The first case of sextuplets born in Canada occurred in Vancouver on Jan. 6 to Jehovah’s Witness parents has caused a great debate
here on DJ with the thread still going..... My personal email fills daily on just one article posting. I am here now with a promised fulfilled on a update to this story, an editorial on Feedback. As I am remaining neutral on this subject this is a summary of the story with feedback.
The Vancouver babies were premature and needed blood transfusions to cope with low volumes of blood. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible says they should abstain from blood (Acts 21:25) and therefore refuse blood transfusions for themselves and their children.
The care of the babies presents an ethical dilemma for the doctors. Medical authorities do not generally have the authority to overrule the parents’ wishes. However, when a child is in danger of dying, the doctors can lodge a complaint with government authorities that can get a court order to enforce treatment.
Religious authorities cite the special relationship between parent and child as something to be fostered and protected because it is the fundamental elemental upon which society and culture is constructed. The big question is: should the state intervene to save the life of a child?
Here we have a conundrum. The same religious authorities who would champion the rights of the unborn and turn every stone to prevent a woman’s right to choose will not go out on a limb for the born, preferring to leave the matter to the courts.
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada cites three main principles at stake — the rights of parents, respect for religious beliefs and protection of children. In the unborn debate, protection of the unborn is paramount. After the child is born, protection comes after parental and religious rights.
There is an ethical assumption parents should have care and custody of their children because parents love their children and strive to help them to become honourable human beings. This assumption does not stand up to scrutiny. If parents are abusing children, society intervenes to protect the children. The question is: who needs protection more than a child who will die if medical treatment is not administered?
The argument is reduced to: are children individuals with human rights? It seems the only way to protect all children is to make the ethical assumption parents do not own their children. Parents are guardians charged with the task of helping their children to grow physically and emotionally. Life-and-death decisions regarding children should not take into consideration the religious beliefs of the parents.
Parents have rights, but they are not absolute. Outside religious rules, parents can’t make decisions that have the potential to harm their children. Children are regularly taken away from their parents when they’re deemed to be at risk. Thus, while society may accept parents are free to become martyrs, they are not free, in indistinguishable circumstances, to make martyrs of their children.
That parental rights do not give parents life and death authority over their children is especially relevant in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is because their teachings have changed radically, over the years, with regard to medical treatment.
As well as whole blood, the Watchtower Society used to prohibit taking into the body any of the components that make up whole blood. Over time, while sticking to the banning of whole blood, they have gradually permitted the use of virtually all the components that make up whole blood.
They first sanctioned globulin, then the clotting factors, plasma proteins and finally hemoglobin in June 2000. According to the Watchtower, June 15, 2000, Questions From Readers, essentially every component or fraction derived from whole blood and its primary components are allowed in medical treatment.
Religious authorities often view new technologies with suspicion. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s many religious communities objected to vaccinations. Vaccinations were denounced as harmful and morally wrong. Jehovah’s Witnesses saw vaccination as a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood (the Golden Age, precursor to the Awake, Feb. 4, 1931).
Between 1967 and 1980, the Watchtower Society and others held a dim view of organ transplants.
Major religions, including Catholicism, Judaism and Islam, issued warnings against transplants. Some religions objected because the procedure involved cutting an organ from a living body. Others, like the Witnesses, viewed transplants as an extension of cannibalism (the Watchtower, Nov. 15, 1967).
In 1980, the Watchtower Society made transplants a matter for personal decision, accepting the procedure as one that saves lives. Until the rules were relaxed, loyal Witnesses chose blindness rather than a corneal transplant and death rather than a kidney transplant.
Some branches of the Jewish and Muslim faiths continue to voice concerns over the rapid advance of medical research. However, religious thinkers have been forced to consider scientific technology when dealing with theological issues. Questions relating to stem-cell research, fertility, contraception and abortion remain the focus of religious debates.
There is no doubt society is conflicted over religious truths. Yet, even the most dogmatic views evolve. Is it reasonable to place the lives of children into this mix of personal beliefs and truths? Is it reasonable to give parents, like the parents of the sextuplets, the power of life and death over their children when their decisions are based on the whim of religious interpretation, which change over time?