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Sisters Hospital has a judge's permission to force a Jehovah's Witness to receive a blood transfusion in order to treat her severe post-labor breathing problems, court and hospital officials confirmed today.

Although the hospital has had the permission since 8 p.m. Monday, the 30-year-old Buffalo woman's condition has stabilized, and hospital staff members have held off on the procedure through midday today, hospital spokesman Dennis McCarthy said.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas F. McGowan granted the hospital permission to treat the woman, whose religion prohibits blood transfusions, after he gave her husband until 8 p.m. Monday to find a doctor who might treat her without blood transfusions, court officials said.

The case represents the first time the hospital has had to go to court to force a Jehovah's Witness to submit to blood transfusions, McCarthy said.

The woman developed pneumonia after giving birth Wednesday to her second child through a Caesarean section.

The Jehovah's Witness religion forbids blood transfusions based on biblical interpretation.

Myron Parnell, a Jehovah's Witnesses minister at the North Study on Medford Road, said the Sisters Hospital case may not be the first in the area because hospitals like to keep such proceedings quiet.

"It does happen," he said, despite the religion's teachings. Parnell is not involved in the Sisters Hospital case and was not aware of it when contacted to comment.

Hospital officials and lawyers began legal proceedings Monday after Dr. Norman Sfeir, a Sisters Hospital pulmonary medicine specialist, indicated to superiors that the woman would need life-saving transfusions, court officials said.

Neither McCarthy nor Tamar P. Halpern, a Sisters Hospital lawyer who is working on the case, would disclose the identity of the patient. According to court officials, the woman was represented during proceedings before McGowan by her husband and several Jehovah's Witness elders.

According to court papers obtained by The Buffalo News, the hospital told the judge that chances of the woman's medical condition improving without blood transfusion are "highly unlikely."

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