Should We Allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to Die?

Two cases involving Jehovah Witnesses who refused blood transfusions are in the news: a 22-year-old with sickle cell anaemia who died in the UK and a 4-year-old girl in Australia who lived after a court-ordered transfusion.

In Britain, a 22-year-old man refused a blood transfusion. After consulting lawyers, his doctors decided to respect his decision and he passed away after about three weeks in hospital. There were concerns that the man’s mother, who was with him when he died, and an elder from his church were exerting an undue influence. However, a doctor assessed him and declared that he was fully aware of what he was doing.

At the moment there are no substitutes for blood transfusions that can be offered to Jehovah’s Witnesses although researchers predict that a product will be available in 5 to 10 years.

In Adelaide, the parents of a four-year-old with leukaemia refused to allow her to have the blood transfusion she needed. Her father told the media:  “We adhere to strict Bible principles and one of those is to abstain from blood. We want the best possible treatment for (her) and the hospital are doing a great job. The only thing we don’t consent to is the issue of blood.”

The South Australian Supreme Court ordered the hospital to give her a transfusion, which had a 90% chance of saving her life. “I’m satisfied that there are no alternatives to the provision of a blood transfusion. I’m satisfied that it’s in (the girl’s) best interest to received [sic] the blood transfusion despite her parents’ objections,” said Justice Richard White.

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Michael Cook likes bad puns, bushwalking and black coffee. He did a BA at Harvard University in the US where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a PhD on an obscure corner of Australian literature. He has worked as a book editor and magazine editor and has published articles in magazines and newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia.

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