At some point in the coming weeks or months, one 14-year-old British Columbia girl may be wheeled into a hospital. If this happens, a tube will be fitted into her body and she will be given a stranger's blood. It will be done against her will, and that of her parents; she may have to be restrained. This is not a medieval ritual. It is modern medicine by law, performed on a citizen who is intelligent and lucid, but who happens to be under-age and belong to a faith that does not believe in blood transfusions. Legally, she is a 'mature minor'. But she is not mature enough to make up her own mind about her medical care. The state will not let her be identified; it wants to protect juveniles from publicity. It will also 'protect' her from her parents, and remove her from their care if it has to. For her part, the girl told the court that a forced blood transfusion would make her feel 'sexually assaulted, or raped, or robbed'. The judge, a woman, sympathised but ruled that no matter how she felt now, she would have to accept the blood. The girl is a Jehovah's Witness and she has cancer in her leg. Doctors say that a blood transfusion is not necessarily a matter of life or death, but they need a 'safety net' in case chemotherapy does not work. This medical worry, so well-intentioned, overrides the girl's freedom to practise her religion as she sees fit. I put this real-life case to a number of my graduate students at the University of British Columbia. I expected some sympathy for the girl and her parents. But I found none. 'The girl has obviously been brainwashed,' said one journalism student. 'Why else would she refuse something that could save her life?' Another student said that the girl falls into the same category as the old and the infirm on life support. 'They are not able to decide for themselves.' I do not know any Jehovah's Witnesses. When they come to my door, I politely decline to engage in conversation. Sometimes, they come with their entire families, including children, and it is hard to turn them away. It is with this same zeal that they adhere to the Scriptures which says, in Genesis: 'Only flesh with its soul - its blood - you must not eat.' A former secretary of the Canadian Medical Association said it makes him nervous when courts meet in the middle of the night 'to remove a child from his parent's custody'. And the philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote that mankind benefits more when it allows individuals 'to live as seems good to themselves'. But in matters of life and death, we fall into the embrace of the modern welfare state - whether we like it or not.