A court ruled last month that a 17-year-old must receive blood if required during childbirth, even if it goes against her religious beliefs.
A court ruled last month that a 17-year-old must receive blood if required during childbirth, even if it goes against her religious beliefs.

Why teen made odd pregnancy wish

A FORMER member of the Jehovah's Witnesses has lashed out at the church's teachings after a Victorian teen refused a procedure that could save her life and the life of her unborn baby.

The frail, pregnant teen, who cannot be named, made news last month when a court ruled against her wishes to forego lifesaving help for her baby in the event of a complicated birth. She cited religious reasons.

The 17-year-old former refugee said she would not accept a blood transfusion even if that meant her baby "has to die" because she is a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses and the religion views receiving foreign blood as a sin.

"If my baby has to die, she has to die," the teen told doctors at Victoria's Mercy Hospital, but Supreme Court Justice Cameron Macaulay said the decision would be taken out of her hands.

"I should consider whether she has sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable her to understand fully what is proposed and the consequences of her decision," he said.

"I form a view about the extent to which her choice is a true reflection of who she really is, and what her beliefs really are, as opposed to the product of other forces."

Those forces are the hierarchy of the church and its 8.5 million members who would "shun" the teen if she accepted help from doctors in the form of human blood, according to a former member of the church.

It is a sin within the Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept blood transfusions, but a court in Melbourne ruled against a teen’s wishes last month.
It is a sin within the Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept blood transfusions, but a court in Melbourne ruled against a teen’s wishes last month.

News.com.au approached the Jehovah's Witness church for comment but the church did not respond.

Adam Phillips, an ex-Jehovah's Witness full-time minister, told news.com.au the teen may be under immense pressure to follow the rules closely, even if it costs her the life of her unborn baby.

"She probably believes that she will not get a resurrection if she takes a blood transfusion and dies," Mr Phillips said. "And if she does not die, she may be killed by God for that 'sin' at Armageddon."

Mr Phillips said the psychological pressure is huge for such a young girl. He said the consequences for accepting a blood transfusion could be "disfellowshipping" - a punishment he called "the worst any baptised Jehovah's Witness can receive".

The teen would likely be "shunned by all her family and friends" and may be "petrified that she will have to fend for herself and her baby alone, without the physical, financial, and emotional support of her congregation".

He said he agreed with the court's decision even though Judge Macaulay "probably doesn't understand just how much mental and emotional anguish the girl is suffering".

"The baby deserves to live, and the baby deserves a mother who isn't dead."

The court last month heard the teen weighed just 44kg when she was 12 weeks pregnant and that doctors considered her to be at an increased risk of haemorrhaging because she is of such small stature.

Dr Jacqueline van Dam gave evidence that the teen is "very quiet and polite and appears to rely on her mother to answer questions".

She said she informed the teen of the risks of blood loss during labour. The teen responded: "I do not want blood."

Young Jehovah's Witness mother Eloise Dupuis died after rejecting a blood transfusion in 2016.
Young Jehovah's Witness mother Eloise Dupuis died after rejecting a blood transfusion in 2016.

 

Associate Professor Campbell Paul, who is a child psychiatrist at The Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, told the court he discussed the matters with the teen at length.

She told him: "The Bible says it's wrong to eat or drink blood if you lose blood and have to let it go and pour it out on the floor."

Later, she also told him: "If the baby has to die, she has to die."

Justice Macaulay ruled that the hospital was authorised to administer blood or blood products "as considered reasonably necessary by two registered medical practitioners to save her life or to prevent serious injury during the course of induction of labour, labour, caesarean section and related procedures and the post-natal period in regard to her current pregnancy".

The hospital was forced to promise doctors would first use strategies other than the transfusion of blood to avert the teen's death or serious injury.

The girl's mother, who moved to Australia with her family as a refugee in 2009, 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."

Young Jehovah's Witness Eloise Dupuis, from St-Marguerite in Quebec, died of multiple organ failure on October 12, 2016, after complications during childbirth.

The 27-year-old had already told doctors she would not accept a blood transfusion, even if it meant saving her life.


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