NOVEMBER 12, 2020
The Court of Appeals in Milan, Italy, recently decided in favor of a couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses in a case concerning their child’s medical treatment. This ruling helps to establish that courts cannot question the fitness of parents simply because they request that their children be treated with nonblood clinical strategies that avoid the use of donor blood in accordance with their deeply held religious convictions.
In September 2019, a Witness couple brought their ten-month-old daughter to a hospital because she suffered an injury after falling. The doctors discovered that the head trauma caused a subdural hematoma that required surgery. The doctors successfully performed the operation without administering a blood transfusion.
Later, even though the child was recovering and was out of danger, a doctor asked the parents for permission to transfuse the child as “supportive therapy.” The parents requested that widely accepted alternative therapies be used instead.
Rather than adhere to the parents’ request, the doctor contacted the police and the public prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s office obtained a court order from a family court. The court order limited the parents’ legal authority and transferred the authority over the child’s medical treatment to the director of the hospital. However, no transfusion was ever administered because the doctors decided that it was unnecessary.
This event drew national media attention. Many Italian media outlets erroneously reported that the young girl had been saved by a court-authorized blood transfusion.
On September 10, 2020, the Court of Appeals revoked the decision of the family court that limited the parents’ legal authority. The Court of Appeals indicated that the family court should not have issued the court order and did not even possess proper jurisdiction over the case.
In the ruling, the Milan Court of Appeals stated: “The parents’ mere refusal of blood transfusions in adherence to their religious beliefs cannot set the basis of an assessment of their unfitness to exercise parental authority.” In the last year alone, three Courts of Appeals in Italy confirmed the right of Witness parents to recommend nonblood medical strategies for their children.
It is important for the judiciary and medical authorities to understand that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not practice faith healing and are not anti-medicine. In fact, they seek out the best medical care at modern hospitals experienced and equipped to provide treatment in harmony with their deeply held religious position. They simply ask that doctors not use blood transfusions in their care. Leading physicians at major hospitals worldwide have accepted this challenge and are providing outstanding care without blood transfusions.
We are grateful that these court decisions support our brothers and sisters as they maintain their determination to choose acceptable medical treatments for their children.—Acts 15:29.