the medical team dealing with the boy that the proposed ‘plasma exchange treatment’ was the best option.

He went on to say he recognised the “exquisitely difficult conflict” the mother must be facing, with her son’s “deteriorating health” being put up against the struggle of staying true to her religious faith.

Mr Justice Cobb concluded that the situation was “immediately life threatening” to the boy so he allowed the doctors to treat the boy without the consent of the parents.

This decision is not the first of its kind by the High Court. Earlier this year,  a judge ruled that a baby should have a blood transfusion despite the parents’ objections.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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