The Blood Transfusion Act 1960 - Australia

by OrphanCrow 9 Replies latest watchtower medical

  • OrphanCrow

    Australia passed an act in 1960 that allowed doctors to give a blood transfusion, if necessary, to minor children.

    I am curious as to whether this Act - the Blood Transfusion Act 1960 - is still in effect in Australia. And I would also like to know if any Australian JWs are aware of this act. Are Australian JWs still told to resist blood transfusions for their minor children?

    Act No. 27, 1960.
    An Act relating to the immunisation of children against
    certain diseases and the giving of blood transfusions
    to children; for these purposes to amend
    the Public Health Act, 1902-1952; and for
    purposes connected therewith. [Assented to, 19th
    April, 1960.]

    The first past of the act concerns vaccinations and the latter part, with administrating blood transfusions to minors:

    39D. (1) A legally qualified medical practitioner may
    perform the operation of transfusion of human blood
    upon a minor without the consent of the parents or surviving
    parent of such minor or any other person legally
    entitled to consent to such operation if: —
    (a) such parents, parent or other person when
    requested so to do have or has not consented to
    such operation, or after such search and inquiry
    as is reasonably practicable in the emergency
    such parents, parent or other person cannot be
    found; and
    (b) such legally qualified medical practitioner and at
    least one other legally qualified medical practitioner
    have agreed—
    (i) upon the condition from which the minor
    is suffering; and
    (ii) that such operation is a reasonable and
    proper one to be performed for such
    condition; and
    (iii) that such operation is essential in order
    to save the life of such minor; and
    (c) such legally qualified medical practitioner has
    had previous experience in performing the
    operation of transfusion of human blood and
    before commencing such operation has assured
    himself that the blood to be transfused is compatible
    with that of the minor.
    (2) Where an operation of the nature referred to
    in subsection one of this section has been performed on a
    minor without the consent of the parents or surviving
    parent of such minor or any other person legally entitled
    to consent to such operation and in respect of such operation
    the requirements and conditions of the said subsection
    have been complied with such operation shall be
    deemed to have been performed with the consent which
    but for the provisions of this section would have been
    required for the performance of such operation.
    (3) The powers conferred on a legally qualified
    medical practitioner by this section shall be in addition to
    and not in derogation of any other powers of the legally
    qualified medical practitioner in relation to the performance
    of the operation of transfusion of human blood
    upon a minor.

    It appears as though New Zealand has also had much the same legislation in place since at least 1961:

    2. Blood transfusions-The principal Act is hereby amended
    by inserting, after section 126A (as inserted by section 6 of
    the Health Amendment Act 1960), the following section:
    "126B. (1) In this section, the term 'blood transfusion',
    or 'transfusion', means the injection of whole human blood,
    or any constituent part or parts thereof, into the bloodstream
    of any person.
    "(2) Except by leave of a Judge of ,the Supreme Court,
    no proceedings, civil or criminal, shall be brought against any
    person, in respect of the administration by any medical practitioner
    of any blood transfusion to any person under the age
    of twenty-one years (in this section referred to as the patient),
    by reason of the lack of consent of any person whose consent
    is required by law.

    It is too bad that other countries, most notably, the United States, didn't follow Australia and New Zealand's example in back in the 60s. The number of courtroom dramas played out in American courts in the 60s and 70s (and later...) concerning minors and the administration of blood, would not have been necessary and, the number of JW children who died because of blood refusal would have been substantially reduced.

  • fulltimestudent

    I was lucky enough to get disfellowshipped last century, but back in the day all JWs in OZ are (i'm quite sure) are aware of the act.

    Here are links to two cases decided in court, and a discussion of it in a medical journal.

    1. A 17 y.o. young man:

    2. A 7 y.o. boy:

    3. A British Doctor compares the policy in various western countries:

    Arch Dis Child 2005;90:715-719 doi:10.1136/adc.2004.067843
    • Community child health, public health, and epidemiology

    Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses and adolescent Jehovah’s Witnesses: what are their rights?


  • OrphanCrow
    fts: I was lucky enough to get disfellowshipped last century, but back in the day all JWs in OZ are (i'm quite sure) are aware of the act.

    Thanks for your feedback

    That is interesting. I have a exJW friend in Australia (that left last century too) and she often expresses her concern that she wouldn't have received blood as a minor. She didn't know that as a child, she wouldn't have been allowed to bleed to death.

    This is what I found out about why the act was put in place to begin with:

    VICTORIA v. ALVIN LEONARD JEHU was AUSTRALIA'S FIRST CRIMINAL PROSECUTION of a Jehovah's Witness Parent for refusing to provide consent for blood transfusions needed by their child who eventually died. In January 1959, the Jehus FOURTH child needed an exchange blood transfusion due to complications from Rh factor incompatibility between the mother and child. For two days, newborn Stephen Jehu clung to life as doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators at Queen Victoria Hospital futilely begged Alvin L. Jehu, age 28, and his unidentified JW Wife, of East Preston, to give them consent to perform the required life-saving blood transfusions.
    Thereafter, the State of Victoria indicted Alvin Leonard Jehu on charges of MANSLAUGHTER. In March 1960, a jury convicted Alvin Jehu of manslaughter, but also recommended "mercy" regarding his sentence. Jehu was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but that sentence was instantly probated, and Jehu was released on a 5-year "good behavior" bond.
    Undoubtedly at the behest of the WatchTower Society, Jehu filed an appeal based on the alleged violation of his religious rights, and the alleged violation of his rights as a parent to choose the best medical care for his children. (During the trial, Jehu had testified that he genuinely believed that blood transfusions actually were physically "dangerous" based on the "medical evidence" presented in WatchTower Cult publications.) Appeal not found. The WatchTower Society PRAISED the Jehus in an AWAKE! magazine article published later in 1960.
    The positive from this well-publicized MURDER was that Australia's hospitals became aware and were motivated to petition local courts for legal intervention in such scenarios. Prior to this case, there had been scattered instances of hospitals seeking court intervention, but such was the exception rather than the rule, and the result had been multiple deaths of children of Jehovah's Witness parents across Australia during the 1950s.
    In December 1960, the State of Victoria passed the BLOOD TRANSFUSION ACT OF 1960, which amended the Medical Act of 1958, to hold that a competent medical technician who administers a blood transfusion to a person under the age of 21 was considered to have been authorized by a person capable of such authorization when such person has refused or otherwise is unavailable to do so, and when two physicians have agreed that such transfusion is medically necessary.

    The website I found this on list many, many court cases concerning blood refusal. I have to say, though...the editor/website owner's commentary leaves a little to be desired - sometimes his comments come across as racist and misogynistic. However, the website has a lot of good information...if you can ignore the commentary

  • OrphanCrow

    Fulltimestudent, I just read the case you linked about the 7 year old boy.

    It seems so pointless. If the JW parents know about this act, then they should know that going to court is a lost cause. So does the WTS - they know that the court will order blood transfusions for minor children

    Why doesn't the WTS back off on making the parents refuse blood for minor children when they know damn well that it will just cost money and cause stress for the JW parents to go to court? And the ones who pay the price are the children and parents...not the WTS

    Why do they still insist on making this issue into a media circus? Do they need the publicity that bad? What law are they trying to challenge? The right of the parent to engage in child sacrifice as a religious activity?

  • fulltimestudent

    These cases are complex. As you likely read, the 17 y.o. young man in one of my cited cases is stating that he will not allow a transfusion to be given to him.

    And, in a comparatively short time, when he is of age, it will all be hypothetical.


    But leaving the JWs to one side,

    what do you think of this case? A 6 y.o boy whose case has see-sawed through the legal system has now been (or, his parents have) permitted to refuse the recommended medical treatment and for 'nature' to take its course.

    This boy has a brain tumour:

    The ABC (an Australian Govt owned, but not controlled, media outlet) version quotes the judge:
    In his judgement, Justice Richard O'Brien said his decision was determined by what was in the best interests of Oshin.
    "This case is not about parental rights, nor is it about the perceived power of the medical profession. It is not about whether, in a general sense, quality of life is more important than duration of life, nor is it about the relative merits of traditional medicine and alternative or complementary therapies," he ruled.
    "It is not about overarching considerations as to the right to life, or the right to a peaceful death, nor is it about a philosophical consideration of the best interests of children generally.
    "This case is solely about Oshin Kiszko, and how to determine what is in his best interests as a unique individual child in the specific circumstances which he now faces."
    Justice O'Brien said Oshin's relationship with this parents weighed heavily in his decision.
    "I am deeply concerned that any perpetuation of the conflict over Oshin's treatment will continue to diminish the ability of his parents to focus their energies solely on the provision of that support and love directly to him when he needs it most," he said.
    Justice Richard O'Brien emphasised that his decision did not set a precedent for other cases involving medical treatment of a child.
  • OrphanCrow
    fts: what do you think of this case?

    I think the boy was fortunate to have a smart judge

  • OrphanCrow
    These cases are complex. As you likely read, the 17 y.o. young man in one of my cited cases is stating that he will not allow a transfusion to be given to him.
    And, in a comparatively short time, when he is of age, it will all be hypothetical.

    The novel written by Ian McEwen, The Children Act, deals with exactly that issue. It is an interesting novel told from the point of view of the judge who decides the case

  • fulltimestudent

    My worst fear as a witness was having to deal with one of my children requiring a BT. My love for them would have meant an emotional crisis.

    Of course, for a true believer, the alternative is the great fear.

    Ignatius, in 110 CE wrote:

    "Grant me no more than to be a sacrifice for God while there is an altar at hand"

    Why, because he believed:

    "Nothing you can see has a real value. ...The greatness of Christianity lies in its being hated ..."

    We could argue that he was an adult, but in the persecutions of early Christians, children also decided to die.

    So it gets complex.

    The Joe witnesses are not the only ones with this problem. This UK Guardian article reports on a Mormon offshoot with a similar atttitude ( but against all medical assistance).

    And some refuse treatmentjust because they feel the treatment itself is punishing, as in the case of Xu Ting, a young Chinese actress.

  • 2+2=5

    In my experience I would say that JWs in Australia would resist blood for thier children, at the instruction from their leaders at world HQ, and most are not aware that doctors will give blood to a minor anyway....

    Back when I was still in the cult, I had one elder try and tell me we can refuse blood for our children, and I was trying to tell him otherwise but he had a WT education. My child had been under intensive care for a week, and received multiple transfusions, so I didn't argue with the fool I just left him in his ignorance. He like many others, are under the wrong impression about laws regarding blood transfusions and children with cult parents.

  • Vidiot

    I think med staff here in Canada can do it, too.

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