22 Jan 2008

Babies' blood transfusions not needed, doctors testify

The Province - January 21, 2008

by Keith Fraser

Two doctors testified yesterday that blood transfusions given to the four babies who survived a sextuplet birth were not medically necessary.

Dr. Robin Ohls, a neo-natologist researcher from the University of New Mexico, testified against the necessity of transfusions while being cross-examined on her affidavit in support of the Jehovah's Witness parents who have launched a legal challenge to the transfusions.

Ohls acknowledged she was being compensated for her opinion.

Dr. David Burrows, a neonatologist from Ontario, also testified under cross-examination that the transfusions weren't needed to save the babies' lives.

Ohls told B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Brenner that the "only reason" for an emergency transfusion would have been if the babies were hemorrhaging.

The premature babies had low hemoglobin levels, but "none of these babies would have died from a lack of hemoglobin," she said.

Under questioning from Kris Chen, a lawyer for the director of child and family community services, Ohls said she was a proponent of the use of erythropoietin, or EPO, a blood-boosting agent.

She said she was unaware of any significant adverse effects from the use of EPO but couldn't say whether the drug was in use at the hospital where the babies were treated.

Burrows, a Jehovah's Witness adherent, said he avoids transfusions whenever possible but has authorized such procedures at his hospital. The religion strongly condemns the use of transfusions.

The parents, whose identities are protected by court order, say their rights were violated when the government seized two of the babies without any court hearings (two others were seized following court hearings and two of the six babies died).

The family's lawyer, Shane Brady, said outside court that the four babies who survived last January's birth are "doing fine."

The hearing continues with cross-examinations of doctors who filed affidavits supporting the transfusions.


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