WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand court temporarily took away medical custody of a baby from his parents on Wednesday after they refused blood transfusions for him unless the blood came from donors who were unvaccinated against COVID-19.
The court's ruling in favor of health authorities places the 4-month-old boy into the guardianship of authorities until after he undergoes an urgently needed heart operation and recovers. The parents remain in charge of decisions about their boy that don't relate to the operation.
The parents' legal battle has been embraced by anti-vaccine groups, who gathered outside the courtroom this week as evidence was presented.
High Court Judge Ian Gault said he accepted the affidavits of health experts who said there have been millions of blood transfusions performed around the world since coronavirus vaccines were introduced, and the vaccines hadn't caused any known harmful effects.
The ruling will likely set a precedent and come as a relief to healthcare groups that collect and use donated blood.
The parents had said they had unvaccinated donors willing to give blood for their son's operation, but health authorities argued that such directed donations should only occur in exceptional circumstances, such as for recipients with very rare blood types.
Health authorities also said the unvaccinated donors wouldn't necessarily give them access to all the blood products they might need during the boy's surgery.
The parents used discredited arguments and fringe theories to try to show that mRNA vaccines were unsafe.
The judge said the baby's parents were loving and wanted the best for their son and accepted that he needed the surgery. The judge said the relationship between the parents and clinicians had suffered and that they should try to improve it before and after the surgery and be respectful of each other.
Court rules prevent the baby and parents from being named. Court documents identified the mother as a midwife.