When Rock and Benjy Sanozier of Plantation brought their son June 21 to Broward General Medical Center, doctors determined that the 3-year-old had pneumonia and that his spleen was clogged with blood.
But the Sanoziers are practicing Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe the Bible forbids blood transfusions. And even though it might kill their son, they refused to give doctors permission. The reasons,
according to recently released court documents, is that the couple feared a blood transfusion could change their son's personality.
The boy's doctor, pediatric cancer and blood specialist Hector Rodriguez-Cortes, asked the State Attorney's Office to step in, and file court papers that would allow a judge to sign off on the procedure despite the parents' wishes. The hearing was requested and took place June 24.
Scott Raft, the assistant state attorney handling the case, told New Times that the doctors and prosecutors were rushing to make sure an emergency hearing could be held before the boy died.
"As we were waiting for the hearing, the hospital lawyers got a phone call from doctors, saying that the baby was crashing," Raft said."We were literally running up [the courthouse] stairs."
Since 1993, state prosecutors have been allowed to petition courts on behalf of children whose parents' refusal to OK medical treatment will result in death. Raft said he's handled from 50 to 100 of these case in his 25 years practicing law.
Raft said that his office will only agree to go through this petition process if a child's death is indisputably "imminent" without treatment. Also, the requested procedure must be virtually guaranteed to work without devastating side effects.
"It has to be a very, very clear circumstance," he said. Though healthy spleens filter blood effortlessly, sickle cell patients have irregularly shaped red blood cells, so the blood essentially gets stuck in the upper-abdomen organ. This means that the rest of the body can't get any blood. The condition is fatal if left untreated.
Circuit Judge Susan J. Aramony agreed that the Sanozier case was one such circumstance. The boy received treatment -- right as his bodily systems neared total collapse.
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The child's current condition is not known. His status has not been made public. The Sanoziers could not be reached for comment. And the hospital could not discuss the incident without the parents' consent, a spokeswoman said. Raft said he couldn't tell how Rock Sanozier, who attended the hearing via telephone, reacted to the court's decision.