A Washington State judge allowed Dennis to make his own decision regarding his refusal to accept a lifesaving blood transfusion. He suffered from leukemia, and the chemotherapy was destroying his red blood cells. Without the transfusion - certain death.
The state had taken the case to court in an effort to force the young man to accept the blood transfusion. An act that was expressly forbidden by his religion.
After hearing from the boy's parents, (neither of which had custody of him) as well as his guardian - and aunt that was a practicing Jehovah's Witness as well, social workers and doctors, including his presiding physician, the judge ruled against the state, and allowed Dennis to refuse the transfusion.
His parents gasped and ran from the courtroom when the decision was rendered. They were in favor of the state, and wanted the transfusion to be forced upon their son.
The case forced the judge into a difficult balancing act: weighing Lindberg's right to make his own decisions with the need to protect him, medical ethics experts said. Adults have the right to refuse medical treatment, and courts typically will defer to the decision of a child's parent or legal guardian, said Sharona Hoffman, co-director of the Law-Medicine Center at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
But courts have frequently forced young children to have blood transfusions against the wishes of their Jehovah's Witness parents.
Judge Meyer made the following statement following his ruling:
"I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion. He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision. I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy."
Jehovah's Witnesses believe it is impure to receive a blood transfusion; they do not typically refuse other forms of medical care.
Doctors had given Dennis a 70 per cent chance of surviving another five years, had he accepted the transfusion.
He died shortly after the decision was rendered on Wednesday in his bed at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, the boy's biological father, Dennis Lindberg Sr., told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Although I do not agree with the religious beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses, I do strongly believe that one should have the right to make their own life decisions as to what medical treatments they will or will not accept. I also feel that by the age of 14, a young person is fully aware and able to make those decisions on their own (unless they have been proven to be unfit mentally or emotionally to do so) and that the government should have no right whatsoever to intervene on what is a private matter between an individual and his or her personal religious convictions.
My prayers go out to Dennis Lindberg and his family during this very sorrowful time.