In the news this evening is a story about a couple, believed to be members of the Jehovah Witness Congregation, who wish to refuse what doctors say is a life-saving blood transfusion for their as yet unborn twin babies.  This, for me, is at the sharp end of the debate that humanity should be having about religion. 

The fact that the HSE has to go to the High Court this Thursday to seek the courts permission to administer vital medical attention to these children is an utter nonsense.

Let us suppose that these parents simply decided that, as an exercise in character building, the children should be left out of doors unattended on the first night of their lives.  No sane person would defend their right to do so.  However, take a similarly irresponsible act and shroud it in the respectability of religious belief and the entire mechanism of our justice system must leap into action to test the veracity of their lunatic ideas.

Surely, with the stroke of a legislative pen, the state can bring about a situation where parents who needlessly endanger their children in  this way can simply be pushed aside, while dedicated medical professionals get on with the job of saving lives.  Our creaking, understaffed health service has enough work to do every day without trotting off to the High Court to beg the courts leave to save the lives of these children.  I would think, too, that our overcrowded courts service could probably make better use of its time this Thursday.

Recently, in the context of the unfolding clerical abuse scandals, we saw evidence of religious officials who were conflicted by canon law versus civil law.  Thankfully we did not see a situation where there was any possibility of canon law taking precedence.  What we also did not see or hear, however, was a resounding declaration from our political leaders, who are charged with framing, enacting and overseeing the enforcement of our civil law, that the very idea of a conflict is a non-starter.  In the real world canon law should have all the significance and importance of the dress code at your local golf club bar.  The latter is often seen as hugely important inside the gates of the golf club, but drive out those gates and nobody does or should care.

The belief that they should not receive blood transfusion is hugely important to members of the Jehovah Witness Congregation.  However, outside of that community, when the lives of two children are at stake, we should treat this ideology with the contempt it deserves.

If I had my way these idiot parents would be charged with recklessly endangering the lives of their unborn children.

Update – Thursday 24th April 2008

The High Court today, as expected, granted the HSE an order allowing them to administer the life saving blood transfusion that these unborn twins will need.  There was never any doubt that this would be the case.  That the state had to bow to idiotic religious practice and waste valuable court time to assert the blatantly obvious is utter nonsense.  Isn’t democracy just fabulous?