This one is a real conundrum.
Health New Zealand has gone to court today to get guardianship of a 4-month-old baby boy who needs open-heart heart surgery, but whose parents are refusing to give permission for him to receive blood during the operation that’s been donated by people who have had the Covid-19 vaccination.
And so the health authority wants guardianship so it can give the permission that’s required, which will allow the operation to go ahead.
So we’ve got the medical people wanting the go-ahead from the parents. And we’ve got the parents saying they’ll only give the go-ahead as long as any blood transfusions done as part of the surgical process don’t involve blood from people vaccinated against Covid.
This sort of thing is not a complete first, because we’ve seen before how the health system grapples with the likes of Jehovah’s Witness followers who do not support blood donations and transfusions.
But, as far as I’m aware anyway, this is the first time we’ve had parents denying a child medical treatment on the grounds that they don’t want blood transfusions with blood donated by someone vaccinated against Covid.
And, if you’re a parent- like I am - you may feel some compassion for these people. Because we all like to think, don’t we, that we are the best people to make critical decisions for our kids.
And these parents must be feeling absolutely gutted that their anti-vax stance is being ridden roughshod over by Health New Zealand.
You imagine it, you’ve got this beautiful 4-month-old baby boy that you’ve brought into the world. A baby you hope will, one day, share your values in life. But your values - no matter how extreme others might consider them to be - are rejected when it comes to what you think is best for your child.
So those parents know that the health system is going to court to get guardianship of their child because the system thinks it knows what’s best.
Reports I’ve seen say the New Zealand Blood Service doesn’t keep blood donated by people who have been vaccinated separate from blood donated by people who haven’t been vaccinated.
Although, someone here at work who is a regular blood donor tells me that you are asked whether you’ve had any vaccinations in the past 12 months when you turn up to donate blood.
What’s more, this couple say they’ve got 20 potential people lined up ready to donate, who are Covid vaccine-free.
But Health New Zealand has said “no thanks” and is heading to court today to start the process of trying to get guardianship of the baby so it can decide what’s in the child’s best interests. Which, if the court rules in its favour, will mean the parents’ wishes being overridden.
So we’ve got parents of a 4-month-old baby who, obviously, have very strong views. And, while they think they are making the best decision for their child, they’re being told that they aren’t - and may lose guardianship of their baby because of it.
Now if you think I’m sounding like I’m supporting the parents’ position on this one. I’m not.
I’m just sympathetic to the position they’re in, with their baby boy thought to be in Starship hospital needing surgery because he has a condition where one of the valves in his heart isn’t working properly - which means pressure and blood could back up and put pressure on his heart.
Which is likely to mean, doesn’t it, that this family is dealing with one of those situations we talk about where life-or-death decisions have to be made.
It’s also one of those terrible situations where the rights of parents have to be weighed against the rights of a child to receive urgent medical treatment.
And when I consider it in that way - even though I have huge sympathy for the parents who must feel like their whole world is being turned upside down - I think, on this occasion, the rights of the child to receive medical treatment has to come first.