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The Question
I've been reading snippets of news concerning the sextuplets born in Canada, two of whom have already died. The parents are Jehovah's Witnesses, and have been refusing to allow blood transfusions for their children, despite doctor recommendations. Last Friday, the British Columbian government gave the transfusions to two of the remaining four children, against parental protests.

As everything to do with human society, it's such a complicated issue. On a base level, I lean towards disagreeing with the Jehovah's Witness' stance against blood transfusions. It seems like sticking fingers in your ears and going 'la la la, the bible says' in the face of facts. Religion and science can work together. And the Bible passage quoted doesn't seem to support a ban on transfusions in my view.

However, this isn't about my personal beliefs. (Seriously, when is it ever?) It's the right of the parents versus the right of the state with the complication of religious beliefs added and stirred vigorously. The parents have a right to choose (or decline) medical treatment for their children. The state has a right to step in and do what 'is best' for the children as advocates in cases where the parents do not seem to be doing that. If the religious practice were "beat your children every night and feed them spoiled food every day", then I doubt there would be an issue; the state steps in. If the parents decided not to put their 4 year old son through another probably-unsuccessful-but-assuredly-painful treatment for leukemia, again I think the issue would be decided; parents' call.

And here we have that delightful line in view, the one hovering in the distance like a warm-highway mirage. Which side of it does this case fall on? Should the religious beliefs of the parents (and by default the infants, although that's an issue I would hotly debate) be upheld even if it results in death? Can the state step in and go against parental spiritual beliefs if they view such beliefs as being detrimental to the children's health? In this specific case, can it even be proven one way or another that the blood transfusion is necessary?

Gemini eyes come to no conclusions. Gemini eyes will play devil's advocate to either side of the issue.

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I would presume Canada has laws similar to American laws with regards to child endangerment. That is, if a parent's action or inaction could cause harm to a child, then the parent will be involuntarily stripped of their rights to decide for their child. At least in the states, it doesn't matter if the action or inaction is a choice based on religion or not.

In this case, the doctors likely saw that two of the 6 had already died (maybe due to a lack of a blood transfusion), and likely saw that 2 more were going to die if they didn't get the transfusions.

I'm thinking that the doctors should have gone in earlier, and that's probably what the doctors are saying too. First do no harm. Due to inaction (caused by parent religion), two babies likely died. That's bullshit. The parents should have no say in the care of their children until the children are healthy enough to go without such regular doctor care; and even then, the children should be considered for adoption.

I agree with the doctors' duty to first do no harm. And, in the case of otherwise healthy infants I think the choice for additional medical care should be clear, regardless of parental religion. When it becomes unclear to me is when there are other factors to the infant's heath or future health. Possibilities include severe brain damage and disfigurement which would cause suffering and despair to both the child's and parents' lives. Now, I'm not advocating infanticide, but cultures throughout history have had rules governing the treatment of babies who would almost assuredly die. It becomes terribly difficult - emotionally, legally, financially, and yes, religiously I would imagine - to decide what to do in these extreme cases.

(As a disclaimer I have not been following the specific case you're discussing.)

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