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(HOUSTON) — A Houston hospital is asking a court to let doctors treat a premature baby who doctors say could die without medical attention.

The baby was born four months early and weighed less than two pounds. The newborn is anemic, and doctors at the Women’s Hospital of Texas say it needs blood transfusions to survive.

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The baby’s parents have declined transfusions for religious reasons, but South Texas College of Law constitutional law expert Gerald Treece says Texas will side with the hospital because the baby can’t speak on his or her own behalf.

Treece says this is not a freedom of religion issue because an infant can’t choose a religion, and he says it’s not a parent’s rights issue because parents are legally responsible for their child’s health and well-being.

The Women’s Hospital of Texas sent News 92 FM the following statement about the case:

The Woman’s Hospital of Texas respects and recognizes the religious beliefs of its patients and their parents. It has to balance the medical needs of the patient with the parents’ religious beliefs to do what is in the best interest of the child.

The steps that the hospital will take when the parents refuse the proposed treatment varies based on the medical needs of the child and how essential that treatment is for the overall health of the child. For example, if the parents’ decision could result in irreparable harm or death of the child, the hospital may pursue a court order in order to provide life sustaining medical treatment.

In other instances, the proposed treatment may not be delivered to the child as the parents’ requested if withholding such treatment will not have a negative or adverse effect on the child. Each situation is different and evaluated on its own merits taking into account what is in the best interest of the child.

The hospital also maintains an ethics committee, which is a forum for health care providers and patients and their family members to discuss the patient’s medical needs and any differing opinions between the health care providers and the patient’s family.


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