Blood products and Jehovah’s Witnesses: NHS Trust v T

In An NHS Trust v T [2016] EWHC 2980 (Fam) Child T, the two-year-old son of Jehovah’s Witnesses, suffered from a low blood platelet count, which led his doctors to consider that he might have a medical condition affecting his bone marrow production [1]. T’s consultant paediatric haematologist concluded that T would need to have blood products administered in order to prevent a very serious deterioration in his health [2].

T’s parents were fully committed to achieving the best outcome for their son; but the possible administration of blood products caused them moral and religious problems. They did not attend the hearing but sent letters explaining their position. They were unable to consent to what is being proposed but did not oppose it; and they left the decision to the Court. They emphasised that they would want forms of treatment other than the administration of blood products to be considered in any situation in which they might be equally effective. That was also the position of the Hospital Trust bringing the application [3]. 

Peter Jackson J was in no doubt that it was

“overwhelmingly in T’s best interests for him to be able to receive this treatment in order for his health to be supported and that the inability of the hospital to give him this treatment could lead to very serious and possibly even fatal consequences as time went on. I am satisfied that it is necessary for the Court to make the decision instead of the parents” [5]. 

He approved an Order – under the inherent jurisdiction of the Court [7] – providing that, notwithstanding the absence of parental consent, it was lawful and in T’s best interests that he receive blood or blood products if clinically indicated in the opinion of his doctors; but that such treatment should only be given after consultation with the parents and that blood products or blood should be used only if there was no clinically appropriate alternative treatment [6].

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Blood products and Jehovah’s Witnesses: NHS Trust v T" in Law & Religion UK, 29 November 2016, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2016/11/29/blood-products-and-jehovahs-witnesses-nhs-trust-v-t/

1 thought on “Blood products and Jehovah’s Witnesses: NHS Trust v T

  1. My understanding is that JWs have a different approach where blood and blood products such as platelets are concerned. I believe they consider it wrong to “consume” blood but OK to accept blood products such as platelets.
    It is little wonder the parents are confused, as I believe the JW leadership has changed its stance on this issue on a number of occasions over the last 50 years or so.

    It just goes to show that so-called enduring values based on outdated religious ideas will always end up being overtaken by the realities of modern-day medical practice.

    Ultimately, the child’s welfare is paramount; everything else is merely co-incidental. The judges were right to make the order but should have been spared the time and trouble of doing so. Poorly educated religious followers – and/or their leaders – should be up-to-speed on modern-day developments.

    Of course, if one is imminently expecting the world to end, I suppose such considerations are of insignificant consideration for such people. There’s the rub!

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