|Child welfare vs. religion|
Toronto Sun, Canada - 1 1 minutes ago
...seizure of their children by the state to give them lifesaving blood transfusions, which the parents believe violate their Jehovah's Witness beliefs. ...
Should parents' beliefs interfere with lifesaving treatment for their kids?
|By MARIANNE MEED WARD|
email@example.com Whose values are supreme when there is a conflict: the state's, or your personal religious views? That's what is on the table in British Columbia , as the parents of sextuplets fight the seizure of their children by the state to give them lifesaving blood transfusions, which the parents believe violate their Jehovah's Witness beliefs. The babies were born at a gestational age of 25 weeks, and two have already died. The first way to tackle this question is to debate whether, in fact, JW creeds actually forbid blood transfusions. That's a helpful conversation, but a long term battle. Telling women that Sharia law, or the Koran, does not require female genital circumcision doesn't stop women from agreeing to the practice on religious grounds. However, over time, and with a lot of education, it may be possible to persuade women that they can keep both their faith and their genitals intact. The same may be possible with blood transfusions among JWs. A professor from Calgary's St. Mary's University College has gotten the ball rolling by arguing that JW's are misinterpreting the scripture in banning transfusions. JW's base their objection on verses in the biblical books of Genesis, Leviticus and Acts that forbid eating blood. The JWs are unique among religious people in interpreting that verse to include blood transfusions. Other Christian denominations do not ban blood transfusions, nor do Jews, for whom Genesis and Leviticus form part of the Torah. They interpret the verses as lessons in food hygiene -- take the blood out of an animal before you eat it. That's the correct interpretation, argues the professor. In the short term, though, being right isn't likely to persuade. The JW's are likely to dig in their heels and become more entrenched. Sociologist Peter Berger calls this a coping mechanism for " cognitive deviance ." When your views are in the minority, you tend to become more fundamentalist. So, we have to tackle this issue another way in the short term. We can start by discussing the rights of minors. That gets us off the very contentious plane of religious rights altogether. Here we have four minors who cannot make medical decisions for themselves, and we have two guardians (their parents) who are refusing to seek medical care. Whether their reasons are religious or secular is irrelevant here. We have already given the state authority to override parental wishes when a minor's wellbeing is at stake. That principle is at the heart of B.C .'s Child, Family and Community Services Act which allowed the director of child services to apprehend the children to force medical treatment, which he did two weeks ago to provide blood transfusions. After the procedure was done, the children were returned to the custody of their parents. This tactic makes the issue about child welfare, not religion. But the government will not get off so lightly. The parents filed papers Jan. 30 to fight for their religious rights, and have been granted a court hearing Feb. 23. They will argue against future seizures of their children, and argue for their religious right to refuse treatment for them. IMPORTANT DEBATE So at some point, even if it's only over the water cooler, we as a society must debate whether religion trumps child welfare. At the proverbial water cooler in my neighbourhood, the answer is an emphatic no. The topic of the sextuplets came up over conversation with three other mothers last week, two of us the parents of twins, and all of us Christians who believe in the importance of the Bible as a guide for living. Without hesitation, we all supported the state seizing the children. It's one thing to make an informed medical decision to refuse lifesaving treatment for yourself, as an adult. It's quite another to impose that on a minor, who may or may not grow up to share those religious views. And here we see the real clash of values, not between the state and religious folk, but between two competing religious edicts: protecting life on one hand and following the laws of religion on the other. In my reading of the various holy books, life always trumps law. Consider food restrictions, which exist among Jews, Muslims and some Christians, and are similar in spirit to the JW's ban on blood transfusions. All faiths allow the food restrictions to be broken to save life. It makes sense to apply that same principle to blood transfusions.