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The Constitutional Court of Colombia

JUNE 9, 2021

In Landmark Case, the Constitutional Court of Colombia Recognizes Religious Freedom of a Mature Minor

In Landmark Case, the Constitutional Court of Colombia Recognizes Religious Freedom of a Mature Minor

The Constitutional Court of Colombia issued a judgment on April 7, 2021, in favor of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a case recognizing the rights of a mature minor to make her own decisions regarding medical care. In this case, the patient requested therapy using medical treatment strategies that avoided blood transfusions. The Constitutional Court also acknowledged the legal force of durable power of attorney forms signed by mature minors and that the parents of these minors are not neglecting the medical care of their children.

Sister Daniela Caicedo with her parents

On May 27, 2020, Sister Daniela Caicedo, then 16 years old, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The medical staff wished to administer blood transfusions along with chemotherapy. Despite her weakened condition, Daniela respectfully conveyed to the medical personnel that she refused blood transfusions in harmony with her Bible-based beliefs.—Acts 15:29.

On June 24, 2020, the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) gave the medical staff the authority to administer blood transfusions to Daniela despite her objections. The ICBF also requested a psychological evaluation of Daniela. During this evaluation, our sister demonstrated that she had the mental and emotional maturity to determine the type of medical treatment that she would accept or refuse. The psychological evaluation also confirmed that Daniela’s refusal of blood transfusions was not because of coercion but was her own conscientious decision based on her religious conviction.

The lower court judge upheld her right as a mature minor to refuse blood transfusions. However, the court of appeals ruled that if her doctor was of the opinion that transfusions were justified, they could be given. With the support of her parents, Daniela decided to appeal to the Constitutional Court to defend her right to refuse a blood transfusion.

In its final judgment, the Constitutional Court protected Daniela’s rights by recognizing that religious freedom “protects personal relationships with God and its manifestations.” In addition, it stated that forcibly administering a blood transfusion would interfere with Daniela’s peace with God, violating her rights and dignity. The ruling also recognized her right to receive acceptable therapy incorporating transfusion-alternative strategies.

This important decision confirms the obligation of health-care professionals to respect the right of mature minor Witnesses to receive medical treatment in harmony with their religious beliefs. One of several attorneys who worked on the case expressed: “The Constitutional Court recognized that the fundamental right to life of mature minors cannot be separated from human dignity. For this reason, for a mature minor to be able to enjoy a dignified life, their religious beliefs must be respected, even if these are not shared by judges or doctors.”

After hearing the decision of the Constitutional Court, Daniela said: “What fills me with happiness the most is that Jehovah’s name is being glorified. What happened taught me that Jehovah can change any test into an opportunity to show how much we love him.”

Daniela’s health is stable, and she continues to receive excellent medical treatment. She will attend pioneer school in August 2021. We know our God, Jehovah, rejoices when he sees young people honor him with their conduct.—Psalm 148:12, 13.