A High Court judge in the UK has ruled that a sick baby who needs a blood transfusion must receive it, even if it goes against the parents’ Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. The ruling will spark many controversies, as it raises questions of consent, protection of religious beliefs, and government protection of their citizen’s safety. In this particular case, a baby’s health was given priority over faith.
Adherents to the Jehovah’s Witness faith believe that their sacred texts command them to abstain from blood. Citing specific verses from both the Old and New Testament, believers of the faith refuse to disobey this interpretation of the text. They believe that God views blood as representing life, so they wish to avoid taking it out of respect for whom they deem to have given the world life. However, contrary to popular belief, Jehovah’s Witnesses do believe in modern medicine; they are simply advocates for bloodless treatments.
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Apologies for the radio silence, I’ve been feeling hideous these last 24 hours and just wanted to sleep between all the prodding and poking. I had a contrast/high resolution CT (chest) scan last night which confirms there’s no blood clot - which we suspected, but needed to be ruled out after forming legs like that of an elephant! I had some bloods taken last night which discovered I had a high level B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) in my blood which is an indicator of an issue with the heart. Right-sided heart damage has long been predicted due to how much harder it has to work to compensate my lungs. So this is believed to be the cause of oedema and something else i’ll need to be medicated for to control. An IV injection of Furosemide soon got me peeing it out like a racehorse, unfortunately at the same time I was linked-up to a much needed bag of O+ haemoglobin. My blood pressure has been incredibly low since the blood transfusion at lunchtime, so spent the afternoon on my new ‘Nippy’ home NIV ventilator which will hopefully give my heart and lungs a bit of a rest at nighttime when home, I’ve just got to learn to sleep in a Darth Vader mask first. There were hopes to squeeze me in over the road at the new Royal Papworth to have a night NIV assessment while I’m an inpatient, but it’s looking to be too long a wait and I don’t want to stay here unnecessarily any longer than I need to. Just an ultrasound of my heart left to do, possibly another blood transfusion, then hopefully I can think about heading home and nursing my poor cold with Lemsip. You know I’m not well when I’ve not been on social media all day! I’m hearing incredible things about the raffle on Instagram @raffleforrachel please check it out if you haven’t already. I also know I’ve got over 50+ messages to reply to as well, which I’ll make my way through at some point! Huge huge HUGE THANKS to every single donation, share, love, message, offer of help...You’ve been amazing!
In this case, Justice MacDonald ruled in favour of the doctors who wanted to perform an urgent blood transfusion on a sick three-week-old baby despite the beliefs of his mother. Authorities at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board brought the issue to the Family Division of the High Court in London last week. The judge concluded that there was sufficient evidence to show that the baby was gravely ill, so the blood transfusion was essential to his survival.
While the baby’s life was saved, there could be negative social implications for him down the road. In some cases, those who receive a blood transfusion are expelled from the faith or ostracized by the community. Depending on the laws of each country, a medical practitioner can administer a blood transfusion on children who need it. Unless a parent can provide evidence that there is another medically accepted treatment that can be used, the child is to receive blood treatment.
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The consequences of this specific court ruling are yet to be determined, but the fact remains that the doctors saved a three-week-old boy’s life. With the help of the court, they were able to keep him from physical harm. Challenges of social acceptance and religious beliefs are to come later in his life, and the courts will also be there to help him if needed.