Blood donor battle: Protesters gather outside hospital as sick baby undergoes heart surgery

A small group of protesters has gathered outside Starship Children's Hospital on Friday as a seriously ill baby prepares for open-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 surgery was the centre of a case in the Auckland High Court this week. The baby's parents initially said they wanted 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 Friday protesters gathered outside the hospital to protest the surgery going ahead with New Zealand Blood Service blood products.

Photos from the scene show a small group of people gathered outside the hospital holding signs. Some were singing while another played the guitar. 

The protest comes after a tense night between the baby's parents and hospital staff.

Initially after the court decision the parents said they wouldn't be appealing and felt their child would get the best care possible because of the scrutiny. 

But in a minute issued on Friday night, Justice Gault said he had been told by a lawyer for Te Whatu Ora the baby's parents were preventing doctors from carrying out pre-operative tests such as blood tests, a chest X-ray and an anaesthetic assessment.

Justice Gault said the lawyer understood the parents had threatened to press criminal charges against the medical staff if they carried out the tests. 

Justice Gault issued another minute seeking a response from the parents and their lawyer, Sue Grey, responded by asking for opinions from two US doctors to be taken into account. Grey also claimed it would be "extreme overreach" if police removed the baby from his parents so the surgery could go ahead. 

But Justice Gault said Grey was effectively seeking to re-open the case which had already been ruled on. 

"[The baby] urgently requires surgery and, as I concluded in my judgement, an order enabling the surgery to proceed using NZBS [New Zealand Blood Service] blood products without further delay is in [the baby's] best interests," Justice Gault said. 

He said because the parents no longer consent to surgery or pre-operative check he was implementing more explicit ancillary orders and extending the appointment of two doctors to enable the operation to go ahead, as well as any pre-op checks.

Justice Gault also ordered the parents not to obstruct health staff.