The High Court in the UK has ruled that a sick baby who is only a few weeks old will receive blood despite the beliefs of its Jehovah’s Witness parents, according to the Mirror newspaper.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are instructed to refuse whole blood treatment due to their leaders’ insistence that this contravenes commands in the bible, which ban the injestion of blood.
But an unidentified child of Witness parents who is being treated by surgeons at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital will now be receiving blood irrespective of his parents’ religious views.
In delivering the ruling, Mr Justice Keehan said: “I entirely understand and sympathise with the stance of these parents. Their objection is on the basis of their religious beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They cannot consent to (their son) receiving blood products during surgery.”
However, Mr Justice Keehan recognized that the child’s medical needs are paramount. “Standing back and looking at (the baby’s) best interests, I am in no doubt whatsoever it is in his best interests to undergo the surgery that is proposed,” he said.
Specialists had already concluded that the child would have no “long-term prospect of survival” without the surgery, which the parents had consented to provided no blood was used. The hospital therefore applied to the High Court so that the surgery could proceed irrespective of their stipulations.
Dissent among conscientious Witnesses
More than 1,500 respondents have so far taken part in this website’s 2014 Global Survey of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Of these, 258 active Witnesses have answered the following question…
It is noteworthy that at least 62.4% of active Witnesses taking part in our survey have voted to say that they would personally not allow their child to die if a blood transfusion were the only option for survival.
Young children are incapable of fully grasping the religious beliefs of their parents, and should therefore not be treated as though they are bound by them – especially when life is in the balance.
Even so, there will always be Witnesses for whom the commands of their leaders supercede the sanctity of human life. When such ones become embroiled in these situations, it is reassuring that doctors, with the backing of the legal system, have the ability and willingness to impose common sense and thus save lives.