Girl Forced Into Blood Transfusion Can’t Sue

     (CN) – It is too late for a 15-year-old Jehovah’s Witness to fight the appointment of a guardian who forced her to undergo a life-saving blood transfusion, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled.
     Sheila W., as she is named in the decision, was 15 when she was diagnosed in early 2012 with aplastic anemia, an illness in which the patient’s immune system attacks the bone marrow.
     She declined to undergo life-saving blood transfusions, and her parents supported her decision. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses and believe that God does not allow blood transfusions.
     Citing the biblical passage Acts 15: 28-29, Sheila told a Dane County judge that a transfusion would be equivalent to “rape.”
     When the county petitioned for temporary physical custody, the court held a hearing at the hospital and appointed a temporary guardian to decide whether to consent to the recommended transfusions.
     With the guardian’s consent, “an undetermined number of blood transfusions were administered to Sheila,” according to the ruling.
     Sheila appealed, but the order to appoint the guardian expired while the action was pending and the Court of Appeals dismissed the case as moot.
     The Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed Wednesday.
     “No determination of this court will have any practical legal effect upon an existing controversy because the order being appealed has expired,” the unsigned opinion states.
     While all of the parties agreed on the mootness subject, Sheila wanted the state’s highest court to rule on the issue of whether Wisconsin recognizes her rights as a mature minor to make medical decision and whether the appointment of the guardian violated her constitutional rights.
     Despite their acknowledgement that the case “undoubtedly presents issues of public importance,” the justices declined to rule on the merits of the case.
     “We deem it unwise to decide such substantial social policy issues with far-reaching implications based on a single fact situation in a case that is moot,” they wrote.
     Justice David Prosser wrote a longer concurrent opinion.
     “Permitting a minor to refuse lifesaving medical treatment comes uncomfortably close to permitting a minor to commit suicide,” he wrote.
     Justice Michael Gabelman wrote in dissent that the court should have ruled on the merits of the case.
     “The Sheila W.s of this state may have to wait a long time before the legislators on white horses arrive,” Gabelman wrote. “In the meantime, the actual problem of what to do with minors who refuse life-saving treatment will remain unresolved.”
     One week earlier, the court affirmed the convictions of Leilani and Dale Neumann, a “Pentecostal” couple whose daughter died as they prayed over her instead of seeking medical treatment.

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