26 Oct 2007

Supreme Court to hear Winnipeg girl's transfusion fight

CBC News - October 25, 2007

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of a Winnipeg teen who was given a blood transfusion against her will.

The girl, who was 14 at the time, was given a blood transfusion in April 2006 after she was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding related to a flare-up of Crohn's disease, a gastrointestinal disorder.

The girl and her parents, who are Jehovah's Witnesses, refused the transfusion, but the province's Child and Family Services department stepped in and ordered that it to proceed.

Winnipeg lawyer Allan Ludkiewicz, who represents the teen, said his key argument to the Supreme Court was not about freedom of religion.

"The main argument is that if a person is a capable, mature minor, even though under the age set by the respective province, that they should have a say in making their medical decisions, not having it made solely by somebody else," he said Thursday.

In Manitoba, minors must be 16 years or older to be considered capable of making medical decisions.

In February, Manitoba's Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling that allowed the province to force the transfusion. In court for the appeal in September, the girl, who cannot be named, said she felt overwhelmed and scared by the experience.

The three Appeal Court justices recognized the transfusion infringed on the teen's religious rights, but ruled the treatment was justified on the basis of the sanctity of life and the duty to protect children.

Most Jehovah's Witnesses interpret literally a passage in the Bible that forbids them from ingesting blood — including receiving blood transfusions — as blood is considered a sacred source of life.


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