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Title Jehovah's Witnesses - Winnipeg Jehovah's Witness teen loses fight to refuse blood transfusions

Winnipeg Jehovahs Witness teen loses fight to refuse blood transfusions February 16th, 2007 - A Jehovahs Witness teenager with Crohns disease says she may end up leaving Manitoba for treatment after the provinces highest court denied her the right to reject blood transfusions. In a unanimous decision released Tuesday, the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled a lower-court judge was correct in allowing doctors to give the 15-year-old Winnipeg girl a transfusion they considered medically necessary. The girl, who cant be identified, says she was overwhelmed and scared when she was given blood against her will last April during a flare-up of her Crohns, a chronic illness that can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract. She went to court to make sure it would never happen again. [...] I wanted to be viewed as a capable person and really not have a government decide for me what should happen. It is my body, and it is my religious beliefs, and they dont know how this affects me. Jehovahs Witnesses oppose transfusions because they interpret certain passages of the Bible as forbidding the ingestion of blood. When the girl refused treatment, Child and Family Services obtained a court order allowing the procedure when medically necessary. During the appeal hearing held last September, arguments centred on whether the girl should be allowed to make her own treatment decisions as a mature minor. The court agreed with provincial legislation that sets 16 as the age minors can be allowed to make their own health-care decisions. But child welfare officials can also try to get court orders for minors between 16 and 18. A spokeswoman for Manitobas child protection branch said officials rely on medical advice when applying for treatment orders. [...] If the girl were living in a province such as Ontario or Newfoundland and Labrador, the key issue would be her mental capacity, not her age. The Appeal Court judges acknowledged the transfusions infringe on the teens right to religious freedom, but concluded they are justified because the sanctity of life and duty to protect children are principles of fundamental justice. These cases are heart-breaking for all parties involved, wrote the judges. For judges, these cases are among the most difficult they are called upon to decide. A judge must make a complex, potentially life-altering decision in perhaps a matter of hours. The Manitoba case is just one of several involving Jehovahs Witnesses in which the courts have been asked to intervene. [...] Medical ethicists say the court is being too strict in denying minors a say in their treatment until they are 16. But Arthur Schafer adds its difficult to figure out whether young Jehovahs Witnesses are really speaking for themselves when they refuse treatment, or if they are faced with tremendous coercion.said Schafer, director of the University of Manitobas Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics. For a teenager to defy not just her parents but her whole community, she would be shunned and ostracized, The idea that she could make a voluntary choice in that circumstance is really dubious. The idea that you interfere to protect the child is well established in Canadian law. [...] This is a summary extract from the full article as it appeared on 680News, Feb 6, 2007