By Robert Egbe
The father of a severely jaundiced 14-day-old premature baby who denied the baby life-saving blood transfusion on medical and religious grounds, on Saturday explained his side of the story.
Mr Emmanuel Onokpise claimed he and his wife were never informed their child was in any danger of death to the baby due to the weight.
The Lagos State Government evacuated the baby via a court order following information from a concerned member of the public informed its Office of the Public Defender that Mr and Mrs Emmanuel Onokpise had, contrary to medical advice, discharged their severely ill baby from hospital after refusing her blood transfusion on religious and medical grounds.
Baby Onokpise, who was born on December 18, 2019, is now in an orphanage home.
According to the government, the baby’s parents, who were on Medical Insurance with a Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO), “vehemently opposed the blood transfusion” for the baby and took her home, where her condition deteriorated and death was imminent.
Onokpise, who responded to enquiries from The Nation via a statement, said he and his wife loved their child and believed in medical intervention to cure ailments.
He added that being Jehovah’s witnesses, they also had an obligation to obey Jehovah’s commandment to abstain from blood consumption.
Asked what was wrong with the baby before it was taken to hospital, he said: “The doctors informed us after she was delivered that she had jaundice. She was being treated for it.”
According to him, the diagnosis in the hospital revealed a case of jaundice.
“The doctor at the hospital of birth said he needed to transfuse her with blood because that is the remedy he knows, and he admitted that his hospital is not as equipped as another hospital that could treat her without blood transfusion,” Onokpise said
He denied discharging the baby against medical advice.
Onokpise said: “The doctor at the hospital of birth discharged my daughter because he could not treat her without administering blood transfusion, which I had considered as not being in the best interests of the child. He referred us to a better equipped hospital that can treat the baby without administering blood and wrote a referral letter to that effect. So we did not have any issues with the hospital.
“When we were discharged from Avon Hospital, we were referred to Outreach Children Specialist Hospital, who we were informed could treat our daughter’s condition without blood. When we were discharged from Outreach Children Specialist Hospital, because we could not continue to afford the charges, we sustained the treatment of our daughter with traditional therapy against jaundice until she was readmitted to Massey Children Hospital, where she was being treated successfully with erythropoietin that we purchased.”
Baby Onokipse was said to have weighed “2.2kg at birth” and less than “1.7kg” when it was rescued from the parents by the Lagos State Government which feared that the baby could die from the condition.
But Mr Onokpise said; “The doctors at all the 3 hospitals did not inform us of any danger of death to the baby due to the weight. They only said that the baby may be negatively affected if the jaundice is not treated, and we vigorously pursued her treatment in two other hospitals other than the first.”
He denied that Jehovah’s Witnesses are too rigid with their religious beliefs.
“I can understand why they hold that view. It is because they do not know how much I loved my daughter and all the steps we took to get her proper treatment. We exhausted all our finances and were contacting one doctor after another to get the best treatment for her. What we simply wanted was for the medical staff to treat our daughter effectively without the risks associated with a blood transfusion and in a way that leaves us with a good conscience before God, the Giver of life.”
“I have read of many dangers associated with blood transfusions. I have also read of medical cases where people who were treated by Doctors without blood fared better than those who were treated with blood transfusion. Furthermore, Jehovah, the creator, expressly prohibits the ingestion of blood. He made this law both before and during the Christian era.
“I feel that the government was presented with none-factual information, and that they acted as they deemed best with the information they had. Perhaps fairness would have required that they heard us also, but that wasn’t done.
“It does not seem like something any parents would pray for to wake up in the morning to the visit of total strangers, some with guns, insisting on taking their beloved baby away
“We have observed God’s law on blood for ourselves and our baby. We do not take responsibility for the actions of the government. We love our baby dearly and pray she gets well—and does not develop any future health complications traceable to the well-known risks of blood transfusion. We look forward to training her to be a responsible citizen alongside her siblings.”
He further denied being cruel to the baby by rejecting blood transfusion.
“Again, we can understand such views based on misinformation concerning us and our daughter. We did all that we could as loving parents to ensure our baby gets the best available medical care within our means, including borrowing to pay for her treatment at Outreach Hospital. My wife and I have been going to the hospital every day to look after our baby even when we are not allowed to see her. We have been paying for medication prescribed by the doctors at Massey Children Hospital. We are waiting for her to be discharged so we can take her home. Does that describe cruelty?”
He claimed that the doctors had not given him any report, and I do not have free access to her (the baby). My wife was even prevented from breastfeeding the baby. But through every means we can eke out, we keep checking on her wellbeing.
“My wife and I are peace-loving people as can be attested to by others. Of course, we look forward to taking our daughter home and raising her. To someone else, she is only “the child”, but to us, she is our daughter, a gift from Jehovah.”