Injured son of Jehovah’s Witnesses should receive transfusions

Family Law|December 9th 2014

The “very young son” of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses should receive blood transfusions during surgery, a High Court has ruled.

An NHS Trust v Child B and Others was an emergency application brought by the family’s local NHS Trust. The boy, referred to as ‘B’, sustained serious burns in “an accident which was dealt with very expeditiously by his mother.”

Doctors determined that the boy needed skin grafts and there was an approximately 10 per cent chance that he would need a blood transfusion during the operation. However, as devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, the parents could not consent to this procedure.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a non-conformist Christian sect based in New York City. They believe blood transfusions are contrary to scripture.

The local NHS Trust applied to the High Court in London for a ruling on the best approach to B’s treatment. B’s father participated in the resulting hearing by telephone.

Mr Justice Moylan noted the opinion of doctors that B would be at risk of potentially life-threatening sepsis (blood poisoning) if they were obliged to carry out the surgery without being able to give the boy blood transfusions.

A consultant confirmed that a transfusion would be the only option if B lost blood during the surgery, and that any risks associated with transfusion would be very low.

The Judge was “entirely satisfied” that both the skin graft procedure and the possibility of blood transfusions were in the boy’s best interests.

“I, therefore, make the order in the terms sought by the NHS Trust.”

The Judge concluded by expressing his gratitude to B’s father for participating in the hearing and “clearly and calmly” explaining his and the mother’s religious views. He hoped the parents would understand the reasons for his judgement.

“I have no doubt at all that they love their son dearly.”

Read the full judgement here.

The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine that blood transfusions are sinful prompts regular legal clashes with the medical establishment. As recently as August, the High Court ruled that a 13 year-old boy with a serious immune disorder should receive blood transfusions despite his religious mother’s unwillingness to consent to the procedure.

 

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Comments(6)

  1. Andrew says:

    What a nonsense that expensive publicly-funded litigation is necessary to reach this obvious conclusion.

  2. Luke says:

    I agree with Andrew on this, more than 5 minutes is too long for the Judge to make this decision – the child should not be subjected to the idiocy of the parents where harm can be caused.

  3. Red says:

    The child’s immune system is already damaged by his terrible injuries. I would think further undermining it with a blood transfusion is tantamount to attempted murder. In the guise of empathy, the Court’s decision genuinely threatens the life of this child.

    • Luke says:

      Yeah, let’s ignore all the views of the doctors actually examining the child and go with Red’s idea – Red’s bound to be right…..

      • Red says:

        This (link below) Washington Post article of May 6, 2013 written by reporter Sandra G. Boodman includes disturbing findings such as these:

        “Diagnoses that are missed, incorrect or delayed are believed to affect 10 to 20 percent of cases, far exceeding drug errors and surgery on the wrong patient or body part, both of which have received considerably more attention.

        “Recent studies underscore the extent and potential impact of such errors. A 2009 report funded by the (US) federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 28 percent of 583 diagnostic mistakes reported anonymously by doctors were life-threatening or had resulted in death or permanent disability. A meta-analysis published last year in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety found that fatal diagnostic errors in U.S. intensive care units appear to equal the 40,500 deaths that result each year from breast cancer. And a new study of 190 errors at a VA hospital system in Texas found that many errors involved common diseases such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections; 87 percent had the potential for “considerable to severe harm” including “inevitable death.”

        [washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/misdiagnosis-is-more-common-than-drug-errors-or-wrong-site-surgery/2013/05/03/5d71a374-9af4-11e2-a941-a19bce7af755_story.html]

        One of the four core principles of medicine is: primum non nocere — first, do no harm. Unless the treating physicians can guarantee no further harm will come to the child by administering blood transfusion, and they can’t, this course of action should be rejected, and consultations should take place with, and assistance asked of, surgeons familiar with the arts involved in bloodless surgery.

        As a major concern with burn injuries is infection, anything that would deplete the boy’s already compromised immune system is flagrantly risky at best, and as I pointed out earlier, life threatening. A less toxic approach should be pursued and applied.

  4. mark sanderson says:

    Poor child is seriously injured and because a group of men in a plush New York office say that God told them their cult members must not accept blood or face being dis-fellowshipped

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