Jehovah's Witnesses and Child Protection Legislation: The Right to Refuse Medical Consent
(1977) 1 Legal Medical Quarterly 37
11 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2012 Last revised: 15 Jan 2017
Date Written: 1977
Anglo-American law has for some time recognized the fact that the rearing of children cannot always be handled properly within the context of the natural family unit. Nevertheless, it is a far cry from the proposition that children cannot by their parents to a determination that they should not be so raised. The most bitter confrontation between parents and state usually occurs when the parents, far from being uncaring, interact with their children according to certain ideological, ethical or religious principles. Jehovah's Witnesses are perhaps the most prominent example of this class of parent. They have, because of their interpretation of the scriptures, forbad certain forms of medical or surgical treatment. They have a deep religious conviction against the administration of blood transfusions. Parents who refuse to give consent for a blood transfusion for their children genuinely believe they are providing for their children's best interest. When a child's life is dependent upon a blood transfusion, there is an obvious clash of child-care standards - those imposed by the tenets of a religious faith and those imposed by the state.
It is the aim of this article to explore the remedies available to the state in such situations, and then to discuss the propriety of state intervention in such cases.
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