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‘It is lawful to transfuse blood on children without parental consent’

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Professor Emeka Chianu of the Faculty of Law, University of Benin has explained that doctors are empowered by law to transfuse blood on children without the consent of their parents.

His submission followed the decision of the Supreme Court in Esabunor v Faweya (2019) LPELR-46961 (SC), where a mother refused blood transfusion on her one-month-old anemic child in 1997 because of her faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. 

The doctor rejected the mother’s objection and transfused the baby by obtaining a court order to that effect. The woman sued and lost until she got to the apex court, where the court still held that the doctor was right.

Prof. Chianu is saying the doctor needs not to go to court for an order to perform such transfusion to save life.

“If a similar issue arises today, the Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria 2004 (the Code) says a doctor need not approach a police officer or a court. He can steamroll a parent’s objection and transfuse the child.

“The relevant part of rule 39(c)(iii) of the Code states: If a child is below 13, a doctor should undertake “full parental consultation” before treatment and if the consultation is fruitless the practitioner should make use of the law by obtaining an order from the Court to protect the child’s health interest. A child who needs blood transfusion … in any emergency should be so given.” 

In other words, with regard to blood transfusion, a doctor need not consult a parent and need not apply to the court for authority to transfuse, he insisted. 

Contrary to all learning and practice in medicine and most other professions, he stressed that nothing obligates the doctor to obtain a second opinion. 

“It is immaterial that he knows next to nothing about pediatrics or hematology; it is of no moment that he is a neophyte in medical practice, that he exercises this authority the morning after he took the Hippocratic oath,” Chianu said.


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