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Summary of Justice Macaulay's judgment delivered on 31 August 2018.

On 31 August 2018 the Supreme Court of Victoria authorised a hospital to administer a blood transfusion to a pregnant 17 year old woman, a Jehovah’s Witness, if, in the delivery of her baby, it became necessary to give a transfusion to save her life or prevent serious injury. The young woman (legally a child) and her mother had both refused on religious grounds to give consent to such treatment.

Justice Cameron Macaulay said he was not satisfied the young woman had a sufficient understanding of the consequences of her choice.

“I am not convinced she has based her choice on a maturely formed and entrenched religious conviction,” his Honour said. “Put another way, I am not convinced that overriding her expressed choice would so rob her of her essential self as to outweigh the loss she would suffer through losing her life or sustaining a catastrophic injury.

“In summary, I do not consider that allowing her, in effect, to choose to die or only survive with serious injury is in her best interests, taking into account a holistic view of her welfare – physical, spiritual and otherwise.”

The Court made the order after the Mercy Hospital, which had applied to the Court, promised first to use strategies other than the transfusion of blood or blood products with the aim of trying to avert the girl’s death or serious injury.

In examining the issues in this case, the Court considered its parens patriae jurisdiction , which allows it to act as a parent of any child that needs protection (the pregnant child is under 18 years of age). It also considered the impact, if any, of the Human Tissue Act 1982 and the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 on that jurisdiction.

Note: This summary is necessarily incomplete. The only authoritative pronouncement of the Court’s reasons and conclusions is that contained in the published reasons for judgment .


Read the Court's full judgment on Austlii (External link)

Author
Supreme Court of Victoria
Publisher
Supreme Court of Victoria
Date of publication