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Medical Procedures and Freedom of Religion

Court rules that child must undergo medical procedure in violation of parents' religious beliefs.

• The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered an 8-year-old girl suffering from leukemia to receive blood transfusions despite her parents' claim that such procedures violated their religious beliefs. The parents were Jehovah's Witnesses, a religion that prohibits blood transfusions. A doctor testified that the girl faced certain death without the transfusion. A trial judge ordered the girl to receive transfusions and such other medical treatment as may be required. The judge based his ruling on the following factors: (1) the child's age; (2) the risk to the child's life if treatment was not begun; and (3) the substantial chance of a cure and a normal life if the child received treatment. The parents appealed, and the supreme judicial court agreed with the trial judge. It observed: "The state has three interests in having a dangerously sick child receive medical treatment over ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • January 1, 1992

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