By Anna Scanlan, Solicitor, Litigation Department
Judge Gerard Hogan held an emergency hearing at his home in the early hours of the 27th December 2010 at the request of Temple Street Children’s Hospital who were treating a critically ill three month baby. The baby became unwell on Christmas day with acute bronchiolitis and his condition deteriorated throughout the day. The baby was transferred to Temple Street Hospital on the 26th January suffering from low haemoglobin which led doctors to the conclusion that a blood transfusion was absolutely necessary to save his life. The baby’s parents were committed Jehovah’s witnesses and while they had consented to the use of certain blood products, they could not consent to the baby having a blood transfusion.
The hospital decided that a court order would be necessary and after contacting the Duty Registrar at 10.00pm it was decided to hold an emergency hearing at Judge Hogan’s home which commenced at 1.00am. After hearing counsel for the hospital and the parents, Judge Hogan granted the order sought by the hospital but stated that he would deliver his reasoning in open court as it had not been possible to have the hearing in public as required by Article 34.1 of the Constitution.
He held that while the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and the free practice of religion, along with the right to family autonomy, these rights are not absolute and the State has a right to intervene in exceptional circumstances. Such circumstances include when a child’s life or general welfare is at stake and it was for this reason that the court intervened. It was also held that the identity of the baby and his family would not be disclosed to protect their anonymity.