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Court Clears Blood Transfusion for Teen-age Jehovah’s Witness

April 28, 1992

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ The state won clearance Monday to force blood transfusions on a teen-ager with sickle cell anemia who has suffered strokes because of her condition but refuses transfusions on religious grounds.

The state Supreme Court unanimously refused to block a lower court order that would require Latoya Heath to undergo the transfusions.

Heath, 15, of Shepherdstown, is a Jehovah’s Witness whose religion prohibits blood transfusions.

A judge ruled that she faces up to a 70 percent chance of suffering a serious, possibly fatal, stroke in the next three years if she does not undergo the transfusions.

Heath suffered a stroke March 25, causing temporary numbness to the left side of her body, court papers said. Tests at a hospital showed she had suffered several other strokes in the past, but had recovered.

Although she recovered without a transfusion, her physician recommended she receive transfusions every two weeks until she turns 18. When she and her parents balked, state officials took her to a hospital April 11 and forced her to undergo a transfusion.

She and her parents then went to court to block any future transfusions. Charles B. Howard, the youth’s court-appointed attorney, said the next transfusion was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. He said he may appeal the case to federal court.