Blood donor battle: Family not appealing after court granted temporary guardianship of sick baby

The family of a sick four-month-old baby won't appeal a judge's decision to put guardianship of the child into the court to allow it to have urgent heart surgery. 

The child, who cannot be named because of an automatic court order, has the heart condition pulmonary valve stenosis and requires an operation to clear a severe valve obstruction. 

The baby's parents said they want the surgical procedure to go ahead, but they didn't want it to happen with blood donations from donors who've been vaccinated against COVID-19.

But on Wednesday a judge ruled in favour of Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand's application to give the court guardianship so the surgery could go ahead as normal.

On Thursday the family's lawyer Sue Grey said after spending "many hours" talking and exploring ideas and options, they have decided not to appeal the decision. 

"Baby W is in remarkable health. He has been gaining weight and his heart has been stable. He has been surround by love from his family, their support team and many millions of well-wishers around NZ and the world (sic)," Grey said. 

Grey said the parents feel their child will get the best care possible because "the world is watching". 

"The priority for the family is to enjoy a peaceful time with their baby until the operation, and to support him through the operation.

"We have considered an appeal, and are very grateful for those who have generously shared their expertise on this.

"Our conclusion is that there is no time to appeal due to the court giving its decision at close of business yesterday, and the complex process where a stay is required." 

The guardianship order comes into effect from the date of the order until the baby's surgery and post-operation recovery has ended, lasting until January 31, 2023, at the latest. 

The court has appointed two doctors as agents of the Court to consent to the life-saving surgery.

The child's parents remain as general agents for other purposes. 

The doctors appointed have been ordered to keep the parents informed of the progress, condition and treatment of the child.

In his decision, Justice Gault said Starship specialists met with the baby's mother on November 23. During the meeting doctors told the mother because of the seriousness of the baby's condition, "they could not spend more time considering the parents' requests for special donors", the decision said. 

During the meeting, the baby's mother "became extremely upset and criticised the specialists for cornering her without any support present. The specialists apologised for this and explained that, given a legal process was going to commence, that would take some time and Baby W’s condition did not allow many days before his risks of surgery would increase". 

Another meeting was organised two days later but the decision said it was "hijacked by the parents' support person who proceeded to pressurise the specialists with her theory about conspiracies in New Zealand and even said that deaths in infants getting transfusions were occurring in Starship Hospital". 

After some minutes the specialist asked to leave and ended up walking out of the meeting while the support person continued trying to talk to them, Justice Gault said. 

"As a result, they were unable to explain their position to the parents."

Speaking with Newshub Late on Wednesday haematologist and transfusion medicine specialist at the University of Otago Dr Jim Faed said there are several reasons why asking for specific blood donors causes issues.

"It's strongly discouraged for multiple reasons. Firstly for safety reasons - the selected blood donors are always going to be safer than someone who feels, 'I could do that' and doesn't know all of the issues that lie behind the safety that is achieved with blood transfusion in New Zealand," Dr Faed said.

"There is a lot in donor screening that needs to be done carefully, the testing needs to be done carefully. All that can be done either way but if we think about the screening questions there are always concerns a person might be tempted to give a different answer."