5 October 2000

Zambia: Baby Battles for Life As Parents Reject Blood Transfusion

Lusaka, Zambia — A six-month-old baby is battling for her life at the Lusaka University Teaching Hospital (UTH) after her parents who belong to the Jehovah's Witnesses sect rejected a blood transfusion to save her life on religious grounds.

The baby's parents, Mr. and Mrs Cleophas Mulumba who travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo for the operation in the country have refused to have the blood transfusion carried out.

They said that they had deep-rooted belief in Christianity which was explicit about the handling of blood.

According to the state-run 'Times of Zambia' newspaper, Beatrice Kashimba, who underwent surgery last Monday for a condition called Biliary Atresia lost vital pints of blood and body fluids after the operation when she developed diarrhoea and vomiting.

UTH medical personnel said the condition of Beatrice, who was looking pale and weak, was grave and unless a blood transfusion was carried out, her chances of survival were very slim.

The parents, however, quoted a section of the Holy Bible, which states that: "The Holy Spirit and we have agreed not to put any other burden on you besides those necessary rules. "Eat no food that has been offered to idols, eat no blood, eat no animals that have been strangled and keep yourselves from sexual immorality. You will do well if you take care not to do these things with our best wishes."

UTH public relations officer, Pauline Mbangweta, expressed the hope that the parents would soon realise the gravity of the condition of the child and allow the transfusion.

"The doctors were doing everything possible and had put the child on blood supplements. I hope the parents would have a change of heart and allow ... blood transfusion," Mbangweta said.

Meanwhile, Clement Samabona, spokesman of the Jehovah Witnesses' Watch Tower Society in Zambia said the refusal by the parents to consent to blood transfusion was their personal belief and not that of the Church.

"There is no policy in the Church which bars anyone from blood transfusion, it is all a personal choice that anyone is entitled to," Samabona said.

But Jason Sakala, another Watch Tower member, supported the parents' decision. He quoted Genesis 9 verses 4-16 to support his views that the eating of blood is forbidden and anyone who disobeys this is disobeying God's law.

"I am in support of the parents because they are using God's words as their guidance. If they decide to do otherwise then they will be disrespectful to God's law," Sakala told PANA.

He added, "putting one's life ahead of God's law is fatal, as Mark 8: 35 and 36 tells us."

Sakala said there were other ways the hospital could supplement the needed blood other than transfusion.

Meanwhile, Beatice's parents are enraged with the Times of Zambia for carrying a front page picture Thursday of their baby lying in agony at UTH, with a swollen stomach.

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