Pregnant Jehovah's Witness teen loses bid to stop blood transfusion

(File) The seventeen-year-old had refused a blood transfusion on religious grounds. Source: AAP

The seventeen-year-old who cannot be identified was due to be induced on Wednesday but refused to receive potentially life-saving blood transfusions.

A pregnant teenage girl may be forced to receive a blood transfusion this weekend when she gives birth in Victoria. 

The girl, who can not be identified, was due to be induced on Wednesday afternoon but refused to receive potentially life-saving blood transfusions on religious grounds.

She said it was against her Jehovah’s Witness religious beliefs which forbid followers from receiving blood transfusions or blood products.

Mercy Hospitals Victoria sought urgent legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court for authority to give the girl blood should she suffer a postpartum haemorrhage during labour.

On Friday, Justice Cameron Macaulay ruled in favour of the hospital after experts, including a child psychiatrist, cast doubts on the girl’s maturity to make such a decision.

“The court declared that the plaintiff is authorised to administer to D1 blood and/or blood products as considered reasonably necessary by two registered medical practitioners to save her life or to prevent serious injure during the Course of the labour induction, labour, caesarean section and related procedure and the postnatal period in regard to her current pregnancy,” ruled Justice Macaulay.

Earlier the court was told the first-time mother was considered to be at increased risk of haemorrhaging because she is of “small stature” and the baby is large, meaning she may have a long labour, an assisted birth or an emergency caesarean.  

The risk to the bay is considered “low”, the court heard.

Under section 24 of the Victorian human tissue act children can receive medical blood transfusions without parental consent if a doctor believes it is reasonable and proper treatment without which the child would die.

However, it was edited in 1994 with the concept of a "mature minor" who could "make up their own mind", the court was told.

Child psychiatrist Campbell Paul told the hearing he didn't believe the girl had the "decision-making capacity" to be considered as having "Gillick competence" - a term used to describe whether a child can consent to their own medical treatment.

Professor Paul said the girl had "been through considerable disruption and trauma through her life" and had "transgressed a major value of her family and her community" by having pre-marital sex.

He said, therefore, "you could imagine that she feels very frightened" and worried about "further punishment".

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Jacqueline van Dam told the court she was concerned about the girl's "naivety" that if anything happened, "she would be protected by her faith".

However, the girl's mother told the court that receiving a blood transfusion would have a significant impact on her daughter's wellbeing.

"Being forced to have that done against her will would be something like having violence done to her or being raped," she said in a statement read to the court.

"She wants to do the right thing by Jehovah, by God.

Earlier this week the lawyer for the hospital said the birth could be induced Sunday afternoon.

- with AAP

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