Wednesday 16 October 2019

Court backs blood op for critically ill infant

Ray Managh

A PREMATURE baby must be given a life-saving blood transfusion despite the religious objections of its parents to the procedure, the High Court ruled at a special sitting on Christmas Eve.

Mr Justice George Birmingham directed that the transfusion be made only if doctors at the National Maternity Hospital considered it absolutely necessary to save the little boy, who was identified in court only as Baby B.

Paul Anthony McDermott, acting for the hospital, said Baby B had been born prematurely to a Polish woman in a midlands hospital on December 20, just 30 weeks into her pregnancy.

The child was transferred for special treatment for intestinal problems to Crumlin Children's Hospital and then moved to the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.

JFA Murphy, a consultant neonatologist at the National Maternity Hospital, told Judge Birmingham that Baby B had developed necrotizing enterocolitis, involving internal bleeding, and was undergoing the highest category of treatment available at the hospital's intensive care unit.

He said that the child, because he was so small, might require an immediate blood transfusion if he became anaemic, which could happen quickly.

Mr Murphy added that both the hospital and the parents were happy regarding the use of other blood products in the treatment of Baby B, but that the hospital would require a court order to perform a blood transfusion -- as the the baby's parents might object to such a transfusion being made, on religious grounds.

When Mr McDermott said the reaction of the parents to a court order was unknown, a man stood up at the back of the court and identified himself as Harry Homan, a member of the Dublin Hospitals Liason Committee.

He said he had been contacted by the parents, who were as the court sat making their way to Dublin, and wished to make their views known to the court. They had expressed disappointment at the application to the court having gone ahead in their absence.

Judge Birmingham said the court order was being sought in case Baby B's condition deteriorated over the holiday period. He added that the medical evidence indicated a 90pc to 95pc probability that a blood transfusion would become necessary.

Judge Birmingham adjourned the matter until this Friday to give Baby B's parents an opportunity to take legal advice and present their views to the court.

He directed the National Maternity Hospital to provide all necessary care to Baby B including, if necessary, a blood transfusion.

This was only to be carried out if there was no alternative treatment available and a transfusion was deemed necessary for Baby B's safety.

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