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MEDICAL AND DENTAL PRACTITIONERS DISCIPLINARY TRIBUNAL V. DR. JOHN EMEWULU NICHOLAS OKONKWO

(2001) JELR 33516 (SC)

Supreme Court  •  SC.213/1999  •  2 Mar 2001  •  Nigeria

Coram
SALIHU MODIBBO ALFA BELGORE JSC; SLYVESTER UMARU ONU JSC; OKAY ACHIKE SAMSON JSC; SAMSON ODEMWINGIE UWAIFO JSC; EMMANUEL OLAYINKA AYOOLA JSC;

Judgement

AYOOLA, JSC (Delivering the Leading Judgment): Of the several issues raised by this appeal the central issue is whether a medical practitioner is guilty of infamous conduct when in defence to the patient's religious objection to blood transfusion, he failed either to adopt such course of treatment; or, terminate his medical contract; or refer the patient to another health institution or another medical doctor.

The facts which led to this question are largely undisputed and can be briefly stated. Mrs. Martha Okorie ("the patient") and her husband belonged to a religious sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that blood transfusion is contrary to God's injunction. They take their stand from the scriptures. In Leviticus 17:10-11 God said:

"And I will turn my face against anyone, whether an Israelite or a foreigner living among you who eats blood in any form. I will excommunicate him from his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given you the blood to sprin…

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