Canadian sextuplets could get blood transfusion, religion forbids it

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Six premature babies born in Vancouver, British Columbia could get a blood transfusion, if the parents allow it. Premature babies are usually encouraged to get them, especially the sextuplets born on Sunday, which weigh 700 to 800 grams.

The parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, a faith that has a doctrine against blood transfusions. (Officially, the church holds that blood transfusions consisting of blood products, rather than whole blood, may be accepted by Witnesses in some circumstances as a matter of individual conscience; however, de facto all blood transfusions are forbidden to Witnesses. Many people who are a part of the faith create an Advance Medical Directive card ordering that no blood transfusions be given under any circumstances.)

"Non-blood treatment is way superior in every situation and many doctors in hospitals worldwide are calling it the gold standard," said Mark Ruge, director of public information at the Canadian headquarters for Jehovah's Witnesses, from his office in Georgetown, Ontario. "Even for young children and babies, there are alternatives – no (blood) transfusion doesn't mean you're going to die."

"To have blood is not the superior way, even though the little jingles on TV say blood gives life...Parents want the best for their children and so do we; we consider life very precious," said Ruge. "We love our children dearly; we're very family oriented... but there can be a public misperception."

Peter Cech, a spokesperson for B.C. Women's Hospital said their religious status was leaked by the media.

"I'm very curious about that," said a man of the Jehovah's Witnesses Assembly Hall in Surrey, B.C. "So what if they're Jehovah's Witnesses? What difference does it make? If they were Catholic would the hospital have said that?"

"If a Catholic had sextuplets would people call the Vatican?" he added. "When there's a car crash or someone has won the lottery, do they mention religion? This isn't a religious issue."

No information has been released since the babies were born after the parents publicly asked for privacy. The first child was born 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, the others Sunday.

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