Parens patriae — Child requiring heart surgery.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network v AA [2021] NSWSC 1123 (on Caselaw) saw the Court consider an application brought by the plaintiff hospital because AA’s mother, who is the sole person responsible for AA, is a member of the religious group known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Adherents of that faith refuse to receive, or refuse to permit those for whom they care, to receive blood transfusions. The Mother consented to AA receiving all the medical treatment that he requires, including the surgical correction of the congenital heart defect from which he is suffering, up to but not including the point of using blood or blood products. 

In accordance with the usual “best interests” principle, the Court made orders at [12]:

“The Court: …

9. NOTES that the plaintiff on behalf of AA’s treating physicians has informed the Court that all steps consistent in their professional opinion with the best interests and physical wellbeing of AA will be taken pre-operatively, during the Surgery (as defined in Order 10) and perioperatively to avoid the use of blood or blood products in the treatment of AA.

10. DECLARES pursuant to the Court’s parens patriae jurisdiction that in connection with, arising from or relating to the carrying out on AA of the surgical correction of a Ventricular Septal Defect (the “Surgery”) the responsible Visiting Medical Officers, medical practitioners, nursing and other staff at any hospital at which AA is being treated may use blood or blood products in the course of the Surgery or for the related treatment of AA to the extent that in the professional opinion of the responsible Visiting Medical Officer or medical practitioner at the time that in the best interests and to ensure the physical wellbeing of AA the use of blood or blood products cannot be avoided.

11. ORDER 10 has effect from the date of this Order up to and including the day which is 42 days after the Surgery. …”