Medical Treatment – Dispute between Parents and the child’s Doctors

Jane Ingleby

Jane Ingleby

A recent case has highlighted the emotional difficulties that can occur when parents object to the treatment of their sick child proposed by the doctors.

Doctors at the Birmingham children’s hospital applied to the Court for a ruling that a baby suffering from heart disease should receive blood during surgery.

The case was reported in the Telegraph on 5th March 2014.

The baby’s parents are Jehovah Witnesses who object to blood transfusions on religious grounds. The parents consented to the operation but objected to him receiving blood during the procedure. Doctors explained that the boy would not survive without urgent surgery.

Mr Justice Keehan ruled in the Doctors’ favour explaining that although he was sympathetic with the stance of the parents it was in the baby’s best interests to undergo surgery and it was inevitable that he must receive blood transfusions during the course of or subsequent to surgery.

This follows on from the case of Neon Roberts which was reported by BBC News on 21st December 2013 where Mr Justice Bodey ruled that the 7 year old boy should be given radiotherapy treatment against his mother’s wishes.

Neon had undergone 2 operations to remove a cancerous brain tumour & nodule, doctors advised his parents that he would die without the treatment but with the radiotherapy the survival rate was between 80 -86%. His mother objected on the grounds that the radiotherapy could cause extremely serious side effects.

Neon’s father who is estranged from his mother had agreed to him having radiotherapy. The Judge ruled that Neon would live with his father during treatment.

These two cases highlight how sensitively these cases are handled by the Court but ultimately all cases of this nature are determined on what is considered to be in the best interests of the individual child involved. In assessing that the Court often has to carefully consider the views of the parents with the recommendations of the medical team involved.

Jane Ingleby
Family Law Department
0113 227 9248

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