People blaming me don’t know how much I love my daughter – Jehovah’s Witness dad who rejected blood transfusion

Emmanuel Onokpise is the father of the baby who was allegedly rescued by officials of the Lagos State Government and the Office of the Public Defender and given blood transfusion for jaundice, after he declined the medical procedure in line with his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness. In an encounter with ALEXANDER OKERE, he talks about the controversy surrounding his baby’s treatment

What exactly was wrong with your baby before she was taken to hospital?

The doctors informed us after she was delivered that she had jaundice. She was being treated for it.

What did the diagnosis in the hospital reveal?

(It revealed) a case of jaundice.

What kind of treatment did the medical personnel recommend?

The doctor at the hospital of birth said he needed to transfuse her with blood because that was the remedy he knew, and he admitted that his hospital was not as equipped as another hospital that could treat her without blood transfusion

It was alleged that you discharged the baby against medical advice. Why did you decide to do that?

The doctor at the hospital of birth discharged my daughter because he could not treat her without administering blood transfusion, which I had considered as not being in the best interest of the child. He referred us to a better equipped hospital that could treat the baby without administering blood and wrote a referral letter to that effect. So, we did not have any problem with the hospital.

When you took your child away from the hospital, what alternative did you have in mind to save its life?

When we were discharged from Avon Hospital, we were referred to Outreach Children Specialist Hospital, which we were informed could treat our daughter’s condition without blood. When we were discharged from Outreach Children Specialist Hospital, because we could not continue to afford the charges, we sustained the treatment of our daughter with traditional therapy against jaundice until she was readmitted to Massey Children Hospital, where she was being treated successfully with erythropoietin that we purchased.

Were you not concerned that a baby that weighed “2.2kg at birth” and less than “1.7kg” when she was allegedly rescued could die from the condition with the prescribed treatment?

The doctors at all the three hospitals did not inform us of any danger of death to the baby due to the weight. They only said the baby might be negatively affected if the jaundice was not treated, and we vigorously pursued her treatment in two other hospitals other than the first.

Some may say that you are too rigid with your religious beliefs. Were you willing to risk the life of your baby for that?

I can understand why they hold that view. It is because they do not know how much I love my daughter and all the steps we took to get her proper treatment. We exhausted all our finances and were contacting one doctor after another to get the best treatment for her. What we simply wanted was for the medical staff to treat our daughter effectively without the risks associated with a blood transfusion and in a way that leaves us with a good conscience before God, the giver of life.

You were said to have rejected the blood transfusion because it was against your religious beliefs. Why do you think blood transfusion is bad?

I have read of many dangers associated with blood transfusion. I have also read of medical cases where people who were treated by doctors without blood fared better than those who were treated with blood transfusion. Furthermore, Jehovah, the creator, expressly prohibits the ingestion of blood. He made this law both before and during the Christian era.

What happened when the baby was eventually taken away from you? Were you manhandled?

I would simply say that the law enforcement officers were acting on the misinformation that our daughter was dying with the implication that someone else loved our daughter more than us, thereby making it seem that we deserved a certain kind of treatment. But we are stable.

Do you think you were unfairly treated by the state government?

I feel that the government was presented with non-factual information, and that they acted as they deemed best with the information they had. Perhaps, fairness would have required that they heard us also, but that wasn’t done.

Were you disrespected?

It does not seem like something any parents would pray for, to wake up in the morning to the visit of total strangers, some with guns, insisting on taking their beloved baby away.


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