Italian anti-vax parents lose appeal over unvaccinated blood donor request for child’s heart surgery

The hospital went to court after the parents demanded a donor who was not vaccinated against Covid

Sofia Barbarani
in Rome
Tuesday 08 February 2022 17:41 GMT
<p>Representational photo: A view of a blood bag</p>

Representational photo: A view of a blood bag

A judge in Italy has ruled against the parents of a two-year-old boy in urgent need of heart surgery after they demanded that doctors only use blood transfusions from unvaccinated donors.

The medical saga kicked off in northern Italy two weeks ago, when the father of the child – who has heart disease – asked Bologna’s Sant’Orsola hospital not to use blood donated by people who had been vaccinated against Covid, causing the surgery to be delayed.

The man took to anti-vax Telegram channels in search of volunteers. “Urgent. Unvaccinated blood needed for a delicate surgery,” he wrote, under the pseudonym Paolo, according to Italian paper La Gazzetta di Modena.

When doctors told the parents that the request – which was reportedly made for religious reasons – did not adhere to the hospital’s criteria for blood donations, the couple turned to lawyers and launched legal action.

The matter was taken by the hospital to the tutelary judge in nearby Modena, whose role is to oversee the protection of vulnerable individuals including children, and whose court proceedings are informal in nature.

The judge turned down the parents’ appeal and said it was entirely safe to use blood from vaccinated donors. The couple’s lawyer said they may appeal, according to national news agency ANSA.

The parents had reportedly put forward a list of 40 unvaccinated people who were willing to donate their blood to their sick son.

But when it comes to transfusions, there are norms that must be followed, the head of Italy’s blood centre told local media.

“The choices are based on compatibility criteria and not on whims. Using the blood of unvaccinated people has no scientific basis because the vaccine is not transmitted with the transfusion,” Dr Vincenzo De Angelis told the Corriere di Bologna.

In a similar case last year, two sisters refused a blood transfusion for their ill 90-year-old father due to concerns over vaccinated donors, according to Dr Nino Cartabellotta, the head of GIMBE, an organisation in support of universal health rights.

“For many – doctors included – anecdotal results are more valuable than the large randomised and controlled clinical trials,” Dr Cartabellotta told The Independent.

On social media, some Italians expressed their frustration towards the parents and urged social services to intervene.

“This alarming phenomenon is deeply rooted in a certain part of the population and needs to be taken seriously,” one Twitter user said.

Other netizens shared their support for the couple. “Good, protecting one’s own children is sacrosanct,” another tweet read.

Nearly four-fifths of the Italian population is fully vaccinated, while about 56 per cent have had a third jab.

The Italian government last month made vaccines mandatory for over-50s, one of very few European countries to take such a step, in a bid to ease pressure on its hospitals. Nonetheless, it plans to ease tough coronavirus restrictions as of 11 February.

Italy has registered more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain.

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