BY <dc:creator>KEN MACQUEEN</dc:creator> • The young father of four surviving sextuplets sat quietly in a Vancouver courtroom Monday as six lawyers and Chief Justice Donald Brenner of the B.C. Supreme Court walked through the legal and moral minefield resulting from the birth of his tiny, fragile children. His black hair is buzzed short and gelled. He sported a conservative black suit, the sort he’d wear to proselyPROTESTERS tize his Jehovah’s Witat the court ness faith on doorreligious hearing on rights steps near his Fraser Valley home.
He can’t be named by court order but his presence drove home the point that there is more to this case than the esoteric legalities of the provincial government’s decision to take custody of the babies and give them blood transfusions—violating a key tenet of the family’s faith. Two girls and a boy, now three months old, are at home. The fourth baby, a boy, should be home soon. All are as healthy as can be expected considering they were born 15 weeks premature, says his lawyer Shane Brady. “But the long-term prognosis? The parents hope that it’s positive, but it’s too early to tell.”
Monday’s arguments skated around the substance of the case: did the government violate the parent’s constitutional rights by transfusing the children without proper court hearings? Affidavits from attending doctors and social workers claim medical emergencies required quick action. That is disputed by an California neonatologist who studied the children’s medical records, and is one of three experts who wrote affidavits in support of the family. The babies were above the minimum hemoglobin levels requiring a transfusion, Dr. James Schick told Maclean’s. “They needed appropriate treatment for infection, but transfusion isn’t the solution for infection,” says Schick, director of the neonatal intensive care unit at St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. “And, looking at the records, they didn’t have any beneficial response from getting the transfusions, either.” Schick says he isn’t a Jehovah’s Witness but he respects parents’ wishes, unless they imperil the child. The case resumes in July. M
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