Friday, 4 Dec 2020

Jehovah's Witness, 15, must have life-saving blood transfusion despite refusing

A teenage Jehovah’s Witness must have a life-saving blood transfusion despite her objections based on religious grounds, a senior judge has ruled.

The girl, 15, suffers from sickle cell syndrome, an inherited condition that affects red blood cells, and is at risk of a stroke without an immediate procedure, the High Court heard.

She was said to be ‘wise beyond her years’ and holds ‘profound religious beliefs’ after recently being baptised as a Jehovah’s Witness. Sir James Munby ruled that although the teen was intelligent and able to make her own decisions, she must not be allowed to die.

He told the court his decision had been made at speed, noting the urgency of the procedure. He went on: ‘The blood transfusion is imperatively needed and within a timescale measured in hours and not days.

‘At one point, her doctor lamented that four hours had gone by because of the judicial proceedings.’

Nearly all Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from transfusions due to Bible passages which indicate it is against God’s will to receive blood.

Sir James ruled the procedure should go ahead, as without a blood transfusion there was a ‘very real risk’ of ‘serious harm to the girl’s future health and welfare’, as well as putting her life at risk.

However, he also called for judges to reexamine legal precedents which say children should not have a say in whether they accept medical treatment for cases like this.

He recommended the High Court examine whether the girl should have more say on treatments, including blood transfusions, before she turns 18.

In the 1970s, it was ruled that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs must be given the same respect as those of other religions in court. In the 1990s, it was then decided that judges must rule in the best interest of under-16s.

Children above the age of 16 and 17 are allowed a say in their treatment, although this can be overruled by the court in special cases.

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