Sextuplet parents take B.C. to court over baby seizures

Vancouver, Canada - The Vancouver parents of sextuplets born in January are now in a legal battle with the province, claiming the government violated their religious rights when social workers seized three of their newborns to give them blood transfusions.

The parents, both Jehovah's Witnesses, argue the province had no right to step in against their wishes to take temporary custody of three of their four surviving sextuplets.

B.C.'s director of child protection seized one child on a Jan. 26 order under provincial child-care legislation. An order for a second child was sought the following day and a third on Monday.

Two blood transfusions were done, and the babies were returned to the custody of their parents on Wednesday.

The couple says their constitutional rights were disregarded because, as Jehovah's Witnesses, they oppose any treatment involving blood transfusions.

In a motion filed to block future seizures of the babies, the parents, who can't be named under a publication ban, issued their first public statement:

"[My wife] and I deeply love our babies and want them to live. We continue to be heartbroken about the death of [two of them]," the husband wrote in an affidavit. "We will not, however, consent to blood transfusions. We firmly believe that our creator commands us in scriptures, such as Acts 15:28-29 to abstain from blood products."

Court documents show the parents had a strained relationship with the doctors assisting the birthing process and that the father repeatedly rejected suggestions from medical experts that aborting two of the fetuses could give the remaining four a better chance of living.

Two newborns already dead

Two of the sextuplets — Canada's first ever — died soon after being born at the B.C. Women's Hospital and Health Centre on Jan. 5 and 6. All of the babies were 15 weeks premature and weighed less than 2.2 pounds each.

B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development Tom Christensen made it clear that regardless of a family's religious affiliation, "the obligation is to ensure that a child in need of protection … gets the treatment required," even if that means the ministry must step in.

But Shane Brady, the Ontario lawyer representing the family, said the government must first give the parents a fair hearing, which the parents never received.

"They are very frustrated and deeply hurt by this unwarranted interference in this very difficult and challenging part of their children's treatment," Brady said of the parents.

The parents will be back in court in late February, when they will demand a government apology for violating their religious freedoms, and then try to persuade the court to end the possibility of future seizures.