Infants get blood transfusions over parents' objections

Associated Press/February 2, 2007

Vancouver, British Columbia -- Three of four surviving sextuplets received blood transfusions over their parents' religious objections after social workers seized the infants, according to the family's attorney and court documents.

The British Columbia provincial government abruptly handed control of the infants back to the parents Wednesday when they challenged the seizure in court, said attorney Shane Brady. The children are in stable condition.

The parents, who cannot be identified under a court-ordered publication ban, are Jehovah's Witnesses, whose beliefs forbid blood transfusions even to save a life.

The sextuplets were born the first weekend in January, nearly four months premature. Two died before the province's director of child and family services stepped in Friday.

Brady said the parents did not oppose "mainstream" medical treatment but ruled out blood transfusions for the struggling babies, indicating they wanted to seek medical alternatives.

"A social worker is now making crucial medical decisions for three of our children," the father said in an affidavit filed Tuesday.

The provincial government got a judge to issue a seizure order for one of the babies Friday at British Columbia Children's Hospital.

Social workers seized two others over the weekend after doctors indicated they too should receive blood transfusions, according to the affidavit.

The babies were taken despite the parents' pleas for a hearing, Brady said.

The government withdrew the seizure order Wednesday and set another hearing for February 22 so the parents can challenge the province's conduct.

Children and Families Minister Tom Christensen said doctors have an obligation to go to authorities when they believe a child is in danger.

"We don't take any such action without a great deal of forethought, recognizing that it's a significant step for the state to interfere in a family," Christensen told The Canadian Press.

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