Judge rules Jehovah’s Witness must have blood transfusion despite religious beliefs

A teen Jehovah’s Witness has been ordered by a judge to take a blood transfusion to save her life even though her religion forbids it. 

The High Court ruled doctors must perform the procedure although the 15-year-old girl is more than able to decide for herself.

Sir James Munby said his ruling was not an easy choice to make because of the girl’s condition and that she may be allowed to refuse blood transfusions in the future.

Munby called for judges to rethink the legal precedents put in place around 30 years ago which state that kids should not be allowed to refuse medical treatment.

Munby, who is a former president of the Family Division and was in charge of the family courts up unitl 2018, said after the last hearings of the case that the girl suffers from sickle cell syndrome and without a blood transfusion she was at risk of having a severe stroke which could lead to permanent disability or death.

He said:

“The blood transfusion is imperatively needed and within a timescale measured in hours and not days.

At one point, her doctor lamented that four hours had gone by be-cause of the judicial proceedings.”

Munby said the patient, who is ‘wise beyond her years’, had just been baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness and had  ‘profound religious beliefs’.

The organization believes that it is against God’s will to receive blood. He said he would only allow the procedure because if he did not, the girl could have been seriously harmed or worse.

However, he said the High Court should reconsider whether underaged teens should have more rights to refuse medical transfusions before reaching 18 years of age when they have all the rights to do so.

The law on the rights of minors to refuse treatment follows a 1970s law according to which the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses must be respected just like all other religions, as well as 1990 Appeal Court decisions.

According to these laws, courts have to decide what is best for children under 16, while those aged 16 and 17 have the right to choose, even though this can also be overruled in exceptional situations.

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