Church vs State: Battle over surviving sextuplets (Vancouver Sun)
The province has forced at least two of the Lower Mainland's four surviving sextuplets to have blood transfusions as a life-saving measure, over the objections of their Jehovah's Witnesses parents.
"[B]ecause we choose alternative medical treatments to blood transfusions, we have been stripped of our parental rights and have been labelled unfit," he said.
However, at least two of three children taken into the province's custody on the weekend have received blood transfusions, a medical procedure opposed by Jehovah's Witnesses as it offends their religious beliefs.
At a hastily called press conference Wednesday, Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen would not comment specifically about the case, but said the ministry is obliged to ensure children receive appropriate medical care.
"Any time that we find that there's a child in need of protection for any reason, including the need for medical treatment, the ministry will look at the situation and determine whether there's action we need to take to ensure that the child is protected," he told reporters at the B.C. legislature.
Christensen said the ministry listens closely to advice from physicians and seizes children only as a last resort.
Excerpt from transcript.. words of parents:
We absolutely refused each and every time abortion was offered as an option. Life is precious and a gift from the Creator, Jehovah God. As Jehovah's Witnesses we believe that to have aborted any of our sextuplets would be a profound disregard for life and violation of God's law recorded in Biblical passages such as Exodus 21:22-23 and Psalms 127:3.
In the last two weeks of [my wife's] pregnancy, she was hospitalized at B.C.'s Women's and Children's Hospital.
The neonatologists, Dr. Albersheim and Dr. Lupton, asked us to decide whether we wanted our sextuplets resuscitated on birth. Without resuscitation the babies would die. They explained that one-half of babies born at 24 or 25 weeks gestation die before being discharged from the hospital. They also told us that of the babies that do survive, many will have severe life-long handicap.
The doctors told us they support parents' decisions not to resuscitate children born so premature. We told the doctors we wanted our sextuplets to be resuscitated.
Now, just three weeks later, because we choose alternative medical treatments to blood transfusions, we have been stripped of our parental rights and have been labelled unfit. Without any hearing, the Ministry of Child and Family Development acquired a treatment order over [baby 3] on Friday afternoon, January 26, 2007. The judge refused to give us any opportunity to testify, present expert evidence, or cross-examine the doctors. The judge did not even hear from the doctors or the social worker.
What makes this even more unfair is that our lawyer had written the Ministry the day before stating that if the Director intended to take any action concerning our children then we insisted on a fair hearing. ...
We want the best medical care for our children and want them to live.
We have consented to all required treatment and have asked the doctors to more actively employ available alternatives to blood transfusions. We will not, however, consent to blood transfusions.
Why some people refuse to have them:
- Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. According to the website www.watchtower.com, Jehovah's Witnesses view life as God's gift represented by blood. They believe the Bible's command that Christians must "abstain from blood." (Acts 15:28, 29).
- In 2001, 16-year-old Bethany Hughes of Calgary made headlines nationwide after refusing to undergo blood transfusions because of her strong Jehovah's Witnesses faith. Hughes died in September 2002, of leukemia after an unsuccessful court battle to refuse 38 transfusions.
- In 2003, 20-year-old Candice Unland of Morinville, Alta. tried unsuccessfully to challenge legislation that says a patient 18 years or older has the right to refuse a transfusion. Unland argued that a mature 16-year-old, such as Hughes, should also have the same right. The case was rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada.
- In 2005, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled against the right of a 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness from Vernon to refuse life-saving blood transfusions. The girl was suffering from a potentially fatal form of bone cancer. In her ruling, Justice Mary Boyd said the rights of a "mature minor" to make her own medical choices do not supercede the authority of the courts in British Columbia to protect her life and safety.