7 Dec 2022

High Court takes guardianship of sick baby at the centre of dispute over donor blood

6:06 pm on 7 December 2022
e Whatu Ora is taking a case against parents who are refusing to allow blood from vaccinated people to be used during their baby's life-saving heart operation.

File photo. The baby's mother speaks to media outside the High Court in Auckland last week. Photo: RNZ / Mohammad Alafeshat

A baby who urgently needs heart surgery has been placed under guardianship of the High Court until completion of his surgery and post-operative recovery.

Te Whatu Ora asked the High Court to take over guardianship of the baby, whose operation had been delayed because his parents did not want doctors to use blood from anyone who had the Covid-19 vaccine.

The four-month-old urgently needs open heart surgery, which is likely to require a blood transfusion.

In a just-released decision, Justice Gault also said doctors from Te Whatu Ora had been made agents of the court to carry out the surgery, including the adminstration of any blood products.

They were instructed to keep the baby's parents "informed at all reasonable times of the nature and progress of (the baby's) condition and treatment".

His parents were agents of the court for all his other care.

A request by the family's lawyer to force the NZ Blood service to take blood from an unvaccinated donor of their choosing for the surgery was declined.

The service does not make a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated donors and has said there was no extra risk posed.

Haematologist and transfusion medicine specialist Dr Jim Faed said there was no evidence of any risk associated with blood from a person who has been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Any vaccine in the blood was broken down quickly after the injection, he said.

The baby has a condition called pulmonary valve stenosis, a blockage in his heart that needs to be cleared.

Te Whatu Ora had applied to the court under the Care of Children Act asking that the doctors have temporary guardianship of the baby for his medical care only.

Te Whatu Ora's lawyer said in court last week that the baby could get more sick with every heartbeat, and he could deteriorate suddenly - so the case was heard urgently.

Te Whatu Ora told the court yesterday that doctors could be ready to operate within 48 hours of getting the go-ahead.