By Amanda Matshaka

 

Parents of a critically ill five-year-old boy have refused blood transfusion treatment that could save his life, citing religious beliefs. The boy’s parents are members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He suffers from sickle cell anaemia and his only hope of survival is receiving blood transfusion.

The matter was brought before a high court by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Health Department. The court granted the department an order to continue administering blood transfusion and postponed the matter to February 26, 2019, to allow the parents to make their opposing submissions.

 

What JW believes

 

Jehovah's Witnesses – JW- believe that the Bible prohibits ingesting blood and that Christians should not accept blood transfusions or donate or store their own blood for transfusion. The belief is based on an interpretation of scripture that differs from that of other Christian denominations.

JW say there are sound medical reasons to avoid blood transfusions; stating that God commands that Christians abstain from blood because what it represents is sacred to Him.

 

Presenting alternatives

 

Jehovah’s Witnesses present their members with other medical alternatives in cases where blood transmission is recommended by doctors. They advocate for ‘bloodless medicine and bloodless surgery’. Upon contacting their office for more information on the available alternatives, I was referred to their site that has “everything you need”.

Discussing medical alternatives to blood transfussions; the site shares what came out of a conference in Moscow. It cites: 'Leading experts from 40 countries gathered in Moscow for the 60th Jubilee International Congress of the European Society for Cardiovascular and Endovascular Surgery on May 20-22, 2011. 

Attracting great attention on all three days of the convention was a booth supplying information on medical alternatives to blood transfusions. Hospital Information Services for Jehovah’s Witnesses (HIS) staffed this booth. From it, doctors eagerly took hundreds of information folders, books, DVDs, and medical articles on this important topic. Demand was especially strong for the DVD featuring the video entitled Transfusion-Alternative Strategies​—Simple, Safe, Effective. *

 

 

Attracting great attention on all three days of the convention was a booth supplying information on medical alternatives to blood transfusions. Hospital Information Services for Jehovah’s Witnesses (HIS) staffed this booth. From it, doctors eagerly took hundreds of information folders, books, DVDs, and medical articles on this important topic. Demand was especially strong for the DVD featuring the video entitled Transfusion-Alternative Strategies​—Simple, Safe, Effective. * 

 

Right to life vs Beliefs

 

It is not clear whether the boy’s family has access to these alternatives so as to preserve his life but in the meantime health officials and the court are fighting for the boy’s right to life. Doctors say everything was done to manage the child’s condition without blood transfusion, however it was not enough and blood transfusion is necessary to save his life.

The hospital’s head of Paediatrics, Noxolo Mbadi says, “The disease is unpredictable and fatal; it could lead to stroke if the boy does not get blood transfusion”.

 

 

The High Court says the child's right to life supersedes any existing beliefs and laws.  It ruled that the constitution puts it plainly that the right to receive the best medical attention available including life-saving medical attention such as blood transfusion should not be unreasonably withheld.

 

The court says the matter is urgent since it pertains to the life of a minor and ordered that the child be best monitored to ensure that he obtains the best medical attention he needs. The court has further ruled that doctors should continue with blood transfusion administration until February 26, 2019, when the child’s parents will submit their opposing affidavits.

 

Family and church members came out in numbers in opposition of the court ruling claiming nothing is above the above the Bible, voicing that they stand by the child’s parents who say it will be the will of God if the child dies.

 

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