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Times Online, UK - 1 hour ago
Beyond evangelising, Jehovah’s Witnesses are commonly known for one other thing: their fervent opposition to blood transfusions . ... From The Times February 23, 2007
Babies seized after Jehovah’s Witness mother refuses blood for sextuplets
Catherine Philp The birth of Canada’s first sextuplets should have been cause for celebration. But their struggle for life has provoked a ferocious battle pitching Church against State and a child’s right to life against parents’ rights to practise their faith. When the four boys and two girls were born nearly three months prematurely in early January, they were hailed as a miracle. The mother, on being told that she was carrying multiple foetuses, had been offered “selective reduction”, a procedure to remove several foetuses to help to ensure the survival of the others. She refused. At birth, the babies weighed less than two pounds (1kg) each, and measured less than an outstretched adult hand. They were put into incubators but within a week two had died. Doctors told the parents that the surviving infants desperately needed blood transfusions if they were to survive, but once again the parents refused. The babies’ parents, still unnamed, it now emerged, were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Beyond evangelising, Jehovah’s Witnesses are commonly known for one other thing: their fervent opposition to blood transfusions. In their faith, it is nothing less than akin to rape.
The belief is based on the Witnesses’ interpretation of several verses in Genesis, Leviticus and Acts that forbid Christians from ingesting blood. Unable to persuade the parents to allow the procedure, the hospital in Vancouver applied to the British Columbia government to take the surviving babies into protective custody so that the transfusions could be administered. The authorities complied and custody of the three most sickly infants was transferred to the state. The parents, while grieving over the loss of two of their children, were livid with the authorities for removing what they saw as their parental rights. They applied for a court order to return the babies to their care. But in the meantime two of the babies in custody were given transfusions — to save their lives, their doctors say. In his affidavit to the court, the children’s father argued that their rights had been trampled on and demanded that the children be returned to their care. He added that he and his wife had been forced to leave the hospital while the transfusions were taking place, unable to bear seeing doctors “violating our little girl”. But, as their lawyer showed up to appeal against the custody order, the court suddenly reversed its decision and handed the babies back. That was three weeks ago but still almost nothing more is known about the babies’ condition other than that they are “progressing”. The parents may again have custody but they are now preparing to take the provincial government to court over their failure to let them put evidence to a court before allowing the transfusions to proceed. Yesterday the supreme court of British Columbia postponed the hearing until April so that lawyers could study a weight of documentary evidence. Legal experts expect the government to argue that the babies’ lives were in immediate danger and they had no option but to act immediately.
The case has shocked largely secular Canada, a country not famed for religious extremism. Representatives of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have urged the public and media not to make “stereotypical assumptions” about their faith based on the case. Canada’s constitution enshrines the right to freedom of religion. But prominent ethicists argue that this cannot apply to children too young to hold beliefs, never mind to express them.
“While the parents are at liberty to make martyrs of themselves, their children are not,” Eike-Henner Kluge, a bioethi-cist at the University of Victoria told the Globe and Mail.
The hearing in April will decide on the legal matter of whether the parents were denied their moment in court and not on their religious rights. Whatever the outcome, the life-saving transfusions cannot now be reversed. The biblical line
‘And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people’ Leviticus 17:10 Comment box at link add yours