New Zealand baby to be treated with blood after JW parents lose court case

A baby in New Zealand has a chance of survival only after being placed under court guardianship

A baby in New Zealand has a chance of survival only after being placed under court guardianship

The media in New Zealand have reported on the case of a 10-month-old baby girl who has been taken under court guardianship after her parents attempted to deny her life-saving treatment with blood products.

Doctors discovered a large tumor on the right side of her chest and, following a biopsy, she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and “stage four widespread metastatic disease involving the bone and bone marrow.”

The child had already been given an emergency blood transfusion after arriving for her biopsy at the Starship children’s hospital with a life-threateningly low red blood cell count.

But when her parents were told she needed urgent surgery and treatment with chemotherapy they agreed but could not consent to ongoing treatment with blood or blood products due to their religious beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

On August 22 the case was rushed to the High Court where doctors told the Judge, Justice Helen Winkelmann, that the girl would “almost certainly” need a blood transfusion.

A stark choice was presented. If she didn’t receive treatment, the baby would die within weeks or months, but with treatment she had an excellent prognosis, “with a long-term overall survival rate in excess of 90 per cent,” according to Starship pediatric oncologist Dr Stephen Laughton.

In placing the child under High Court guardianship to allow the treatment, Justice Winkelmann said, “While parents have a right, recognised by section 15 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, to manifest their religion, that right does not allow acts or omissions likely to place [the baby’s] life, health or welfare at risk.”

Justice Winkelmann also acknowledged the parents’ dilemma, saying, “Their ongoing support and care for [the baby] is crucial, and the making of these orders, I hope, resolves the difficult position they presently find themselves in.”

According to the estimates of Peter Le Cren, a health lawyer and former medico-legal counsel, cases such as these are adjudicated in court on a yearly basis. “It gives the clinicians and the family involved a lot more comfort having the sanction of the court,” he said. “These families are in a very difficult situation. They feel hugely torn.”

Last year saw a 1 percent reduction in the number of active Witnesses in New Zealand, with 14,000 peak publishers for 2012. According to recent research by Marvin Shilmer, 19 Jehovah’s Witnesses died in four major New Zealand hospitals between 1998 and 2007 by refusing blood despite suffering severe anemia.

A choice no parent should have to make

There is no way of knowing the mental anguish of the parents involved in this case, but I cannot help but sympathize with the position they were forced into.

Parental instincts will always dictate that a child should receive whatever treatment is necessary for its survival, but since 1945 the commands of the Watch Tower Society have completely disregarded the sanctity of human life as respects treatment with blood. Witnesses have been conditioned to think of the refusal of blood as a test of loyalty to God, but in reality it is a test of loyalty to an organization.

Nowhere does the bible comment on whether blood may or may not be transfused, for the obvious reason that blood transfusions were unheard of in ancient times. It is therefore ridiculous to second-guess God’s thoughts on this issue. In its well-distributed study book What Does The Bible Really Teach?, Watchtower offers the following argumentation…

“Does the command to abstain from blood include blood transfusions? Yes. To illustrate: Suppose a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Would that simply mean that you should not drink alcohol but that you could have it injected into your veins? Of course not! Likewise, abstaining from blood means not taking it into our bodies at all. So the command to abstain from blood means that we would not allow anyone to transfuse blood into our veins.” – What Does The Bible Really Teach?, page 130.

Illustration on page 131 of the Bible Teach book.

Illustration on page 131 of the Bible Teach book.

This is a false argument for two main reasons.

Firstly, even if a person were an alcoholic this would not stop a doctor administering alcohol-based treatment if his life was in danger.

Secondly, when blood is injected intravenously it enters the blood stream and performs and functions as blood, which is not the case with injecting alcohol. Conversely, when a person drinks alcohol it winds up in the blood system because it cannot be broken down by the stomach, whereas blood when eaten is broken down by the digestive system and thus has no opportunity to enter the blood stream. The analogy therefore does not hold up to scrutiny and draws on ignorance of basic medical knowledge.

When we set this argument aside and look at the bible in context we find good reason for Christians to accept medical treatment with blood, even if they privately choose to abstain from eating it. This has to do with the bible’s emphasis on saving life. For example, on several occasions Jesus invoked the rabbinic principle of pikuach nefesh by arguing that the obligation to preserve life supersedes Jewish law. – Matt. 12:11; Mark 3:4-5; Matt. 12:1-4

It is for this reason that Jesus argued that a sheep could be saved if it fell into a pit on the Sabbath, even though work would be involved in rescuing it. And Jesus further argued that mercy is the overriding principle when observing bible commands, saying, “Go, then, and learn what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice.'” – Matt. 9:13

By contrast, the Governing Body of the Watch Tower Society ignores the need for mercy and demands human sacrifice in recognition of their authority. This callous disregard for life has resulted in thousands of Witnesses dying over the decades – as many as 50,000 according to one estimate.

In reading this story of the New Zealand baby who very nearly died, I can’t help but wonder whether the parents were actually relieved at having guardianship taken out of their hands. Watchtower demanded they sacrifice their child, and to honor this they needed to at least make a show of objecting by forcing the issue through the court. However, deep down, they must have known that the child receiving blood and staying alive was the best outcome.

It’s just a shame this deadly game of token brinkmanship should be needed at all. And with a case like this arising every year in New Zealand alone, you can be certain there isn’t always a happy ending.


John Cedars signature logo





Further reading…

Related videos…

Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to New Zealand baby to be treated with blood after JW parents lose court case

  1. John Baptist says:

    What? Am i missing something here? Any and every scripture i have ever read including ones from the NWT JW green bible tell me in all the context surrounding a scripture that talks about abstaining from blood had to do with Animals and not humans. If God wanted us to abstain from Human blood transfusions then don’t you think with all his foreknowledge he would have mentioned that specific law in the Bible? But as usual in order to look unique and try to attain exclusivity as a religion they go ahead of the word of God and make their own man made doctrines, and this at the cost of Life!! Your mentioning of their alcohol analogy, its simply pathetic!! Improper use of Alcohol is a killer not life sustaining. To begin with this poor child has a long medically challenged life to deal with let alone being born to parents who have misguided devotion to a cult religion. My hope is that this ordeal will show these parents where their real devotion should belong and that is to their Child.

  2. WT Critic says:

    I imagine the family was releaved to have the decision taken away. If not now, in time they may realize the blood transfusion saved their child’s life and if Watchtower had its way the child would be dead.

  3. Julia Orwell says:

    No, there isn’t always a happy ending. A woman I met at work told me of her JW cousin had a difficult birth and both she and the baby bled out because she wouldn’t take a transfusion. That’s two more graves at the feet of Molech.

  4. george says:

    This really makes me sad. The WTBTS seems happy to abuse the rights of children in so many ways.

    They refuse them life saving treatment.

    They destroy their critical thinking through indoctrinating cartoons.

    They fail to alert parents to child molesters in their midst.

    Compare this with the way Jesus treated children!

    It makes a mockery, yet again, of their claim to be the best friends of Jesus in the whole wide world.

    Excellent article Cedars!

  5. Hakizimana Jean de Dieu says:

    Read also:
    1) Would it be proper to accept a vaccination or some other medical injection containing albumin derived from human blood? (w94 10/1 p. 31)!

    2) Since the Bible forbids the eating of blood, how are Christians to view the use of serums and vaccines? Has the Society changed its viewpoint on this?—J. D., U.S.A. ( w61 11/1 p. 670)!

    3) Is vaccination a violation of God’s law forbidding the taking of blood into the system?—G. C., North Carolina (w52 12/15 p. 764)!

    The TRUTH is “(Proverbs 27:22) Even if you should pound the foolish one fine with a pestle in a mortar, in among cracked grain, his foolishness will not depart from him. . .

  6. Olivia says:

    Whatever we may think of this aspect of JW faith, I don’t at all think society, law, etc, has a right to dictate how a person should treat their body. It’s sad that sometimes the outcome means death, and yes, education should be an ongoing thing, but if my friend told me they didn’t want a particular treatment, I would fight tooth and nail to respect those wishes no matter what I thought of their decision.

  7. John Baptist says:

    Olivia i totally agree with your point. I think the purpose of writing these articles on Cedars part is to help people to use their own conscience when it comes to matters they themselves should be making a decision on especially when it comes to their own life. The point that is trying to be driven home here more importantly, is the fact that many people have allowed their own consciences to be overrun by a mere man made religious Doctrine, especially since it is not bible based to begin with. What individuals are doing is giving their devotion to a man made religion. It was no different back in the old testament days when parents would sacrifice their own children to false Gods. In any event the decision is not of their own conscience but those of other people who have a totally warped belief system. For me personally if i was ever diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer i would refuse treatment because i would want to live out my days the best i can using a positive mind and enjoy the time remaining.

  8. Manuel Villanovoa says:

    What makes me more angry about this topic is that witnesses know that they eat meat that hasn’t had all of its blood removed, and one of them told me they are fine with it because the “can’t eat only beef jerky and vegetables”, which means they are knowingly violating their own rule; but if its about saving lives via blood treatment they prefer to let their own die. Ergo, in their perception taste of food is more important than human lives.

  9. JOE BLOW says:

    i hope the government will pay for all the money it going to cost to help that poor child over come all the disese from that transfusion he was given, there only 186 different dieses that you can get from someone blood besides aids.its a money maker you give your blood for a piece of candy or a t- shirt ,an they charge 300.00 plus for the free pint of blood you gave ,you can use saline solution for a buck a bottle,if you have that much blood loss you have a lousy surgeon

    • anonymous says:

      Joe Blow, When I became a Witness in 1964-1965, I became paranoid because of blood transfusions just as you are and this is some more of that kind of nonsense that I believed when I became a Witness 50 years ago from the booklet: Blood, Medicine and the Law of God published in 1961 from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society on page 33:

      These facts cover only a limited number of the dangers of blood transfusion. There are also at hand reports from doctors showing that numerous other disorders, including cancer and tendencies to
      to insanity, may be transmissible by blood. Reports from doctors in both North and South America show that personality traits have been so altered that formerly clean-cut individuals who have been transfused with the blood of criminals and sex perverts have been changed into degenerates. Surely the dangers of blood transfusion cannot be overemphasized.”

      I believed all that stuff in 1964 when I started associating with the Witnesses because I was led to believe that only Jehovah’s Witnesses had a handle on the Bible and that was because I didn’t know anything about anything when I was young but I know a whole lot more now than I did then and I am not so gullible anymore as when I was 18 years old. If that stuff is not the “truth” now then it was a lie in 1961 when it was published.

      Think about it.

  10. Excelsior says:

    Joe Blow,

    If you have a religious objection to receiving a blood transfusion then say so. You, as an adult, have that right.

    I would expect that giving a surgeon a free choice in treating you would be the best way to go. To impose limitations of any kind must affect outcomes.

    The rights of a child to life are paramount. The infant has had no opportunity to decide for itself if it wants to comply with your beliefs, and is not yet an adult. Therefore, the state quite rightly intervened in this case.

    I have never understood how a prohibition relating to the ingestion of foodstuffs found itself applied to a medical procedure undreamt of in biblical times.

    An investigation into this policy is worthwhile. There have been flip flops, and it is reported that the GB itself is split on this issue.

    You have the right to decide which medical treatments you will receive because you are an adult. A child of a religious observer is not an adult, and its right to life supersedes any religious observance.

    Peace be with you


  11. Andrea says:

    Would you be advocating that the government pay for the funeral costs of the child after it had died from its parents’ refusal to this life-saving medical procedure?
    There wouldn’t be a child to protect in the first place if the parents’ wishes were granted.
    In my opinion though, mainly, there’s no guarantee the child would grow up to hold the same beliefs as its parents (forcing/refusing medical treatment on a child or baby based on personal opinion is no different from infant or impressionable-teenage baptism). It may very well feel grateful that someone intervened on their behalf, so that they could live. If it feels it shouldn’t be alive in the first place, well… I’m not going to finish that sentence as I’m not in favour of such.

    PS: it’s “desease”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comment posting guidelines:

Kindly observe the following requirements before posting any comments to our articles or pages:

  • ABUSIVE COMMENTS - Do not post comments that include swear words or may be considered abusive, lewd, blasphemous, obscene or threatening
  • ILLEGAL COMMENTS - Do not post comments that condone or propose illegal activity, or that breach copyright law
  • OFF-TOPIC COMMENTS - Do not post comments that are off-topic and bear no relation to the page or article
  • RELIGIOUS NEUTRALITY - Do not post comments that are evangelical in nature or may be construed as imposing one person's religious beliefs (or lack thereof) over those of another
  • LANGUAGE - Visitors from all countries and language groups are welcome. You may post comments in languages other than English, but we would appreciate if you could make any such comments brief. We would also be grateful if you could run any such comments through Google Translate and convert these to English, but this is not an absolute requirement.
  • LINKS - You may post links to third party websites, so long as (1) you limit these to 2 links per comment, and (2) the content on these links doesn't contravene ANY of the first four points. Specifically, you may not post URLs to websites that are evangelical in nature. Our links page has an extensive list of such sites for any who are curious about Christian beliefs in the context of Jehovah's Witnesses. thanks all visitors in advance for respectfully observing these guidelines. Any who persistently fail to do so, despite warnings, may find themselves blocked from making further comments at the discretion of the site moderators, whose decision will be final and not open for debate.