Blood Transfusions – Juvenile court lacks jurisdiction to order minor with sickle cell anemia, who is on of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to undergo blood transfusion

 San Joaquin County Human Services Agency v. Marcus W.,  2010 DJDAR  8135  (June 2, 2010).

The plaintiff county sought to enforce an order by the juvenile court requiring a 16 year old to undergo periodic blood transfusions to prevent him from suffering a third stroke and possible death.  The minor, a Jehovah’s Witness, opposed transfusions as contrary to his religious beliefs.  The appeals court concluded that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to issue the order because the requirements of Welfare and Institutions Code section 369 were not met.  Section 369 provides the juvenile court with jurisdiction to order the performance of necessary medical care for a minor only when (1) the minor has been taken into temporary custody or a licensed health care professional recommends that the minor needs medical, surgical, dental or other remedial care and (2) that the minor’s parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis is unwilling or incapable of authorizing such care.

         Here, the juvenile court did not have jurisdiction based upon the facts of this case to order the minor to undergo blood transfusions against his will and over the objection of his parents.  The court found that the legislature does establish a procedure by which the jurisdiction of the juvenile court maybe invoked to authorize necessary medical care for minors whose parents are unwilling, for religious reasons or otherwise, to provide such care as in this matter.  The authority for this application falls under section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code which provides jurisdiction to the juvenile court to adjudicate a minor to be dependant adult of the court if “[t]hat child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm inflicted non-accidentally upon the child by the child’s parent or guardian” (subdivision a).  Application of the statute has been made in instances where medical treatment has been refused for a minor by the parents.

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