An Ikeja High Court has ordered government hospitals in Lagos State to stop demanding compulsory blood donations from women seeking antenatal and maternity services.
Justice Raliat Adebiyi, in the judgment delivered on Monday, also restrained government hospitals in Lagos from demanding blood donations from spouses and other relations of pregnant women seeking antenatal and maternity services.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the judgment was delivered following a fundamental human rights suit filed by the trustees of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The respondents to the suit are; Attorney-General of Lagos State, Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State.
“The respondents contributions to child and maternal deaths stands to reason. Though no data on the child and maternal mortalities recorded as a result of the policy was provided to the court.
“A policy that will deny citizens the right to medical care based on failure to donate blood is not only unconstitutional but unconscionable and adverse to the life and wellbeing of all citizens that access the respondent’s facilities,” she said.
Justice Adebiyi declared that the actions of the respondent’s in demanding compulsory blood donation from those seeking maternity services as “arbitrary, unfair and a violation of their human rights as enshrined in Section 38(1) of the 1999 Constitution”.
She said that the actions of the hospitals and facilities were violations of and a denial of the rights of the residents of Lagos to a system of health protection.
According to her, the health system is expected to provide equality of opportunity as guaranteed under Articles 2 (a), 3 and 12 (1) of the International Convention on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.
She also declared that the actions of the Lagos government hospitals and health facilities were a denial of the right to life as guaranteed under Section 33 of the 1999 Constitution.
“The respondents are hereby ordered to forthwith immediately stop and discontinue the policy of insisting on compulsory blood donations from patients or relatives of those seeking medical care and attention before accessing ante natal, maternal or any health services in the facilities of the respondents,” Justice Adebiyi said.
NAN reports that during Monday’s proceedings, SERAP (the claimant) was represented by Mr Oluwadare Kolawole, while the respondents were represented by Mrs Adebukola Iyilade.
SERAP, in their grounds for seeking reliefs, said that it had received complaints from residents of Lagos about the compulsory blood donation policy of government hospitals.
“The respondent’s medical facilities have consistently denied access to their medical facilities to anyone who declined to be a part of any blood donation as a result of their religious tenets, cultural leanings, their thoughts etc.
“Notable among these is the Ifako Hospital in Ifako Ijaiye and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), which have rigidly maintained this policy,” SERAP said in court documents.
The human rights group said the action of the government hospitals was discriminatory and a gross violation of Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
The respondents, however, said employees of government hospitals in the state have maintained world class medical practice and have never discriminated against citizens based on creed and religion.
They noted that the demand for compulsory blood donations from patients seeking maternity services was borne out of necessity and empathy.
“In case of emergency and in order to obviate the need to look for a blood match, the blood of relatives who donate will be readily available to give to the mothers and babies in case of unforeseen circumstances.
“Research from medical sources have revealed that blood donation is necessary in order to fulfill obligations such as care of surgical patients and complications that may arise from pregnancies,” the respondents said.