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Durban - Two more families, who refused blood transfusions for their children based on faith, have been taken to court by the Health Department.

The parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, appeared in court yesterday to request that their religious beliefs be respected and that their children be treated with alternative medical methods.

Their cases come after a Jehovah’s Witnesses couple in Durban were challenged in the Durban High Court by the KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo and a doctor, after they refused to allow their chronically ill five-year-old son to have a blood transfusion in September.

In court papers, the doctor said if the boy did not get a blood transfusion, he could suffer a stroke or die.

Advocate Dashendra Naidoo is acting for Dhlomo and the three attending doctors - Dr Noxolo Mbadi, the head of paediatrics at Addington Hospital, Dr Swaran Singh, a specialist paediatrician at Addington, and Dr Rajendra Thejpal, the head of paediatrics at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital - in the applications.

In each of the matters, the high court has granted an interim order instructing that the Health Department can give the three children blood transfusions if necessary.

The court heard that, in the second matter, a 10-year-old girl had received a blood transfusion before the court granted the order.

According to an affidavit by specialist haematologist Rajendra Thejpal, the girl from Nquthu in KZN had received two units of blood because she had been in cardiac failure due to severe anaemia.

Thejpal said that, as a result of the blood transfusion, the minor child was stabilised and no longer in cardiac failure. He told the court that the possibility of the child developing cardiac failure, post-discharge, could not be excluded.

The normal haemoglobin for a 10-year-old child is 11.8 to 14.6g/dL but Thejpal said that, upon admission, the child’s haemoglobin was 5.1, which further reduced to 3.5g/dL. After the transfusion, her haemoglobin count rose to 7.4g/dL.

“I humbly request that this matter be treated as one of urgency since it pertains to the well-being of a minor child. The child has a constitutional right to receive proper medical treatment and, regrettably, they (the parents) are not acting in the best interests of the child by refusing to consent to a blood transfusion,” Thejpal said in his affidavit.

In the third matter, specialist paediatrician Dr Swaran Singh brought an application for a three-year-old girl, suffering sickle cell anaemia, to receive a blood transfusion.

Singh said that, upon admission, the child’s haemoglobin count was 5g/dL and she required a blood transfusion to prevent an acute crisis, including stroke and death.

Singh said the child was being managed with oxygen, bed rest, intravenous fluid and antibiotics to treat a lung infection and was at high risk for an acute sickle cell crisis.

The court ordered the parents to file their replying affidavits by January 15.

The Mercury