The boy was just five years old and desperately ill, but as he crouched in the back seat of Donna Ryder's car, he became more fugitive than cancer patient.
Police in New Brunswick were already out looking for the child when, according to Ms. Ryder, she hid him and his mother in her Dodge Omni and drove them to Fredericton, away from children's aid officials who might have forced the son of Jehovah's Witnesses to accept a blood transfusion.
Fellow officials of the Church then took over, whisking the child to their Canadian headquarters, she says. The patient and his family ended up eventually in Mexico for alternative treatments that abided by the sect's controversial -- and vigorously enforced -- ban on receiving blood. He died soon after.
It was a particularly dramatic episode, but Ms. Ryder alleges that the Church regularly transports sick children far from the reach of child welfare authorities -- and the possibility of forced transfusions -- before the cases can turn into high-profile court battles.
Witnesses stake out the hospital rooms of children around the clock, mostly to offer support but sometimes hustling the patients away when it seems likely an attempt will be made to impose a transfusion, charged Ms. Ryder, who did legal work on Witness cases for several years before leaving the church.
"It makes me feel ill when I recall my part in that," said the 58-year-old, now a social work student at Ryerson University. "I was terrified I was going to get arrested.... When a doctor says a child needs a blood transfusion to live, that becomes a necessity of life. To work behind closed doors and under the rug to spirit the child away is not protection, it's illegal."...
...Ms. Ryder's allegations were firmly dismissed, however, by a top church official, who said the Witnesses as an organization never transport children to avoid legal action, though parents may choose to take them to a health-care facility or practitioner who is willing to provide treatment without blood.
"Treatment options are a personal decision of parents," Warren Shewfelt, the Witnesses' Canadian national director, said in an emailed response to questions. "Responsible parents make treatment decisions based on where they can get the best medical care in accord with the law and with the co-operation of their treating physicians."
As for Ms. Ryder's comments, her "accusations and innuendo ... are devoid of any facts and are completely false," he said...
...Another former Witness who was a paralegal for the church in the 1990s, though, largely confirmed Ms. Ryder's account, saying he can recall at least four cases where the Witnesses moved sick children out of province or out of the country to circumvent an expected attempt by child welfare authorities to gain custody so a transfusion could be carried out.
"It doesn't happen often but it has happened," said Michael Saunders.
Barbara Anderson, an employee of the church's world headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the 1990s, also said she was aware of organized attempts to move sick children from situations where they could have blood forced on them, though she believes it is much less likely to take place today.
Friday, December 31, 2010
Former Jehovah's Witness accuses JWs of moving children to avoid blood transfusions
Another backlog item, as reported by Tom Blackwell in the National Post, September 28, 2009: