Another Death By Jehovah

15-year old Joshua McAuley was crushed by a car and taken to a hospital. Unfortunately, because he was a Jehovah’s Witness, he refused to receive a blood transfusion. And then he died.

I don’t know what his condition would have been like even if he had accepted the blood, but no doubt there are many cases of JWs who die preventable deaths because of their silly superstition.

Do the parents deserve the blame? If they explicitly gave doctors the command to not give him blood, yes. But that’s not the case here. It looks like the kid made the decision for himself.

Do we blame the parents for brainwashing him? Perhaps… but it was ultimately his decision. If you want to blame the parents, you really have to blame the whole church. (And that shouldn’t be out of the question.)

Can we blame the doctors? I can’t understand how or why they would let a child die. This isn’t a person facing the end of life and choosing to die on their own terms; this is a child with most of his life still ahead of him. The doctors have a duty to keep him alive.

There’s a lengthy discussion about all this in the threads at Unreasonable Faith that’s worth checking out.

***Update***: In Australia, a 10-year-old boy was facing similar circumstances. He has an “aggressive form of cancer” that requires blood transfusions.

This time, the hospital is overriding the parents’ objections.

The boy seems more clearly brainwashed:

In a statement read to the court, the boy said transfusions carried spiritual consequences.

“The doctors have told me I might die and I don’t want to – but I don’t want blood,” he said.

“The blood will change me… when you take blood, you are taking someone else’s life.

“I really don’t want this and my heart is ripping apart.”

In his statement, the boy said he feared a transfusion would “make the Creator unhappy”.

“If I listen to my Creator then there will be a Paradise, which is like a new life,” he said.

“If I die, I will get another chance of living.

“But I still want to live now because I’m finding my life really good and I’m liking it.”

And, again, the parents are equally deluded:

The boy’s father said the application felt like “an unwanted attack” on his family’s beliefs.

“I love my son, I love him more than I love myself,” he said.

“If the court orders a transfusion, I will love him the same as before, and I will follow the law.

“But my son will suffer emotional and spiritual consequences for the rest of his life… he will always, in his own head, be unhappy.”

Right… until the day arrives when he comes to his senses, realizes he could’ve died because of his parents’ wacky religious beliefs, and thanks the doctors who saved his life.

If these doctors can do it, why can’t Joshua McAuley’s doctors?

(Thanks to Craig for the link)

  • Evilspud

    Given the number of deaths that occur, and I’m thinking aloud here, would it be unreasonable to pass legislation that discourages, or makes it a crime medical opinions from unqualified professionals that results in death or irreversible harm?

    This could also apply to homeopathic remedies, it could shut down gay rehabilitation programs, and prevent churches from preaching practices that result in death from negligence or poor judgement.

    This is just my opinion however, but I do believe that churches are overstepping their boundaries as community centers and spiritual sanctuaries. Many chrches pride themselves as leaders and representatives f the local community, and I wouldn’t mind that so much if there practices reflected that.

  • Matt Johnson

    How come a 15 yo kid gets to make the choice about life saving surgery. I thought, as a minor, any decision like that would automatically fall to the parents. Therefore maybe they did refuse on his behalf?

  • WHOABABY

    As far as I know about the laws of consent, a 15 year old with this person’s circumstances has no say about what life saving techniques can be performed on him. In the absence of parents, it is assumed that the parents would do anything to keep their children alive.

    The parents (provided the child did not have any of the exceptions to minor consent) would have had to refuse for him. However, the law has so many gray areas that sometimes it is very tough for a medical professional to act without getting screwed over in one way.

    As far as the whole situation goes. I don’t believe it is right for anyone who has custody of a minor to be allowed to refuse life-saving service for that person. Everybody loses in that situation, and it makes doctors afraid to act when the circumstances lie in the gray area of the law.

  • Claudia

    I think we need to really stop to consider to what degree a 15 year old is a “kid”. Sure he’s deluded, but can we honestly say that he’s too young to know what’s good for him? What if he were asking for blood and his parents, as the adults, were overrruling him? We’d be all for his right to self-determination then. Depending on what state he’s in, he could be tried as an adult if he committed a crime, so you would think he would have some control over his own body.

    I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have been overruled, neccesarily, but I am saying that its a much more complex subject than one would like to think and it can have unintended consequences. I remember a teen being forced by the state to submit to chemo. He had gone through several rounds before and his chances of surviving were very low. He was an older teen and he said he’d rather die peacefully than go through that hell again. His parents supported him, but the doctors overruled them all. Older teens are tricky business, and though I generally approve of overruling insane religious objections, in the case of not-quite-children not-yet-adults, its more complex than one might imagine.

  • JD

    Age 14 used to be considered adulthood in ages past, I don’t know if that was legal adulthood, but it was ritual adulthood. That has been gradually pushed up over time, a lot of it in the past generation or so. For example, my parent’s generation often got married shortly after high school, now mid-20s might be the average and still people think that’s young. I recall that the brain really doesn’t mature until about age 25.

  • JD

    To add, it’s pretty clear that Jehovah’s Witness doctrine doesn’t understand biology. People can readily make and replace blood, no one’s life is shortened with a proper blood donation. No one’s heart gets torn apart, accepting blood doesn’t change who you are. The blood you get by transfusion will eventually be replaced by your own over the coming weeks after recovery because those cells wear out and get replaced.

  • MW

    I agree with Claudia on this one. Where I live (Quebec), age of consent for medical procedures is 14, I’m pretty sure. Which means a 14 year-old girl can go to her family doc and ask to be prescribed the pill without her parents needing to find out; which also means that a 15 year-old can choose to refuse treatment (unless he’s ruled to be “mentally unfit” or something, I suppose). We can argue about what the cut-off age ought to be, but I think I agree with that in principle, even if the consequences are sometimes tragic (but would it be less tragic if he had been 18, really?)

  • Dave

    I was raised as a JW and I remember them being very proud of various court cases they won giving them the right to refuse blood transfusions and from being forced by doctors to accept them. In some cases, such as very young children, local and state authorities have been successful in removing the children from the parents and forcing responsible and adequate medical treatment, but these are too few in my opinion. Beyond just children being harmed, some studies suggest that the rate of maternal death during and immediately after child birth is 44% higher for those who refuse blood transfusions. Oh yeah, they’re pro-life, too. Ha!

  • Hitch

    Unfortunately the pro-life thing is a consistent position. The bible says: Thou shalt not kill. It does not say Thou shalt prevent deaths.

    The first is a human action, the second is “an act of god”.

    That’s the problem with 2k year old books that are holy. There is no refinement or iteration over the moral code. If the authors didn’t think of an important case, well… it’s not there. And if they did think of something but it’s wrong-headed, it stays around for very long.

  • http://hryun.com Vinícius O. E.

    I’m an atheist and I think JWs are sickos. How can you let a beloved relative die just because your religion says something is forbidden?!

    I don’t think we should blame the doctors in these cases because the patient is the only person that can decide what can be done to his/her body. The doctors can’t simply ignore the patients will and do whatever they want, even if the patient is a religious nutjob that wanna die. For example, if a patient is morbidly obese and is going to die if he/she doesn’t lose weight quickly, the doctor can’t force the person to do a bariatric surgery. Same for blood transfusion, the doctors can’t force someone to do that.

    Please understand that I’m not defending JWs and their stupid beliefs. I don’t know who is responsible for the boy’s death, but it’s surely not the doctors.

  • Hitch

    I don’t think anybody is blaming the doctor. I certainly agree to the agency over body principle.

    The question of a line is mostly where children can decide, and whether parents can be removed from their role as guardians when they make harmful or negligent decisions for their children. What age should define that line when child protection agencies can step in and make the guardian decision.

  • Andrew Morgan

    OMFG I HATE RELIGION AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH

    Okay, sorry, just had to get that out.

    Ugh. There are better ways to start Tuesday mornings.

  • Steve

    I think there is an interesting contradiction between the claims these people make in this circumstance and those made by anti-abortion advocates. The religious groups would fight tooth and nail to prevent someone else (the government) from stepping in to provide medical coverage that would potentially save a human life because it would cause them to give up control of their bodies. I find it very interesting that these are the same people who want to take that right away from other people when it comes to an abortion. I guess I should not expect rational behavior from the religious but a person can dream.

  • Azzere

    It seems so silly to me, people *give* their blood willingly so that others may benefit from it. Whats wrong with accepting that?? I don’t get it.

  • cathy

    @Hitch, well put, though I suspect that the line is very individualistic. Not all fifteen year olds are equally mature. The question, for me, is one of compentance (for minors), which is something that can be evaluated by professionals, but such an evaluation might be impossible due to the timing constraints in an emergency.

  • Greg

    What is the position in the US for euthanasia?

    It seems to me there are tie-ins between euthanasia and this JW belief.

    Is euthanasia legal? Are there provisions taken to prevent people from euthanasia (or suicide, for that matter) as a result of the state’s judgements upon their mental health?

    If so, then it strikes me that the state is implicitly endorsing a religion unless they step in and force the blood transfusion.

  • Hitch
  • Phoena

    If Christians really believe that heaven is a better place, one would think they would be in a hurry to get there. So if he felt this was “god’s will” and that he’s going to a better place, well, at least he’s being consistent in his beliefs.

    JW’s take a line from Leviticus 17:11 which says that the soul or the life of the person is in the blood, which is why they believe you shouldn’t share blood. If they want to believe that, that’s their right. At least they apply their beliefs only to themselves. If Baptists believed this shit (but they are too chickenshit to) they would be trying to pass legislation to deny ALL people blood transfusions.

    I have a bigger problem with all the Christiana who preach “god’s will” and “heaven is a better place” but then they’ll do anything to keep alive for fear of dying, any extraordinary measures, and will override “god’s will” at every pass, being completely inconsistent.

  • Daniel

    As a die-hard Atheist who reads this blog very often, I find it almost insulting that you continue to use the word “deluded” even when that was the most common topic in the “what do other atheists do that you hate?” Also note: Blood isn’t magical, it doesn’t automatically save someone’s life. In the AU case, generally “very aggressive cancer” does not mean “able to be automatically fixed.”

    “Consuming” blood is specifically forbidden in the Bible. Witnesses believe this extends to any sort of blood entering your body, including transfusions. Because of this, the Witness church has funded breakthrough medical procedures that have ended up saving lives, specifically to avoid blood transfusions (which are dangerous and expensive to begin with).

    While I understand that it may seem stupid to someone who’s not in a crisis of faith, understand that these people are (in their minds) literally choosing between eternal salvation and life. They believe that if they refuse the blood, they go straight to heaven. With the blood, they go to hell. Consumption of blood is forbidden the same way murder is. It’s a permanent violation of their covenant with their god.

    As for laws limiting the parents’ power in medical situations: who will pay? Let’s assume a different situation that many of you (being amateur “logicians”) would be familiar with: The story of Dr. Gregory House. Imagine if House were 15 instead of 30 at the time his leg began to deteriorate. His parents allowed him to make the decision, and he demanded that they keep his leg, despite the chances of death and permanent disfigurement. The state steps in because House is being “delusional” and his leg is chopped off. Does the STATE pay the bill for the amputation, rehab, and 60 years of prosthetics? The patient didn’t give consent, why should he have to pay?

    Refrain from using personal insults and ad hominem arguments when attacking, especially the Witnesses. They’re the most logical of the sects in my opinion. I was raised Catholic, lived in the Baptist Bible Belt for 10 years, and have 2 very close Witness friends. There’s a council of elders that makes logical decisions on the global rules for the Witnesses, and they focus specifically on the blood question. Yes, they have the irrational belief in an invisible sky man who frowns on blood transfusions, but when they’re lying on their death bed is the last time you should be trying to convert them. All these atheists who write in to Richard asking what to do when their so-and-so is dying and a priest comes by will turn around and scream about Witnesses the next day. Live and let live, or at least be civil. The kid was dying, and may not have lived regardless of the doctor’s actions. Let him die with his dignity and his faith and a hope of an afterlife, he was just a kid.

  • Chris J

    “If these doctors can do it, why can’t Joshua McAuley’s doctors?”

    I actually work part time in a level 1 trauma center and this is one of those issues that everybody hates while in the ER. If you have time to go through court and get a parent’s decision overruled, then awesome, one less wrongful death. But if a patient just shows up in the trauma room, a whole different set of rules applies. If they arrive unconscious or unresponsive, you operate under the assumption that this person wants every modern medical amenity possible in order to save their life. If they are conscious on the other hand, they generally have to consent to whatever you want to treat them with. Thankfully, doctors also have the power to take away someone’s civil rights and treat them anyway if the patient cannot seem to understand the consequences of their decisions. A doctor could conceivably fudge the paperwork and treat an unwilling patient with lifesaving medication/blood transfusions despite the patient understanding the consequences of their decisions, but most would never do that lest they risk losing their license.

    We should definitely have better laws, possibly to where if you show up in the ER as a minor, the doctor can be the only one who decides on the course of treatment. That solution is still subject to abuse like crazy though.

    On the bright side, more blood for the rest of us!

  • JimG

    “If these doctors can do it, why can’t Joshua McAuley’s doctors?”

    Probably because of the differing amounts of time involved. McAuley was in an emergency situation, and needed the blood right then. If he was conscious and refusing it, and perhaps if his parents were on hand and also vehemently rejecting a transfusion, the doctors wouldn’t have had time to get legal advice before it was too late. The Australian doctors must have hesitated too (it’s obvious that they did, since the case made it to court), but I guess they have a longer time available to hash things out, in which cancer treatment will still be effective. If they had a sudden crisis like McAuley’s doctors, the Australian boy might not get the blood he needs either.

  • Greg

    Hitch – cheers for the link – to be honest, my question was more rhetorical than anything, but I am interested to see that euthanasia is legal in some states.

    I just wanted to point out how wrong it seems to me that allowing someone to die can be acceptable if the person that chooses death does so as a result of a religious belief, and yet not acceptable otherwise, no matter how strong the wishes of the person wishing to die.

    Especially as I can think of far more reasonable reasons to choose an end to your life than religion.

    However, this point would, I guess, be better made on a case involving an adult than a minor, which adds its own baggage.

  • Frank

    The doctors are completely blameless here. If I, with no medical training, inject a person with anything (even simple water) against their will, that is an assault, it is a crime for which I can go to jail. The position of a medical doctor isn’t actually all that different. If they give the kid blood after the kid has explicitly said he doesn’t want it, that is a crime for which the doctor can go to jail. A person has a right to control their own body, this is the whole basis of the pro-choice position that most people here believe in, and it is also the basis of the right to refuse medical treatment. A younger child would be a different matter, but I think a 15 year old is old enough to decide for himself whether he wants the transfusion. Of course his decision was the result of the religious beliefs his parents imposed on him, but since it seems he accepted and was willing to die on the basis of those beliefs, I don’t think the parents or the church should be criminally responsible in this case. Again, a younger kid would be different, but 15 seems old enough to make the decision for himself.

  • Farley

    Daniel is entirely correct about his analyzation of the situation with JW’s.

    Except this: “They believe that if they refuse the blood, they go straight to heaven. With the blood, they go to hell.”

    JW’s don’t believe everyone of them goes to heaven, only 144,000. The others will either be resurrected (along with everyone else who has died before Armageddon) if they die, or will live through Armageddon. They also believe there is no hell, just death.

    Everyone dies eventually. JW’s believe it’s better to die with a clean conscience with the promise of resurrection to a world paradise (the original intent of us being here) than to try and live just a few more months or years in this current pathetic system of things which holds no such promise.

    Finally. I don’t see much of anything “friendly” about this site, unless being friendly towards other athiests’ views is the only thing that counts.

  • Firewerks

    I don’t think the “no blood transfusion” tenet is too logical and I find it a shame that people have lost their lives to it. I understand it is a tenet of your faith, but really?

    Instead of giving doctors and health care professionals a law that allows them to overstep “illogical/unprofessional” medical decisions why not just give the JW’s a blood bank of their own? The JW’s would donate their /own/ blood in case of emergency and then if they become ill/hurt their /own/ blood will be available for transfusion to themselves?

    EX.) Alex, a JW, donates his own blood to the JW Blood Bank in 2009. In 2010 he is in a car accident and has lost a critical amount of blood. He requires a transfusion or he /will/ die. He then simply has access to his own blood that he himself donated a year prior for his own use in case of an emergency thereby saving his own life and spiritual integrity.

    The logistics of getting the blood to the person could be a bit hairy, but it’d beat trying to grind through nastier legislation…

    Or has this been through the JW Elders and still found to be in religious violation?

  • Claudia

    @Daniel sorry what? They’re making logical choices? Well yes, within their totally topsy-turvy world where letting a child die is preferable to letting them receive a blood transfusion yes, it’s totally logical. It’s also completely logical for men to kill their daughters for being disobedient because according to their logic the family honour must come first.
    It’s not logical if the rules you are following are totally absurd to start with. And don’t get me started on how insanely selective the prohibition on blood transfusions is. I’ve read that part of the Bible. The prohibition on blood is preceded and followed by a list of prohibitions and directions for food long enough to make your head spin. I don’t see JHs keeping Kosher.
    I do see that there is a legitimate debate to be had about the age at which someone has a right to choose his or her treatment or lack thereof, whatever their motivations. There is another perfectly legitimate debate to be had about whether doctors can impose treatments that don’t have strong probabilities of success. Often both of these things must be treated on a case by case basis. However pretending that the JW allowing children to die (or Christian scientists, or anyone for that matter) from clearly preventable ailments is acceptable no matter the rationalization goes beyond the pale. Its not about converting anybody, its about whether we let utterly arbitrary religious mandates overrule the right of a child to live.

  • http://chunkymonkeymind.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

    The JWs do follow an internal logic, but they are not the unassuming, respectable religion that they seem to be. I spent 20 years as a hardcore JW believer. They are taught from infancy that the Governing Body (their leaders at headquarters) are speaking in behalf of God and the members must do EVERY FREAKIN’ THING the GB says or God will kill them.

    Questioning the GB is out of the question. You are prohibited from having relationships outside of the group, and if you’re excommunicated, everyone you know will shun you (on top of God killing you, soon, very soon).

    Of course the JWs think this is an attack on their faith. They are taught to believe that EVERYTHING is an attack on their faith and use that as proof that they are God’s only chosen people and that he will soon destroy everyone else on the planet.

    Had I needed a transfusion at 15, I would have fought it. Because I was raised to believe that anything printed in the Watchtower was unquestionable fact and an order from God. I would be grateful now if someone interceded to save my life.

    These people are brainwashed from infancy. And I don’t mean in a “my skydaddy loves me” kind of way, but in a “pass me the kool-aid” kind of way.

  • fiddler

    @Daniel WHAT?? “dangerous and expensive” ? Transfusions are one of the simplest, safest, and cheapest procedures that occur in hospitals.
    Then again you just called them logical without tearing your stomach muscles laughing, perhaps you are unaware of modern medicine and the ethics of killing children by decree.

  • Daniel

    @Claudia: According to modern christian theology (for most of the sects), the new testament overrides a lot of the old. IF you believe that, you believe that the food restrictions (kosher) are wiped away, but the blood restrictions are not. The more mainstream sects are much looser on their restrictions, but the rules are still internally consistent, at least for the Witnesses (as far as I’ve seen).

    That’s INTERNALLY consistent, not externally. Of course their assumptions are wrong, but he’s making a choice because of his beliefs. It was a stupid choice, but he believed it to be the right one.

    In the case of this particular kid (or man or whatever word we want to use), he was obviously lucid enough to make the decision to die, and we shouldn’t be insulting him after the fact, especially not in the manner of the posters here already. Just look at Greg, a few posts up from here:

    “Especially as I can think of far more reasonable reasons to choose an end to your life than religion.”

    He can apparently think of FAR MORE REASONABLE reasons to choose to die rather than a lifelong total devotion to an ideal.

    Again, what I’m saying is that you cannot attack the logical decisions or the person, you have to attack the assumptions that got them there.

    When the children are minors, it’s a very difficult legal position, especially when it comes to medicine. No medical procedure is guaranteed to do anything, and things go horribly wrong every day. Even when the doctor does everything right, things can still go wrong. Forcing people to violate their religion on the CHANCE that they will be saved is wrong, even if it’s a child. The slippery slope argument applies: At what point will you stop overriding the parent’s decisions, and who will pay? Disregard religion, it blinds people. What about the situation above, with the child with the damaged leg? What about conjoined twins, or a pregnant teenager who may be saved by an abortion or may make it through just fine? Should we forcibly remove limbs or fetuses because it’s been shown to have a higher percentage of survival than not doing so? Where does it end?

    It sounds easy when you say it, because you use phrases like “clearly preventable,” apparently ignoring the very point that I made in my first paragraph: “Very aggressive cancer” is not “clearly preventable.” It may be treatable. Some treatments may work better in the short term than doing nothing at all, but to these people, their eternal salvation (or whatever) is worth more than a possibility at an extra 3 weeks of life.

    They’re wrong, but let them be wrong in private. They have alternative medicine they could be using (that’s alternative actual treatments, not “alternative medicine” like accupuncture) and the established mainline, cheapest-and-quickest option is dangerous and not guaranteed. Medicine is not open and shut, it’s a gamble every single time. They’re gambling in a way that most of us have agreed is wrong, but it’s their right to do so. If you start getting self-righteous about “no right to allow their children to die because of their religious beliefs” then you’re planting yourself firmly in the anti-abortion debate camp. I don’t hate children or want them to die, but I support personal freedom and the right to choose medical treatment for you and for anyone you have the power of attorney for. That’s why that sort of thing exists. Keep the government out of it.

  • Daniel

    @fiddler

    After exactly 2 seconds on google:
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1670523,00.html

    Note that the doctor they quote says “it makes no sense.” There are problems with transfusions we cannot even begin to understand.

    They’re still the best treatment option in most cases, but I’m sick of everyone on this site saying “haha look at the morons who question science, the only thing you should question is religion don’t they know that!?”

    Medicine is far from perfect. JWs don’t accept certain parts of medicine for dogmatic reasons. That’s wrong, but it’s hardly a caveman refusing sterilized water.

    @Palaverer — I never said they were perfect, they’re just as bad as any other niche religion. JWs, like all religious governing bodies, need to be stopped. My POINT was that their internal reasoning is consistent, something you didn’t disprove. IF YOU ASSUME that god is real and he forbids blood transfusions, then all the rest of their decisions are sound. While a child lays dying isn’t the time to drag the parents away for a theological discussion that usually takes years.

  • Aj

    It was his choice, he gets a nice shiny Darwin award. Fuck yes, I blame the parents for brain washing him. Child abuse…

  • dartigen

    Unfortunately, if a patient refuses treatment, they refuse treatment. A doctor can’t do anything. But AFAIK, at 15 you are still under the legal guardianship of your parents (and remain so until 16 in Australia) unless you have been legally emancipated. Therefore, your parents are the only ones who can refuse treatment.

  • Stephen P

    As a die-hard Atheist who reads this blog very often, I find it almost insulting that you continue to use the word “deluded” even when that was the most common topic in the “what do other atheists do that you hate?”

    The post was “What Do Atheists Do That Frustrates You?” (not ‘hate’) and there were just two comments complaining about the use of the word deluded/delusion out of 239 (bar any that I missed due to misspellings).

    “Consuming” blood is specifically forbidden in the Bible.

    I’ve just checked six editions in four different languages and they all refer explicitly to eating blood. How you can assert that it is logical that this includes blood transfusions is beyond me.

    Live and let live …

    Apparently you mean ‘live and let die’.

  • Daniel

    @stephen — Congratulations, you’ve decided to post a brilliant riposte to the portions of my argument that have no bearing on the initial message.

    Acts 15:29 (NIV) You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

    Acts 15:29 (KJV) That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

    Unless you believe god doesn’t want his people to EAT fornication, you’ve done a poor job of researching.

    Honestly, I find myself arguing with fundamentalists that discard my central thesis and choose to either attack me personally or point out niggling details where I was technically incorrect. This is strangely familiar territory…

  • Farley

    I really wasn’t trying to be nitpicky, but the elimination of the idea that a person would burn for eternity in hell if they took blood explains a lot toward why JW’s aren’t scared not to do it.

    Well, they might be scared, but it doesn’t discourage them.

  • Claudia

    @Daniel, I’m afraid that I don’t share your admiration for internal consistency. I’m not going to get into the fact that they decided that this one part of the veeeeeryyyyy looooooong number of Bad Things in the Old Testament is somehow vitally important (moreso than, say, shellfish, or not shaving). Let’s assume there are rock solid theological grounds for this. So the fuck what? How does that make it an ounce more respectable? Does the fact that Islam explicitly allows for the rape of 9 year old girls “married” to older men make even slightly more acceptable?

    Are there complexities in medical decisions? You bet. Does a sufficiently competent person have a right to deny themselves treatment no matter how silly the reason? Yes, even though teens are a problem territory. Should parents be given the right to deny treatment to their child if there is reason to suspect the balance of benefit vs. suffering is not worth it (as in the case of some chemo treatments). I think so, yes, though my guess is that these really do need to be taken on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, both doctors and parents place as the ultimate first priority the wellbeing of the child and they usually have very similar concepts of what that means. Conflicts occur around the edges and probably benefit from individual evaluation.

    However the right to decide aspects of the childs life does NOT translate to complete ownership of a child. Would you support the right of a father to deny his 6 year old daughter penicillin because antibiotics were created by the devil and infection is God’s punishment for disobedient girls? Do you think doctors should be totally helpless to intervene on a child’s behalf because of some arbritrary religious rule the parents impose? What if the rule is that girls recieve NO medical treatments EVER? Would you support that, if it were “internally consistent”? How far would you go?

  • EdS

    @Daniel – From the tone and content of your postings I posit that you are really a bible-thumper posing as an atheist, and that you troll atheist blogs in a lame attempt to insinuate discord. If you truly are an atheist you must understand that what was done to that 15 year old child by his religion and his parents is beneath contempt, and that there is never a good reason to turn the health of a child over to the woo-woo of an invisible superman who lives in the clouds.

  • Stephen P

    @Daniel:

    @stephen — Congratulations, you’ve decided to post a brilliant riposte to the portions of my argument that have no bearing on the initial message.

    You are making less and less sense. I respond to your first paragraph – and you complain that I did not respond to your initial message. Huh?

    You complain bitterly about a word that Hemant used, using as justification a thread that you seem to have imagined rather than read. But apparently apologies are not in order.

    As to the biblical quotes: the original prohibition is in Leviticus; the Acts passage is merely an abbreviated reference back to it and other prohibitions. That is so obvious I thought it went without saying – but not apparently in your case.

    I shan’t bother responding any further.

  • Hybrid

    Daniel Says:

    Also note: Blood isn’t magical, it doesn’t automatically save someone’s life.

    You know, seat belts aren’t magical, neither is the FAA or tooth brushing. Why, just look at all of the people who die and/or lose teeth every year in spite of those things. Gee golly, it ain’t magical, so let’s just say “screw it” to reality and decide that one answer is just as good as another.

    ““Consuming” blood is specifically forbidden in the Bible.”

    Bible also says that you’re supposed to put a parapet on your roof and murder homosexuals. Odd isn’t how these loonies always pick and choose what they think is important? They obviously don’t believe the Bible, or we’d be seeing those parapets (no doubt complete with the courses of homosexuals).

    “Because of this, the Witness church has funded breakthrough medical procedures that have ended up saving lives, specifically to avoid blood transfusions (which are dangerous and expensive to begin with).”

    Until you provide some evidence for either, I’m calling BS on both this points. You sound like a closet JW.

    “While I understand that it may seem stupid to someone who’s not in a crisis of faith, understand that these people are (in their minds) literally choosing between eternal salvation and life.”

    It’s not that it “sounds” anything, it’s that it “is”. What it “is” is stupid, it’s a waste of life, promoted by fools for fools. An adult can be a fool and waste his life, a child can’t. If the kid’s age is the problem get the laws changed.

    “They believe…”

    So if they believe they get a trip straight into heaven if they mutilate their daughter’s genitals, do we worry about what they believe and let them? How about if they decide not to feed their kids? What if they believe that child safety seats are Satan’s playthings?

    “The patient didn’t give consent, why should he have to pay?”

    For the same reason he has to pay for his food for the rest of his life when the state stepped in and kept his parents from starving him to death.

    “Refrain from using personal insults and ad hominem arguments when attacking, especially the Witnesses.”

    Concern troll is concerned.

    “They’re the most logical of the sects in my opinion.”

    Say what?? Forcing kids not to socialize outside of the cult is logical how, exactly? Unquestioning faith to your cult leaders is logical how, exactly? Letting your children die because you were stupid enough to listen to your deluded cult leadership instead of accepting evidence based reality is logical how, exactly?? Are you high??

    “Live and let live, or at least be civil.”

    Oh by all means, we can be civil. Any adult can do whatever they please. I’m not going to be civil to a group who demands that they have the power to mistreat and abuse their own children, however, and neither should anyone else.

    “The kid was dying, and may not have lived regardless of the doctor’s actions.

    Give me a break… you know, that kid may have died in the wreck regardless of him not having a car seat, he really hated it so we should have just let him die with “dignity”.

    “It was a stupid choice, but he believed it to be the right one.”

    We don’t let people who are unable to make proper decisions make “stupid” choices in our society.

    “…we shouldn’t be insulting him after the fact, especially not in the manner of the posters here already.”

    He was a fool. Perhaps an honest fool, but still a fool.

    “Forcing people to violate their religion on the CHANCE that they will be saved is wrong, even if it’s a child.”

    You make it sound as though these situations are totally up in the air. Some “chances” are much better than others. Blood transfusions are safe and reduce mortality rates greatly when they are necessary.

    “The slippery slope argument applies: At what point will you stop overriding the parent’s decisions, and who will pay?”

    When they don’t provide proper (evidence based) care for their child, and we tax payers will pay if the parents are unable.

  • Greg

    Acts 15:29 (NIV) You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

    Acts 15:29 (KJV) That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

    Unless you believe god doesn’t want his people to EAT fornication, you’ve done a poor job of researching.

    I can’t say I particularly want to get into this argument, but I am interested to hear how you actually understand these quotes, for honestly, as someone with no real stake in the matter, I thought it actually backed up Stephen P’s point. This is how I understand both quotes:

    Don’t eat food sacrificed to idols, don’t drink blood, don’t eat anything that’s been strangled, and don’t do sexually immoral things.

    Honestly, if you aren’t going to allow rather clear implications, then you also have to admit that it doesn’t say that it is referring to other people’s (or creatures’) blood, but rather is telling its readers to refrain from blood full stop, including their own.

    In which case, presumably everyone should bleed themselves dry.

    Note – I don’t want to get into an argument, I’m just looking for clarification, because I simply can’t see how you can use these quotes to back up your argument.

  • Palaverer

    If anyone’s interested, you can read a refutation of the JWs understanding of the Biblical prohibition of blood here: http://www.freeminds.org/doctrine/medicine/jehovah-s-witnesses-and-the-apostolic-decree-to-abstain-from-blood.html?q=blood

    And you can read about their ridiculously convoluted policies on what blood products they will accept here: http://www.freeminds.org/doctrine/medicine/jehovahs-witnesses-accept-blood-%E2%80%93-a-little-known-fact.html?q=blood

  • James H

    I’m willing to cut some serious slack on the first one. On a technical level, I think, the decision should have fallen to his parents. But on another level … yeah, a 15-year-old is not quite a legal adult, but he’s close enough, I think, to make some decisions himself.

    To change things up, I asked myself whether I would support a 15-year-old’s right to refuse medical care if he had a terminal disease … and the answer came up yes, unless his parents overruled him.

  • Pingback: Blood is for atonement of sin, not surgery! | The Good Atheist

  • Mitch

    If the Doctors administrated blood in the absence of consent then they are liable to be sued for battery in a civil court and technically liable for criminal charges for assault. Doctors have a duty to save the lives of their patients, but they also have a duty to respect the patient’s right to control their own body.

    The only question is whether the boy had the capacity to refuse consent. The boy was capable of understanding what the doctors had proposed to do, so I would argue he had capacity. It was a stupid decision, but it was a decision he was capable of making.

    The Australian case is different because a 10 year old does not have the capacity to make such a decision, and the parents who are making the decision have a duty to protect the child’s health. In this scenario I would argue that the doctors do have a duty to intervene.

  • Mindaugas Šimkus

    “Right… until the day arrives when he comes to his senses, realizes he could’ve died because of his parents’ wacky religious beliefs, and thanks the doctors who saved his life. ”

    That day may never arrive. No one have a right to do anything with someones body against the will of the body’s owner. It is a main human right – the ownership of his body, and by implying that doctors should do anything to him against his will, you are no better than religious fanatics.

  • suomynona

    Due to his actions he didn’t survive long enough to reproduce. The system works.

  • Rosanna

    I don’t understand your point.

    An Atheist parent would be insensed (and rightfully so) if a court would take away his or her right to educate his or her kid that when s/he wants! You wouldn’t want some religious judge to mandate a religious education on your kid under the pretense of “saving his/her soul”.

    Then why are you supporting the action of denying another parent the same right to educate his/her kid?

    Or do atheists have more right than religious people?

    Parental education is ALWAYS brainwashing. Whatever your take on things is, you enforce it on your kid. There is no childhood education that is good.

  • Farley

    “Or do atheists have more right than religious people?”

    Evidently, they do. And they’re not very friendly while espousing that point.

  • Aj

    Rosanna,

    You don’t have a right to “educate” a child into believing things that will harm them. If parents manipulated a child into killing themselves because they thought that the powers of God would protect them from a poisonous snake, the parents would be jailed. I guess you think that’s their right though. If you manipulate a dying child into thinking that they’ll go to hell for accepting a blood transfusion, that’s apparently a right. Fuck that, we don’t have to accept that kind of evil.

    I’ll tell you what are rights. A child has a right to access to language, logic, and math, indoctrination in them if you will. A child has a right to a guardian that makes choices based on reason and evidence, not on delusional and nonsense. Abusing a child with religious indoctrination is not a right. There’s reality, and if your bullshit knocks up against it, that it’s your religion shouldn’t save you.

  • Daniel

    I had initially decided to leave this argument alone, but my Witness friend thinks it’s hilarious that I’ve been actually defending someone of faith, and insists I continue:

    1) The “no true scotsman” argument (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman) provided by EdS is ad hominem and a well known logical fallacy. Yes, I’m an atheist. If you don’t like what an atheist is saying, attack the message, not the person.

    2) I’m sick of the “we know best so we’re going to laugh at you fucking deluded morons for being so stupid, bow down to science or go back to your caves.” You people are assholes. Yes, the kid died because of his faith, but your handling of it detracts from the message. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

    3) The Witness faith IN PARTICULAR has contributed to science because of their insistence on abstaining from blood. Alternatives to blood transfusions, artificial plasmas, and other breakthroughs have been made possible specifically because of their focus on them. There’s plenty of other reasons to hate them, but you cannot say that “jehova killed another kid” and expect to be taken seriously.

    4) If you can find a dictionary that says “abstain” means “don’t eat,” I’ll give you $1,000. If I told you to abstain from peanut butter, convertibles, and sex, would you assume I meant “don’t eat convertibles?” Then why do you assume that’s what the bible means? In order to make sure I was quoting the right passage, I actually tracked down a Witness and asked him directly, he provided the Acts passage, as well as the translation for the Witness bible (which is slightly different).

    5) My “blood isn’t magical” comment is specifically to refute the argument that this child was MURDERED BY JEHOVA. “Another death by Jehova” is a stupid, aggressive, and accusatory headline that I was shocked to see on the “friendly” atheist. “Another Preventable Death” wouldn’t have gotten as many clicks though, would it?

    This post, and the majority of the comments, seem to be of the opinion that people who believe in gods should have their rights stripped from them. Hemant and the rest of you are so willing to leap on the first city council member who wants to pray, you’re so giddy when a cross is stolen from public land, yet you’d instantly remove a child from his parents care FOREVER based on their religous beliefs. You would also strap a person down and administer medical treatment to them against their will. It’s shocking and disgusting how you hold yourselves higher than what you consider “the rabble,” and I’m ashamed to be associated with this community, only for its TONE.

    Let’s take a look at the second bit of this article. The first bit is meaningless, someone made a conscious decision not to receive medical care, and whatever their reasoning, you legally have to accept it and move on. But the second bit…that’s where the hypocrisy shines through:
    First, we’re informed that the child is “brainwashed.” He doesn’t say “LORD JESUS SAYS THIS IS BAD,” does he? No, he says that the blood will change him and that it’s a difficult decision that’s ripping him apart inside. He believes that God will be unhappy with him if he chooses to continue with his life, but he’s conflicted because he’d like to continue living. Obviously, we’d like him to make the right decision, accept the blood, and have a better chance at survival. However, calling him brainwashed for making a thoughtful decision (based on bad information) is disingenuous.

    Next, Hemant points out that the parents are “deluded.” let’s see what these delusional crazies are spouting:
    He feels that a doctor forcing his son to receive a transfusion which violates their beliefs is an “unwanted attack.” True, this is an attack on his faith.

    He claims to love his son more than he loves himself, then says that he will love his son regardless of whether or not he’s forced to go through this procedure. This is consistent with Witness teachings as far as I know, and can be compared straight across to the parents who DISOWNED their child earlier this year for the same reason.

    He concludes by pointing out that forcing a child to do something he vehemently does not want to do will scar that child. Lock this guy up, he’s crazy, am I right!?

    Flip the situation around. Go back and find an article about the debaptism meetings. Consider it from the other direction. A baptism is the same as forcing a child to accept a blood transfusion. In both cases, the authority figure believes they’re “right” and they’re “saving” the child. Think of how easily a priest could say “Right… until the day arrives when he comes to his senses, realizes he could’ve burned in hell because of his parents’ wacky beliefs, and thanks the priests who saved his soul.” Another arugment destroyed by the way it was presented.

    Now before I’m accused of being secretly a Jehova’s Witness again, using my scary powers of deductive reasoning to ruin your day:
    The witness faith is based on logic, but rooted in the bible. That makes the entire thing a fallacy, but at least their arguments MAKE SENSE. They take what the bible says, and apply it to real life. Yes, they take liberties with the translations, because there is no “one true bible.” They eat shellfish and shave because the NT overrides the OT in those cases. They abstain from blood (assuming it’s not their OWN blood) because that rule is not removed in the NT. This is contrasted to faiths like the Cathloics (who allow rampant homosexuality in the clergy while pushing anti-gay policies) or the Baptists (who don’t have a structured system, and therefore you can find a young earth baptist who believes in carbon dating). The structure and the logic allow the witnesses to be a closed society where, if their version of the bible were true, everything would make sense. It’s like the Amish in that regard. I don’t HATE the Amish, I feel sorry for them.

    You may attack me all you want. Call me a crypto-christian, make vague and unsupportable analogies, and go to bed at night confident that your lack of faith makes you superior to the majority of the world. Or you could show some human decency and not destroy your own points by being assholes. Present your exact same arguments without the name-calling and the hypocritical over-extended analogies, and I’ll be right there next to you. Making these horrible, hypocritical, easily dismissed arguments isn’t getting the movement anywhere, and it only adds to the idea that atheists are smug jerks.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    @Daniel — No one wants to take away the rights of the religious, but that goes out the window when the “rights” involve someone dying senselessly. In many of these cases, the lack of blood transfusion does lead to death. They don’t have to die, but their religion (or their parents’ religion) is the reason they choose the alternate route.

    I don’t recall ever suggesting a child should be taken away from parents simply because of their religion.

    The kid here is brainwashed. He thinks the new blood will change him. It won’t. He’s been misled in that regard because of his faith.

    No doubt these parents love their children. But their adherence to a silly, false belief about blood is overriding any way to keep their child alive.

  • http://chunkymonkeymind.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

    Daniel, I’d be interested to see what you and/or your witness friend think in regard to the following points:

    (Disclaimer: I am an atheist and a former JW. This is written to argue against internal inconsistencies of the JW beliefs, not to argue the validity of the Bible or belief in God. All scripture quoted is from the New World Translation)

    The Jews were instructed to pour out the blood of the animal because that represented the animal’s life. This was fitting because that animal had relinquished its life. When a person receives a blood transfusion, it is from another live person whose lifeblood is still flowing and will be poured out at a future date upon death.

    Transfusing blood into your veins is not the equivalent of injecting food into them. If you are starving and you receive a blood transfusion, you will still die of starvation.

    If consuming blood was a capitol offense, why were Saul’s men not executed when they fell to eating blood along with the meat? (1 Sam. 14:31-35)

    Deuteronomy 14:21:”You must not eat any body [already] dead. To the alien resident who is inside your gates you may give it, and he must eat it; or there may be a selling of it to a foreigner, because you are a holy people to Jehovah your God.”

    W 04 6/15 pp. 14-15 After the Flood, mankind started anew with just eight souls. In a declaration applying to all humans, God . . . said that humans could eat animal flesh, but he set this restriction: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.”

    Why would the Watchtower Society try to apply this to all of humanity when it is clear that God later applied it only to Israelites under the Mosaic law, which has since been done away with?

    Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, foreigners were not. The Watchtower teaches that the Great Crowd is not in a covenant relationship with Jehovah. That being the case it would seem that only the 144,000 anointed ones should be required to abstain from blood.

    Most meats still contain trace elements of blood. If abstaining from blood is so important, why don’t Witnesses eat only meat that has been slaughtered in the Kosher method of the Jews? (Side point: Jews will accept blood transfusions.)

    Acts 15:28-29 “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”
    Notice that along with abstaining from blood, we also hear the command to abstain from “things sacrificed to idols.” At 1 Corinthians 8:4-8 Paul helps the reader to see that the “eating of food sacrificed to idols” was really a conscience matter. This decision was rendered so that the newer “Gentile” Christians would be conscious not to stumble the more traditional Jewish Christians, many of which were still rooted in Mosaic Law.

    Of these four, only fornication is later absolutely prohibited for Christians.

    Christians today do not question whether the animals whose meat they eat has been strangled. Oftentimes it has.

    Now various blood fractions are considered a conscience matter for Witnesses. Some of these “fractions” take far more blood and donors to make them, than accepting whole unaltered blood. If blood is so sacred that it can not be stored for a transfusion then the storing of blood and processing it into fractions should also be disallowed. If stealing and reselling a car is a crime, would it be any less of a crime if the thief took the car apart and sold only components of it?

    How can we say that Jehovah’s Witnesses “abstain from blood”, since all of these fractions that Watchtower Society now permits clearly tap into the world’s blood supply and can be (and are) used by Jehovah’s Witnesses today?

    If then, Jehovah’s Witnesses can with a clear conscience now use these fractions that come from the blood supply, why are they forbidden from donating to this same blood supply? And, why are they still not allowed to store their own blood?

    If it is wrong for a Witness to donate blood, who do the blood fractions they use come from?

    If blood must be poured on the ground, where are the blood fractions they use derived from?

    If blood fractions were always acceptable to Jehovah, who is responsible for the Witnesses that died refusing them, due to previous Watchtower policy?

    Would Jesus have made an exception to what was then a dietary rule in order to save someone’s life?

    Jesus performed many miraculous works on the Sabbath. Yet to work on the Sabbath was to bring the death penalty upon oneself.

    Mathew 12:11, 12 “So they asked him “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” that they might get an accusation against him. He said to them: “Who will be the man among you that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do a fine thing on the Sabbath.”

    Of how much more worth is a man’s life who will die without receiving a blood transfusion?

    Matthew 12:7 “However, if you had understood what this means, ‘I want mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless ones.”

    In light of the evidence, does it appear that Jehovah is directing the Society in issuing medical directives? If Jehovah did not intend for people to die for the sake of a symbol of life, if the Watchtower Society has clung to this policy against all Biblical evidence, are they not blood-guilty on behalf of the many who have died by refusing blood transfusions? Jehovah has the power to resurrect, but does he not hold accountable those who are responsible for untimely deaths?

    I would love to see a JW respond to these questions.

  • Aj

    Daniel,

    2) I’m sick of the “we know best so we’re going to laugh at you fucking deluded morons for being so stupid, bow down to science or go back to your caves.” You people are assholes.

    Read your own posts you arrogant self-deluded arse.

    The Witness faith IN PARTICULAR has contributed to science because of their insistence on abstaining from blood. Alternatives to blood transfusions, artificial plasmas, and other breakthroughs have been made possible specifically because of their focus on them.

    A bit like how war helps medical research by producing greater opportunity to study wounds. This doesn’t really make children dying from not having blood transfusions right, not one bit.

    …yet you’d instantly remove a child from his parents care FOREVER based on their religous beliefs.

    Religious beliefs that would kill the child? Fuck yeah. W-T-F. What is this? Who are you?

    However, calling him brainwashed for making a thoughtful decision (based on bad information) is disingenuous.

    That’s not surprisingly your view on making a “thoughtful decision”. Being brainwashed and having your fear manipulated.

    Consider it from the other direction. A baptism is the same as forcing a child to accept a blood transfusion. In both cases, the authority figure believes they’re “right” and they’re “saving” the child. Think of how easily a priest could say “Right… until the day arrives when he comes to his senses, realizes he could’ve burned in hell because of his parents’ wacky beliefs, and thanks the priests who saved his soul.” Another arugment destroyed by the way it was presented.

    What does a baptism do? Get someone mildy wet. What could a blood transfusion do? Save someone’s life. Fuck authority figures believing they’re right. Lets use some fucking evidence and reason. It’s not the same thing, anyone rational would realize this.


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