|Winnipeg teen set for next step in court fight to refuse blood ...
680 News, Canada - 49 minutes ago
WINNIPEG (CP) - A 15-year-old Jehovah's Witness with Crohn's disease will be back in court this week seeking to control her own medical treatment and refuse ...
Winnipeg teen set for next step in court fight to refuse blood ...
Canada.com, Canada - 32 minutes ago
... Burnside said the department does consider medical alternatives, such as cutting-edge blood avoidance treatment for Jehovah's Witnesses with cancer, but it's a ...
WINNIPEG (CP) - A 15-year-old Jehovah's Witness with Crohn's disease will be back in court this week seeking to control her own medical treatment and refuse blood transfusions.
At the heart of the Manitoba Court of Appeal case is whether the girl should continue to be recognized as a "mature minor," or be under the wing of Child and Family Services and forced to have the treatment when her doctor says it's necessary.
As a Jehovah's Witness, the girl does not want transfusions because she interprets certain passages in the Bible as forbidding the ingestion of blood.
"This young woman has been managing her disease for a long time and respecting her religious conscience, and is confident she can continue to manage her disease without blood," said lawyer Shane Brady, who will represent the girl's parents at Thursday's appeal in Winnipeg.
The case began last April when the teen, then 14, went to hospital during a flare-up of her Crohn's, a chronic illness that can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract.
When she and her parents refused a transfusion, a Court of Queen's Bench justice granted Child and Family Services an order allowing doctors to give blood transfusions or blood products "as they deem medically necessary" without the consent of the teen or her parents.
Manitoba's Department of Child and Family Services refused to comment on the specifics of the case.
But spokeswoman Linda Burnside said the Child and Family Services Act "gives the child-welfare system the right to go before a judge and say, 'We have this medical information. We believe it's in the child's best interest for this medical procedure to occur and we would like to apprehend this child on this basis.' "
Brady said Manitoba legislation already recognizes minors as being capable of making medical decisions at the age of 16, but that age can be lowered on a case-by-case basis if the teen is found to be a "mature minor."
"The Manitoba legislature has already said the test is not age; the test is capacity."
Brady said the Child and Family Services Act only applies when caregivers refuse treatment for a child, not when the child refuses on his or her own behalf.
Burnside said the department does consider medical alternatives, such as cutting-edge blood avoidance treatment for Jehovah's Witnesses with cancer, but it's a delicate balance.
"Certainly there's always wanting to have respect and consideration for a family's beliefs and values," said Burnside. "Ultimately it comes down to what is in the child's best interest and that's a challenging dilemma for judges to deal with."
The issue has landed in several courts across Canada over the years. Most cases involve the more deadly illness, leukemia.
Earlier this year, a judge dismissed a lawsuit a Calgary father filed against the Witnesses and two of its lawyers after his 17-year-old daughter died of leukemia in 2002. Bethany Hughes refused blood transfusions but eventually received 38 when Alberta Children's Services assumed her custody.
Hughes blames the church for influencing his daughter to believe transfusions were both wrong and useless.
In Montreal, a judge visited a 15-year-old boy in hospital before ruling last June he must undergo blood transfusions to treat his leukemia.
Earlier this summer, the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside lower court rulings that gave B.C.'s child protection agency interim custody of a teenage girl who refused transfusions for her bone cancer.
The appeal court said the Ontario courts should not have enforced the B.C. order because it was made without hearing from the teen and her parents, who had already travelled to Ontario to see another doctor.
The 16-year-old girl, who was eventually treated in New York without transfusions, is now cancer-free.
Answering the question of if - or when - minors should be allowed to make their own decisions depends on not just age and maturity, but the severity of the illness and prognosis, said medical ethicist Arthur Schafer.
If a treatment will save a patient's life or improve health with minimal risk, it should be given. If success is questionable, and if treatment involves pain, distress or further illness, the family and patient's wishes should be respected.
"Some decisions require greater maturity and should not be permitted to be made by children," said Schafer, director of the University of Manitoba's Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics.
"If the treatment itself doesn't involve huge risks and burdens, then no matter how mature she is - she's only a 15-year-old. She hasn't had the opportunity of living away from her family and forming her own independent ideas about the universe and God and the meaning of life and death."
© The Canadian Press 2006