Top court may rule on transfusions

by izobcenec 19 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • izobcenec

    Top court may rule on transfusions 'This is my chance to speak out' - Jehovah's Witness Sunday, August 24, 2003

    EDMONTON - The Supreme Court of Canada may decide this week whether to hear an appeal from a local Jehovah's Witness who was forced by a court to have a blood transfusion against her wishes.

    "This is my chance to speak out," Candice Unland said in an interview Saturday, speaking publicly for the first time in the four years since a judge ordered her to have a blood transfusion against her will.

    "I want them to listen to me now," Unland said. "They did not listen to me then."

    The resident of Morinville, just north of Edmonton, turns 21 next month. She was 16 when she was given blood.

    Unland said she is speaking out now in an attempt to ensure the same thing never happens to another mature teen who refuses a blood transfusion for the same reasons: because the Bible says people should abstain from blood and because blood can carry diseases such as hepatitis.

    She is also speaking out for Bethany Hughes, a Jehovah's Witness who died of leukemia last year at 17 after an unsuccessful court battle to refuse the 38 transfusions she received as part of her cancer treatment.

    Unland supported Hughes with phone calls and letters of support. After the Calgary teen died, Unland pledged to finish her fight.

    Adults and mature minors have a clear common-law right to decide what medical treatment they will accept or refuse, Unland's lawyer Shane Brady said.

    This tradition plus Unland's right to raise Charter of Rights issues are the two foundations for the Supreme Court appeal.

    However, the court grants only 10 or 15 per cent of all applications to appeal, Brady said.

    He said his client went to the Misericordia Hospital on April 15, 1999, after she experienced prolonged menstrual bleeding.

    Unland agreed to have surgery to stop the bleeding but refused to have a blood transfusion during the operation even if doctors decided her life was in danger.

    Unland said she arrived at the Misericordia about 1 p.m. and at 10 p.m. was taken to a conference room where she and her parents met a provincial court judge and a lawyer who was to represent her.

    "I had no time to speak to my lawyer at all," she remembers. "I felt I was not listened to at all."

    Both her parents -- her father is a Jehovah's Witness and her mother is Greek Orthodox -- supported her right to make her own decision.

    She said the judge took just 10 minutes to make her a ward of the province and grant permission for blood transfusions.

    The Alberta Court of Appeal denied Unland's appeal, in a written ruling Feb. 26, 2003.

    Misericordia doctors told the 1999 hospital hearing that transfusions are required in 20 per cent of surgeries similar to the operation which stopped Unland's bleeding, the Court of Appeal said.

    "While conceding that the concept of a mature minor's right to consent to treatment is embodied in the common law, the Crown argued that the CWA (Child Welfare Act) has supplanted any common law right of a mature minor to refuse treatment."

    Lower Alberta courts acknowledged Unland was a mature minor, the decision said, but decided the child welfare law permitted the ordering of a transfusion.

    Lawyer David Gnam, who was asking the Supreme Court to review Hughes's case when his client died, said the Unland appeal, funded by Jehovah's Witnesses, defends the common law and Charter rights of teenagers.

    [email protected]

  • concerned mama
    concerned mama

    There is a follow up story in the Edmonton Journal today, but I have no idea how to post it. I have scanned it, so I will send it to anyone who can post it on the forum, or who is just interested.

    The implications of this case can completely undo all the good that Bethany Hughes' case did.

    Note that the girl has parents of 2 religions, so it would be much harder to prove that she was so indoctrinated into the witness that she didn't understnd the implications of her decision.

    I have a bad feeling about all of this.

  • freedom96

    What this girl should be doing is thanking God and her doctors, and everyone involved that she is even alive.

    Second, she really should research and find out what the bible really teaches, and find out what the WTS actually allows their followers. When you add up all the parts of the blood that the WTS does indeed allow, mix them together, then what do you have? Yes, blood.

  • Swan

    Unland said she is speaking out now in an attempt to ensure the same thing never happens to another mature teen who refuses a blood transfusion for the same reasons: because the Bible says people should abstain from blood and because blood can carry diseases such as hepatitis.

    Adults and mature minors have a clear common-law right to decide what medical treatment they will accept or refuse, Unland's lawyer Shane Brady said.

    What is this about mature teens? Is this some new legal strategy to reduce the age of minority? Obviously the WTBTS recognizes that minors have the right to make lifetime decisions, such as dedicating your life through baptism to a publishing corporation. Are they trying to argue that teens are mature enough to make their own legal and medical decisions?


  • Nosferatu

    I really feel for these young ones who are worshipping the WTS and all it's false teachings. I hope that one day she'll wake up and see the Suiciety for what it's worth, then go and thank the doctor for what he/she did for her.

  • Joker10

    Swan, Canada has a law that a Mature Teen is entitled to the same rights as adults. Mature teens can make their own medial treatment descions without their parents concent. A 'mature teen' would be somebody who is some 16 years old.

  • jgnat

    Here is the follow up article today. I do feel overwhelmed by the power that WT legal is putting in to this. Candice Unland is a perfect little JW "poster girl", alive and articulate. Even if this case does not go to the supreme court, the JW's are going to get some good press out of this. In a lot of ways, I agree with freedom of choice. In this case, XJW's have a weaker stance. We would have to prove to the Supreme Court, a JW cannot be said to be completely informed or independent in their decision making. Tough one. Lucky for the WTS that Candice is alive to protest.

    Transfusion broke trust: U of A prof

    Rick Pedersen

    The Edmonton Journal

    Monday, August 25, 2003

    EDMONTON - An Edmonton-area woman should not have been compelled to have a blood transfusion when she was 16, two prominent medical experts says.

    The court-ordered transfusion contradicted a key principle of the medical ethics that guide Canadian doctors and give mature minor patients the right to decide what medical treatments they will receive, bioethicist Dr. Paul Byrne said in an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court. "The entire provision of health care in our society is based on the concept of informed consent," says the University of Alberta professor. Byrne teaches ethics to medical students, chairs the University Hospital clinical ethics committee and is interim director of the U of A John Dossetor Health Ethics Centre.

    He said the principle applies to capable minors as well as adults, and doctors should consider overruling patients only where there is clear evidence a patient lacks the ability to make decisions.

    "Many competent patients refuse life-saving treatment for all kinds of reasons and medical doctors must ethically abide by these patients' wishes."

    The Supreme Court decides which cases it reviews and lawyers for Candice Unland expect to hear, as early as this week, if the court will hear her appeal. Unland, a Jehovah's Witness who turns 21 next month, spoke out publicly for the first time this weekend.

    The Morinville resident said nobody listened to her when she was 16 and refused to have a transfusion, and hopes through her court case to prevent the same thing from happening to other patients.

    Unland believes the Bible does not allow one person to take blood from another, and also because she did not want to catch a blood-borne disease such as hepatitis.

    She is also speaking out for fellow Jehovah's Witness Bethany Hughes, who died of leukemia last year at 17, after an unsuccessful court battle to refuse the 38 transfusions she received as part of her cancer treatment.

    Byrne said the Unland and Hughes cases have confused doctors and undermined the trust doctors must win from their adolescent patients.

    Dr. Austin Richard Cooper, chairman of pediatrics at Memorial University and chief of the child health program at Newfoundland's Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre, called on the Supreme Court to hear the Unland appeal.

    "There is urgency for the Supreme Court of Canada to give Canada's medical profession public guidance on what are the rights and freedoms of capable young persons regarding their medical treatment," his affidavit said.

    He agreed the Unland and Hughes court decisions undermine clearly established ethical principles.

    [email protected]

  • mustang

    Yes, hmmm.... Does "mature teen" equal some newly created JW jargon? Is it merely an "end run" attempt at laws as they stand? Indeed, where DOES THIS TERM ORIGINATE: in the Watchtower or the in the Canadian equivalent of USC's or CFR's? (U S Codes or Codes of Federal Regulations) Will JW's propensity to re-write "Webster" hold sway in the realms of jurisprudence?


  • jgnat

    Mature Teen is Canadian legalese. The WT did not make it up.

  • blondie

    "Mature teens" and "mature minors" is not a new strategy of the WTS. But this may be a reminder to JW parents. At the time this first came out, strong pressure was put on parents to make sure their older children could competently give a personal explanation of why they would not take blood.

    Kingdom Ministry 9/92 p.3

    Finding a Cooperative Doctor: Physicians have many concerns in treating patients, and when you ask them to treat your child without blood, this increases the challenge. Some physicians will agree to treat adults while respecting their wishes on blood as long as an acceptable release is filled out. Some may similarly agree to treat minors who have demonstrated they are mature minors, since some courts have recognized that mature minors have the right to make their own medical choices. (See The Watchtower, June 15, 1991, pages 16-17, for discussion of what constitutes a mature minor.) However, physicians may refuse to treat young children, especially infants, unless they have permission to give blood. In fact, very few physicians will give 100-percent assurance that they will not use blood under any circumstances when treating a child. For medical and legal reasons, most doctors feel that they cannot give such a guarantee. Nevertheless, an increasing number want to provide care for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses while going as far as they feel they can in respecting our wishes on blood.

    6/15/91 WT pp.


    In some places a so-called mature minor is granted rights similar to those of adults. Based on age or mature thinking, or both, a youth may be viewed as mature enough to make his own decisions on medical treatment. Even where this is not the law, judges or officials may give much weight to the wishes of a youth who is able to express clearly his firm decision about blood. Conversely, when a youth cannot explain his beliefs clearly and maturely, a court might feel it has to decide what seems best, as it might for a baby.

    One young man had studied the Bible off and on for years but was not baptized. Despite his being just seven weeks from the age when he would gain the "right to refuse medical treatment for himself," a hospital treating him for cancer sought court backing to transfuse him against his wishes and those of his parents. The conscientious judge quizzed him about his beliefs on blood and asked basic questions, such as the names of the first five books of the Bible. The young man could not name them nor give convincing testimony that he understood why he refused blood. Sadly, the judge authorized transfusions, commenting: "(H)is refusal to consent to blood transfusions is not based upon a mature understanding of his own religious beliefs."

    Matters may turn out differently for a minor well instructed in God’s ways and actively walking in His truth. A younger Christian had the same rare type of cancer. The girl and her parents understood and accepted modified chemotherapy from a specialist at a noted hospital. Still, the case was taken to court. The judge wrote: "D.P. testified she would resist having a blood transfusion in any way that she could. She considered a transfusion an invasion of her body and compared it to rape. She asked the Court to respect her choice and permit her to continue at [the hospital] without Court ordered blood transfusions." The Christian instruction she had received came to her aid at this difficult time.—See box.

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