Judge orders blood can be administered to Jehovah’s Witness girl

Teenager and her parents oppose blood transfusion for religious reasons

A teenage girl who urgently requires surgery can, if necessary, be administered blood or blood products against the wishes of herself and her parents, all members of the Jehovah's Witness faith, the president of the High Court has ordered.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he was satisfied, notwithstanding the views of the girl and her parents, the orders are necessary for preserving the girl's life and not to permit them would be "hazardous".

The orders take immediate effect, he directed.

David Leahy BL, for the HSE, sought the orders in an ex parte application, one side only represented, on Friday afternoon.


A solicitor for the HSE told the court he had informed the girl and her parents of the court application and the parents had indicated they were not attending court to oppose it.

The solicitor said the parents were not objecting to surgery but, should a situation arise where the medical team wanted to administer blood or blood products, they could not agree to that and wanted the team to explore all other alternatives.

They had also said they wanted the best for their daughter and would not stand in the way of a court order.

Mr Justice Kelly said court applications for leave to administer blood or blood products against the wishes of members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith, while not a regular occurrence, are not unusual.

He referred to a number of decisions permitting that to be done in “exceptional” circumstances.

On the medical evidence, including that antibiotic therapy had not reduced the infection and the serous risk of sepsis if surgery is not carried out, he was satisfied she needed the surgery.

Life threatening

He also noted doctors had said a blood transfusion may be necessary.

He was satisfied, if all the orders sought were not granted, there was a “serious and imminent” threat to the girl’s life and this case raised the exceptional circumstances identified.

The right to life trumps the entitlement of the girl and her parents to their religious views, he said.

The doctor involved had been “perfectly respectful” of the wishes of the parents and girl and had considered alternative means consistent with the Jehovah’s Witness faith but none of those were, in the doctor’s view, satisfactory, he noted.

He directed a guardian be appointed to represent the girl’s interests and returned the matter to next week.

Earlier, Mr Leahy said the girl had been admitted to a hospital some days ago with fever and pain and a MRI scan had indicated a blockage which required either drainage or surgical intervention.

The application for administering of blood or blood products was being made in terms of a contingency which might not arise, he said.

There is an urgency and a risk which “could be as high as life endangering”, he stressed.

In evidence, the HSE solicitor said the parents had said they could not agree to the administration of blood/blood products and wanted all alternatives to that to be explored and exhausted. They had also indicated they would not stand in the way of a court order to that end.

The girl’s mother had also expressed criticism concerning what happened when there was an earlier admission of the girl with the same problem, the solicitor said.

The mother had indicated, had that earlier admission been followed up differently, the girl would not be in this situation now. The mother considered sufficient investigations were not carried out at the time of the earlier admission.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times