Sextuplets' parents want apology for transfusions
Published Thursday, February 1, 2007 4:44PM EST
A B.C. Jehovah's Witness couple will demand an apology from the province over its decision to allow three of their four surviving sextuplets to have blood transfusions -- a practice that goes against their religion.
Two medical experts advised the government to seize the children, according to The Canadian Press.
Officials then used Section 30 of the B.C. Child, Family and Community Service Act. It authorizes the director of child welfare to act without a court order, if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe a child is in danger.
The sextuplets were born prematurely and two of them have already died.
One of the children was given a transfusion on Wednesday, while the other two were transfused earlier.
"The next thing is they'll be in court, likely in February, and they'll challenge the government and ask the courts to freeze the government's ability to have these children removed for further blood transfusions," said CTV's Vancouver Bureau Chief Todd Battis.
"Also, they'll be asking for an apology from the government. What they're really upset about is that they didn't get the chance to intervene with the judge on their behalf."
Their lawyer, Shane Brady, said Wednesday the family is upset that the transfusions were done against their wishes.
In an affidavit, the parents said they "could not bear to be at the hospital when they were violating our little girl. We took our immense sadness and grief and tried to console each other in private."
"We want the best medical care for our children and want them to live. We have consented to all required treatment. We will not, however, consent to blood transfusions," they said in the court documents.
Brady appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday to challenge the seizure order, which was implemented Friday without a court hearing. But the province abruptly handed control of the children back to the parents when they challenged the order.
However, the parents plan to press on. A court date has been set for Feb. 22 and 23 to hear them.
Supreme Court of Canada decisions from 1995 and 1999 gave parents the right to present evidence at any seizure hearings, said Brady. He has previously represented Jehovah's Witness families in such cases.
Dr. Kerry Bowman, medical ethicist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday that the issue "raises deep questions in this country about people's right to religious choice."
"They could grow up to say I feel my rights as a child were violated, or not," Bowman said.
However, he pointed out that the hospital was primarily concerned about the well-being of the children.
"These babies, I think in my opinion, are in a lot of trouble," he said. "Two are gone already, they were born pre-term, there were six of them -- all those kinds of things -- so hopefully they can build a very strong argument for saving these babies' lives for these interventions.
B.C. Minister of Children and Families Tom Christensen would not discuss the specifics of the case.
However, Christensen said: "We don't take any such action without a great deal of forethought, recognizing that it's a significant step for the state to interfere in a family."
Doctors have an obligation if they believe a child is in danger, he said.
Brady, however, said the transfusions made little difference to the condition of the infants. He described them as being in stable condition.
The government made the seizure last week to permit the transfusions.
The sextuplets were born in the first week of January at the B.C. Women's Hospital. They were almost three months premature and were about the size of an outstretched hand.
While doctors said they had a good chance of survival, they would face significant challenges. For example, infants that are premature have underdeveloped lungs, problems with eating and weak immune systems.
The parents have chosen to remain anonymous and have not spoken to the media since the children's birth.
With a report from CTV's Todd Battis and files from The Canadian Press