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.