New Zealand ‘Baby W’ case: boy has surgery after court gives doctors guardianship

<span>Photograph: Michael Craig/AP</span>
Photograph: Michael Craig/AP

A baby who was placed in his doctors’ care because his parents refused to consent to a transfusion of “vaccinated blood” for the operation, has had life-saving surgery, the parents’ lawyer has said.

Sue Grey confirmed to broadcaster RNZ on Friday afternoon that the boy, identified only as “Baby W”, had had the procedure and was doing well.

Related: New Zealand anti-vax guardianship case: how rare is it and what powers do courts have?

On Wednesday this week, a New Zealand high court judge ruled in favour of health authorities who sought guardianship of the baby boy so his open-heart operation could proceed at Auckland’s Starship hospital. The six-month-old would not survive without urgent surgery for a congenital heart defect. His parents said they were unwilling to proceed unless they were given a guarantee he would receive blood only from unvaccinated donors.

The high court decision placed the boy in the guardianship of his paediatric heart surgeon and cardiologist so the surgery could proceed. The guardianship will last through his post-operative recovery – likely to be January 2023 at the latest. The parents retain guardianship in all other matters.

On Thursday morning the parents said, via lawyer Grey, that they would not appeal against the decision, and would prioritise a “peaceful time with their baby until the operation, and to support him through the operation”.

But later that day, Justice Ian Gault was forced to issue a minute ordering the parents to allow the doctors’ to make preparations for the surgery, after the health service reported they were obstructing staff taking blood tests, performing a chest X-ray and performing an anaesthetic assessment.

Gault pointed out that the issue of the surgery itself had not been in question in the original matter, but now the parents “evidently do not consent to the surgery or pre-operative checks” and he would therefore need to make further orders to enable the surgery to proceed.

The landmark case is expected to have wide-ranging ramifications, drawing global attention and becoming a focus of protests for the anti-vaxxer movement. On Friday morning, a few dozen anti-vaccination protesters and supporters of the parents gathered outside the hospital.