Jehovah's Witness felt scared, overwhelmed by transfusion

A 15-year-old Winnipeg girl said Thursday that she never wants her rights violated again, after she was given a blood transfusion against her will.

A 15-year-old Winnipeg girl said Thursday she never wanted her rights violated again, after she was given a blood transfusion against her will.

The teenager, who is a Jehovah's Witness, said she felt overwhelmed and scared when doctors gave her a blood transfusion in April to treat a flare-up of her Crohn's disease.

The girl, who cannot be named, and her family appeared in Manitoba's highest court Thursday to appeal a previous order that allowed the province's Child and Family Services to force the teen to have a transfusion if doctors deemed it medically necessary.

Three justices with theManitoba Court of Appealare deliberating on the matter anda written decision is expected withinsix months.

"The young woman is arguing that what happened to her was a violation of her rights and she is entitled to have a court determine that question," said her lawyer, Shane Brady, who iswith the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Most Jehovah's Witnesses interpret literally a passage in the Bible that forbids them from ingesting blood — which includes receiving blood transfusions — as blood is considered a sacred source of life. In some cases, blood derivatives are allowed.

'Managing her disease'

At issue is whether the young Jehovah's Witness should be considered a "mature minor," which could lower the minimum age at which minors can be considered capable of making medical decisions. In Manitoba, minors must be 16 years or older to make such decisions.

Brady said his client is well-informed and has the capacity to make her own treatment decisions without government intervention.

"She's stable. You saw that she was in court. She's attending school. She's managing her disease with medication, as she has for the past two years," he said.

"She has a disease that she wants to continue to manage and the next time she goes to the hospital to meet with her doctors, she wants the state to stay out of her life so she can get best medical care that best respects her religious conscience."

However, the lawyerstressed thatfreedom of religionwas notthemain issue inthe girl's case, andhe did not think doctorsdiscriminated on the basis of her religion.

"Although religion is something in the background, that's something that informed her decision, that's not what this case was about," Brady told reporters.

"It turned around her liberty to decide, because she could've been making the decision having nothing to do with religion."