The right to live is a universally recognized right for all human beings. It is a fundamental right which governs all existing rights. In the absence of the right to life, all other fundamental rights have no reason to exist. For children, the right to life is the chance to be able to live and have the possibility to grow, to develop and become adults from birth, all children have the right to have their life protected. As provided for under the children and young persons’ law. The right of a child to life against the right of his parents to veto such right in vindication of their religious conscience, the overriding consideration should be, the best interest of the child.
In Esabunor and Anor V. Faweya and Ors (2019) LPELR 46961 (SC), the 2nd appellant who is the mother of the 1st appellant gave birth to him on April 19, 1997 at the Chevron clinic, Lekki Peninsula in Lagos. Within a month of his birth, he fell gravely ill. He was taken back to the clincic by his mother for urgent treatment. The 1st respondent treated the 1st appellant, and discovered that the 1st appellant needed urged blood transfusion. The mother of the child and her husband made it abundantly clear on no account should their child be given a blood transfusion. Their reason being that there were several lazards that follow blood transfusion such as contracting Aids, Hapatis etc and as members of the Jehovah Witness sect; blood transfusion was forbidden by their religion
Dr Tunde Faweya (the 1st respondent) remained unyielding. The next day the learned counsel for the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State moved an originating Motion Exparte before the 5th respondent. The motion was brought under section 27(1) and (30) of the children and young person’s law Cap 25 of Lagos State the relief sought was “that the medical authorities of the clinic of Chevron Nigeria Limited Lekki Peninsulas Lagos be allowed and are hereby permitted to do all and anything necessary, for the protection of the life and health of the child Tega Esabunor and for such further order or orders as the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances”.
The Chief Magistrate granted the application and the 1st respondent administered blood transfusion on the 1st appellant and he got well and was discharged. The 2nd appellant fited an application on notice wherein she sought for the setting aside of the order. The said application was unsuccessful. Dissatisfied with the proceedings before the Chief Magistrate, they approached the high court for an order of certiorari and damages of N10 million. The learned trial judge refused their prayers and claims. On appeal to the Court of Appeal the decision of the High Court was affirmed.
On further appeal to the Supreme Court the Supreme Court held that an adult who is conscious and in full control of his mental capacity and of sound mind has the right to either accept or refuse blood. The hospital has no choice but to respect their patient’s choice. When it involves a child the court stated that a child is incapable of making decisions for himself and the law is duty bound to protect such a person from abuse of his rights as he may grow up and disregard those religious beliefs. It makes no difference if the decision to deny him blood transfusion is made by his parents. See M. D P.D.T.V Okankwo (2001) 7NWLR (pt 711) P. 206. The Supreme Court held that when a competent parent or one in loco parentis refuses blood transfusion on religious ground, the court should step in, consider the baby’s welfare i.e saving the life and the best interest of the child, before a decision is taken. These considerations according to the court outweigh religious beliefs of the Jehovah Witness sect. The decision should be to allow blood transfusion especially in life threatening situations.
Nkechi Bright Ewere