Office of Public Defender Invokes Law to Save 2-week-old Baby from Death

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By Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Lagos State government, through the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), has averted the death of a two-week-old baby who was severely jaundiced at birth, but was refused urgent blood transfusion by the parents due to religious reasons.

Having faced stiff opposition from the parents, who are members of Jehovah Witness and their church members, the OPD was forced to invoke the relevant sections of Lagos Child’s Rights Law of 2015 and the Lagos State Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy of 2016.

According to the Director, Lagos State Office of the Public Defender, Mrs. Olayinka Adeyemi, the parents had refused to consent to the urgent blood transfusion recommended for her survival given that she was delivered prematurely and was severely jaundiced.

The baby girl (name withheld) was delivered prematurely at a private hospital in Surulere to a family residing at Abata Close, Orile-Iganmu.

Adeyemi said: ”The baby at birth was discovered to be severely jaundiced and therefore recommended for urgent blood transfusion to survive.

”However, the parents of the girl who are Jehovah Witnesses, and on Medical Insurance (HMO), vehemently opposed the blood transfusion for the baby citing religious belief and decided to force the discharge of the baby contrary to medical advice.

“It was the critical health condition of the baby and deviant position of the parents that made a concerned member of the public inform the Lagos Office of the Public Defender to save the child from untimely death.

“The agency responded immediately by getting a court order based on relevant sections of Lagos Child’s Rights Law of 2015 and the Lagos State Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy of 2016 and in collaboration with the Nigerian Police from Adeniji-Adele and Orile Stations rescued the baby from the parent’s home.

“This was despite stiff resistance from other mobilised members of the Jehovah Witness on December, 30, 2019, before the baby was taken to Massey Street Children Hospital for necessary treatment.

”The rescued baby, who lost weight due to lack of medical attention, is currently enjoying a free medical treatment in line with the current administration’s policy of free and qualitative medical services for the people of the state.

She stressed that no responsible and responsive government will fold its arms and allow any parent or guardian to act ignorantly on religious grounds in a way that would be injurious to the life of any other person, especially their children or wards.

She reiterated that the present administration in its avowed commitment to providing good governance and security would leave no stone unturned when protecting the rights of women, children, the vulnerable and indigent residents of the Lagos State, irrespective of gender and religion.

While noting that the OPD was not oblivious of the fact that many people’s rights are being violated due to ignorance and poverty, she urged members of the public to take advantage of the OPD’s free legal services to get redress, protection and enforcement of their rights.

She also assured that the state government would continue to work assiduously until the supremacy of the rule of law reigns in the state, thus she enjoined all residents to continue to furnish OPD with relevant information on violation of human rights for necessary support and legal action.