Blood transfusion refuser’s condition is improvingBy: WERNER MENGES
THE medical condition of the Windhoek resident whose refusal of a blood transfusion on religious grounds led to an unprecedented legal battle in the High Court in Windhoek last weekend is improving.
Polytechnic of Namibia lecturer Efigenia Semente is still being treated in a Windhoek hospital, but her condition has been improving over the past week, her lawyer, Ruben Philander, said on enquiry yesterday.
Her haemoglobin level has been rising this week and was above five by Wednesday, he said.
Semente’s haemoglobin level was 3,6 grams per decilitre of whole blood on Saturday, when an urgent application sparked by her refusal of a blood transfusion and an attempt by her family to intervene against her refusal was heard in the High Court in Windhoek.
Acting Judge Collins Parker’s ruling on the urgent application on what was said to be a life-or-death situation is still being awaited.
The judge was told during the hearing on Saturday that Semente suffered major blood loss after the birth of her third child through an emergency caesarian section a week earlier.
Her haemoglobin level dropped to a low of 3,2 g/dl two days after the operation, the court was told. The medical doctor who had been treating her until then also told the court that a haemoglobin level below 7 g/dl is considered to be critical, and that with such a low haemoglobin count her vital organs were not receiving enough oxygen.
A haemoglobin level of 12 to 16 g/dl is considered to be normal for an adult woman.
The doctor further told the judge that a blood transfusion would be the best medical treatment that she could receive while in such a condition.
Based on her religious beliefs, Semente has been refusing a blood transfusion, though.
Semente is an adherent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith. One of the beliefs of that faith is that blood transfusions are forbidden by the Bible.
In the absence of a blood transfusion Semente has been receiving more conservative treatment, aimed at stimulating her own body’s production of red blood cells, the court was told.
The case heard by Acting Judge Parker threw a spotlight on the constitutional protection of an individual’s right to practice any religion, the right of a patient to choose what medical treatment she wants to receive, and the competing constitutional right of children to know and be cared for by their parents.