Whether the court should grant the hospital's application
for a declaration that it be authorised to administer J (a child)
blood during a liver transplant in circumstances where J's
parents are Jehovah's Witnesses and oppose the application;
The sanctity of a child's life is the court's paramount
consideration and more powerful than the need to respect J's
parents' sincerely held religious beliefs.
Hospital v T concerned a seven and a half year old boy
("J") who suffered from liver disease and needed a liver
transplant. J's condition was such that the transplant would
likely cure him, whereas doing nothing would inevitably lead to his
death. J's parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and whilst they
were concerned for their son's wellbeing, it was against their
religious beliefs to consent to their son receiving a blood
transfusion during the liver transplant. J was too young to make a
decision as to what was in his best interests and so J's
treating hospital made an application for a declaration that it be
authorised to administer J blood during the liver transplant.
Whilst they opposed the application, J's parents indicated that
they would obey a court order even if it was inconsistent with
The court emphasised that its primary concern is the interests
of the child stating at , "What remains significant as
White J pointed out in the Supreme Court of South Australia in
Children, Youth and Women's Health Services Inc v YJL
(2010) 107 SASR 343 is that the welfare of the child is the
Court's first and paramount consideration and the Court must
make its own independent judgment on any question which involves
the interests of the child."
The Court cited Justice Basten in X v The Sydney
Children's Hospitals Network (2013) 85 NSWLR 294 at 308,
paragraph  in stating that, "The interest of the state in
preserving life is at its highest with respect to children and
young persons who are inherently vulnerable, in varying
The court was fair to state that it must balance different
considerations, including religious beliefs, in making its
decision. However, in this case, the sanctity of a child's life
was the more powerful consideration and therefore the
hospital's application for a declaration that it be authorised
to administer J blood during the liver transplant was granted.
J's parents sought the hospital's assurance that it
would transfuse blood as a last resort and use minimal amounts of
blood product should the hospital's application be successful.
The court rejected the parents' request.
In the present case, prior to commencing surgery, the hospital
applied to the court for a declaration that J consents to a blood
transfusion. However, there may be circumstances where time does
not allow for legal proceedings to resolve such a dispute and the
hospital proceeds with the transplant without the child's
parents' consent. In Queensland, section 20 of the
Transplant and Anatomy Act 1979 (equivalent to section 21
of the Human Tissue and Transplant Act 1982 in Western
Australia) authorises a medical practitioner to administer a blood
transfusion to a child without his or her parents' consent if
it is necessary to preserve the child's life and there is a
second medical practitioner or superintendent who is in agreement.
Children have always presented curious and difficult situations for
hospitals due to their inability to consent. However, as evidenced
by the present case, when the court's paramount concern is the
interests of the child, many obstacles can be overcome.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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