Battle over blood substitute — Jehovah baby ‘doing fine’

The Jehovah Witness Association yesterday said that the parents of the premature baby made a ward of the court because of their refusal to a blood transfusion were "intensely interested in preserving the life of their surviving infant," and did not refuse treatment.

Newsday, Trinidad and Tobago/December 10, 2005
By Lara Pickford Gordon

The baby boy and his twin were born three months premature on November 25, with a low blood count and weighing one pound 12 ounces. On December 3, the baby’s lungs began to bleed which resulted in further lowering of his blood count. His twin died hours after birth.

On Thursday, head of the Neonatal Unit at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne, went to the office of the Solicitor General about the case, and Attorney General John Jeremie granted authorisation for an application to the High Court for the baby to become a ward of the court.

Later, at the Family Court, Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee made the baby a ward of the court in order for blood transfusions and other treatments to be administered. The court order placed the baby in the custody of doctors at the Neonatal Unit until he has fully recovered.

A two-page release from Gordon S Headley of the Jehovah Witness Association hospital information desk said, "It is neither ethical nor appropriate for us to comment on the specifics of the Ammon case." The baby’s parents are Joanne and Winston Ammon.

Headley said that a member of the association’s hospital liaison committee provided doctors at the Paediatric Unit with information from medical journals on erythropoietin (EOP) — a drug used in place of a blood transfusion for paediatric cases, and indicated a willingness to provide the drug.

"It is significant that this offer was made even before complications arose with the surviving Ammon twin."

Headley said the attending doctor indicated that a decision to use EOP was not his to make, but that of the unit’s head Manning-Alleyne). The same doctor subsequently said that Manning-Alleyne had refused.

"It is our understanding that as of the night of December 8, the attending physicians still did not have the correct type for the proposed transfusion of the infant. Nevertheless, the refusal to even consider the suggested alternatives continues."

Headley said Manning-Alleyne’s "uncooperative attitude" has mystified the parents and heightened their anxieties over the immediate and long-term welfare of the child.

He said the position of Jehovah’s Witness on blood transfusions was entirely based on the Bible.

Headley said the situation with the Ammon baby was not unusual locally or internationally. He referred to the successful use of EOP in the case of Mark Chin Toon who was born after 27 weeks gestation weighing one pound 15 ounces. Chin Toon is now "a healthy 11-year-old."

He also referred to medical journals to support the association’s view about the benefits of EOP.

Manning-Alleyne told Newsday yesterday, "The baby is fine, doing well."

She refused to comment and engage "in any battle in the newpapers." She said the baby’s parents could sit and have discussions with her. She said, "The lines of communication are open between me and the parents."

According to the University of Michigan health system website, premature babies become anaemic sooner than full-term infants (all babies become anaemic four to eight weeks after birth) because they start life with fewer red blood cells and also lose blood from blood tests.

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