BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, JEHOVAH’S WITNESS FAMILIES, AND THE LAW
“The day’s news tells of a mother who sacrificed six ounces of her blood in a transfusion for her baby girl. Strange that the busy press should even consider this news. A mother who wouldn’t consent to a blood transfusion for her child would be much greater news, and the world a sorry place indeed on the day that such news is found!” — Columnist Allene Sumner, in 1926.
Since the WatchTower Society first stopped Jehovah’s Witnesses from accepting blood transfusions in 1945, there has been a stream of state and federal court cases which have slowly but surely chipped away at the moral concept that to allow an adult or a child to needlessly die inside a hospital setting is something unconscionable to our modern society. However, such has nearly been completely accomplished — thanks to the tireless efforts of the WatchTower Society’s Legal Department.
The law in the United States regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses and their refusal to accept blood transfusions is somewhat settled, although subject to exceptions. Most competent adults have the constitutional right to refuse to accept a blood transfusion, even if such refusal means they will die. Every year in the United States, an unknown number of adult Jehovah’s Witnesses exercise their constitutional right to choose death over a life-saving blood transfusion. For every account of such death that is reported in the news media, there are an unknown multiple number of instances that go unreported due to ever-tightening confidentiality rules that restrain medical and hospital staff from disclosing the fact that a JW death was actually due to the deceased’s refusal to accept a blood transfusion, or the refusal of consent by the JW next-of-kin. For example, recently, a high-profile JW was seriously injured in an auto accident. Multiple local media sources implied or outright stated that the JW died at the scene of the accident. A few media sources reported that the JW was pronounced dead on arrival at the ER. One lone media article reported that the high-profile JW not only was alive on arrival at the hospital, but that the JW’s family members even had time to come to the hospital, and that the injured JW died at some point thereafter. Does anyone seriously doubt that blood transfusions were an issue in that death?
(Commercial break. This also explains why these two websites almost always contain more details and more accurate summaries than other websites. We try to exhaust every information source available at the time of summary before we post such. We only recently posted a summary of a court case that we have known about for a decade or longer. The delay resulted from our wait on verification that some of the principle actors were JWs, as we had long suspected. End of commercial.)
Adult Jehovah’s Witness Parents and Guardians also will attempt to impose the same “death decision” on their minor children, but practically every hospital will attempt to obtain a court order which will permit them to administer medically necessary blood transfusions over the parent’s objections — assuming that the Jehovah’s Witness Child is still alive by the time all the legalities are completed. Courts in the United States will nearly always appoint a temporary legal guardian under such circumstances to oversee and guarantee necessary medical care.
Readers should be aware that there have been a few isolated instances of inept judges who have refused the hospital’s request for guardianship and consent to administer needed blood transfusions. Readers should also be aware that there have been a few isolated instances of hospitals which had administrative staff sympathetic to the WatchTower religion who have failed to even attempt to obtain judicial intervention. THESE ARE ADDITIONAL REASONS WHY THERE IS A NEED FOR A NATIONAL MOVEMENT TO HAVE EVERY STATE LEGISLATURE CODIFY THEIR OWN STATE’S SUPREME COURT DECISION WHICH ALREADY RULES THAT JEHOVAH’S WITNESS CHILDREN ARE LEGALLY ENTITLED TO LIFE-SAVING BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS.
Scenarios involving Jehovah’s Witnesses Minors nearing the age of majority, pregnant JW Mothers and their “fetuses”, and adult JWs who have existing parental obligations, are less settled, but are heading in the anticipated direction.
One of the benefits of studying the decades-long stream of court cases which have gradually given Jehovah’s Witnesses the legal rights they now have regarding blood transfusions is learning about and understanding how during this decades-long process, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have shared ideals and legal precedents with other groups which had common legal causes and interests.
For instance, the continued fight for legalization of abortion shares some of the same arguments as does the continuing blood transfusions issue as it relates to “unborn children”, or as Jehovah’s Witnesses prefer to label them when arguing such court cases — “fetuses”. Legal precedents have been shared by both groups. Opening the way to reject blood transfusions opens the way for other life-saving medical procedures to be refused. Right-to-die and assisted suicide advocates share some common arguments with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One can’t help but wonder if and how often attorneys from some of these groups assisted the others with their own causes in order to help their own cause.
Another “light bulb” that finally came on during this legal study answered my decades-long curiosity as to why there were enclaves of Jehovah’s Witnesses scattered around the United States who were adamant supporters of the “home birth” industry, which usually involves the services of midwives, but occasionally has also involved a few physicians. Now, I know why. One can only wonder how many hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of Jehovah’s Witness newborn babies, who needed a blood transfusion to survive, died because their birth occurred outside a hospital setting. One can only wonder how many Jehovah’s Witness families with known genetic problems, such as Rh factor incompatibility, repeatedly had baby, after baby, after baby, as those parents simply played a numbers game waiting for one to eventually survive. The evidence is inside.