An Awful Story of Parents Willing to Sacrifice Their Child in the Name of Faith

An ER doctor from the Pacific Northwest tells this horrific story about a child who recently came into his hospital.

It turns out the story of Abraham and Isaac is still very much alive in the 21st century.

A young man, barely old enough to drink, well, went out and got drunk, as young men do. He was involved in a dispute of some sort involving drugs and was administered some street justice. He came in to me quite ill indeed. He had stab wounds to the chest and abdomen, as well as an actively bleeding deep cut to the left arm extending up over the deltoid and into zone 3 of the neck. The paramedics reported a large amount of blood loss at the scene, and his arm wound was still bleeding heavily on arrival.

The resuscitation went very well, considering the injuries. He was intubated and thoracostomied in a jiffy, and I tacked together that big arm wound in a temporizing fashion to stanch the blood loss. But clearly, he was going to need to get to the OR pretty soon. His hematocrit dropped dramatically after fluid resuscitation and he was showing signs of shock so we began to prepare for transfusion.

It was around that time that his parents showed up and informed us that the patient was a Jehovah’s Witness and would not accept blood products under any circumstances. Even if that meant his death. They were adamant on this point even after I explained that we were not in hypothetical territory any more — that his injuries were quite life-threatening and the blood loss might be the factor that caused him to die. They were firm and well-prepared and even showed us a piece of paper signed by the patient, fairly recently, expressly refusing blood transfusions.

You can read the conclusion of the story here.

How sickening is it that parents are still willing to sacrifice their children in order to honor an imaginary god?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Tinker

    They don’t care if he dies or not because they believe he would have a better afterlife then what he has here. Of course if he died it would have been ‘God’s will’ but since he lived it is only because they prayed and did NOT allow the transfusion. I hope that they at least thanked the doctor. It sounds like he (she?) did an extremely heroic job.

  • Stev84

    The whole blood thing is so ridiculous. That Bible passage is about people drinking animal blood as part of rituals. Of course it says nothing about transfusions. It’s even more silly that they are fine with other blood products or bone marrow transplants because it’s not whole blood.

    Even knowing how fundamentalist and cultish JW are in other areas, it still seems silly to make such a fuss about the blood thing.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    And yet you can get arrested for leaving your sleeping 3 year old alone in the locked house while you walk a block to meet the 6 year old returning home from school.  And you can’t just let the 6 year old walk the block from the bus stop.

    *This story is a hypothetical example based on many real cases.  The fact is that without religion, you have very little rights to make risk analysis decisions for your kids.  If you bring religion into it, you can do pretty much anything you like in some states.

  • pq83

    I’m pro-life when it comes to this question. Cure the patient, then let him or her decide how he or she is going to deal with it when it comes to his/her religion. And if your religion says you won’t go into heaven because of some blood transfusion against your will, well then I guess it sucks to be you, and you shouldn’t be dumb enough to get stabbed against your will.

    • John Purcell

       I sort of agree. What about the doctor’s ethical duty to “first, do no harm?” Why couldn’t he simply give the blood, save the life, and when the hospital, state and parents object, claim that it’s against his religion to allow someone to die while performing his job. Then you have a Chinese standoff, one religion against another, and my guess is the state and hospital would back him up.

      Or at least they should.

      • Stev84

        No need to bring religion into it from his side. There have been both doctors and courts that have gone against parents’ wishes and authorized medical treatment

        • Ron Neufeld

          Only in the case of young children. Why so eager to have the state step in and start telling people what they must and mustn’t do? The key point here is that the _patient_ refused treatment. The parents merely delivered the letter.

          • pq83

            I strongly believe that if a wounded or sick person ends up at your door, you do everything you can to help them, regardless of wether they’re begging you to just let them die.  And I think this should include hostpitals and doctors. Because at the end of the day, they won’t know what the patients wishes actually are, because they don’t know them, and they don’t know what they may or may not do or say due to guilt or pressure from their social group/religion, brain damage, psycotic breakdowns etc…

            Only in very special circumstances would I do otherwise, such as if it were to involve a someone I knew very well, and I knew they had a incurable disease or something similar.

            • Ron Neufeld

              So, you believe the personal beliefs of the doctor should over-ride the wishes of the patient? That’s what you are advocating.

              At the end of the day, if you DO know the wishes of the patient (letter, proxy, DNR tattooed to their chest, etc) you are obligated not to put your personal prejudices and beliefs above those of your patient.

              Dismissing the patient’s wishes because you don’t like their reasons is the worst sort of condescension. At that point you are acting in some sort of ‘father-knows-best’ patriarchal/priestly model of doctor-patient relationship.

              In this case you just happen to agree with the decision – your prejudices align with the doctor’s. What if they didn’t? What if the doctor was a JW? Or didn’t believe in abortion? Or birth control?

              Like free speech means protecting speech you don’t like, patient autonomy means protecting patient decisions even if you don’t like them. A patient always has the right to refuse health care; it’s assault otherwise.

              • StarStuff

                Exactly.

                Doctors are supposed to leave their faith at the door.  They are physicians at work, doing their job.  If  a doc is JW, he won’t (at least in my experience)  deny treatment just because he wouldn’t want blood products for himself.  If s/he refuses a patient medical care, they need a new job.
                I worked with a woman who wanted to be a doctor & said she would walk out on class when they teach about abortion.  With that attitude it’s easy to see why she was turned down for med school, at least 2 years in a row here at the UofM and 2 other universities…

  • http://twitter.com/MsAlisCakePops MsAli’s CakePops

    I posted this over there, but wanted to add it here. This is an issue close to me and it sickens to hear about it each time.  

    I was raised a JW and am very grateful I never believed any of it while growing up (unlike my sister who did and it took awhile for her to leave). I was out of there at eighteen, but as a child I had an emergency surgery when I was twelve (hip), another one a year later, and then two when I was a senior in high school (knee). My orthopedic surgeon was very patient with my parents for the first two surgeries, worked with them to have the other options in case something went wrong, but the whole time I was scared. Not scared of the hip operations really but in case there were complications and I needed blood. My parents insisted I not have, and while the situation never came up, I really have no idea if they would’ve said yes or no. That’s sad, that a child doesn’t know if their parents would save them. When I had my third and fourth operations I begged my surgeon (I was 17) to agree to give me blood if need be. (For years I’d kept my no-blood card in my room but always took it OUT of my wallet after they did the whole “signing” thing). Thankfully, my parents somehow forgot about the “no blood” forms, plus I went on record that I wanted transfusions, did not agree with parents, etc. Those surgeries were so very much less scary. I knew families who lost their children because they didn’t allow blood, but am glad to know some who didn’t cave to the doctrine and pressure of the “it’s a conscience issue” and gave their children a chance. 

  • pqrst

    Well… the young man in this story doesn’t seem to be that young, if he’s old enough to drink, and he signed a paper refusing transfusions. I wouldn’t categorize this as “parents signing their child’s death sentence”, but rather as someone making a stupid decision in the name of his religion and the parents supporting this decision.
    Sure, there might have been childhood indoctrination and such involved, but all in all, it was the patient’s choice…

  • Ron Neufeld

    This example has nothing to do with parents killing their son, this is a perfect example of  an appropriate proxy duly representing the patient’s wishes. The fact we disagree with the patient’s wishes or think they’re stupid is beside the point. If the doctor had ignored the paper or the parents I would be quite happy to see him lose his license and sued into oblivion. Respecting patient autonomy is a cornerstone of medical ethics, and a hard-fought one at that.

    Compare this case to Terri Schiavo whose parents (who were not the appropriate proxies) tried to keep the meat sack alive at all costs and apparently against her previously expressed wishes. Is this what we should be advocating?

    This case went exactly as it should, and I would fully support the parents. Patient autonomy is more important that the doctor’s feelings or prejudices.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      Quite. This has nothing to do with the parents /per se/, it’s the choice of an adult for themselves.

      I want to be able to turn down forced medical procedures at will, regardless of what anyone else thinks of my decision, and that means that this guy gets to do the same, even if I think he’s a berk.

      • Kodie

        What would happen if the parents insisted he have a blood transfusion even if he, in the age of majority, chose for himself to have his religious beliefs respected, even considering that means death? I don’t think the hospital would be allowed to do that, and his parents were not his guardians in that case. I don’t think these religious beliefs are based in sanity, but I do think people ought to be allowed to choose death.

        Just as we are talking in that recent abortion thread (although this specific instance hasn’t come up), if a woman chooses to carry to term, even if it is known beforehand that it will kill her, no one can take that choice away from her and force her to save her own life. I would not force a JW to take a blood transfusion. It is different, though, when the parents are legal guardians to the child than when the child is grown and considered an autonomous adult. I guess I’m glad I’m not the doctor, or religious.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chrisbrock.nc Chris Brock

      I agree. As a patient, he has a right to refuse treatment.

      Now, if it could be proven that the documentation that the parents presented to the hospital staff was forged, then this would be attempted murder in my opinion.

    • gski

       You said it better than I did.

    • JA

      There should be a point when a parent’s right to decide for their child ends and authorities step in to represent the best interests of the child. This should be one of those cases. The state should protect children when parents refuse to.

      • Michael

        If he’s “barely old enough to drink,” then he’s not a child. The patient decided for himself; the parents simply enforced his wishes. However stupid you or I think this decision is, it’s his choice. Not his parents, not yours or mine, his.

      • Ron Neufeld

         Except this case is not a child, but a young adult that was properly represented by his parents. There are times the authorities should step in; this was not one of them.

  • gski

    The patient is an adult, from all the
    evidence he was an adult making a free and informed choice when he
    signed the paper. It’s his life, he has a right to direct his lack
    of treatment regardless of his reasons. The parents did what they
    should have done which is to honor his wishes.

    • Stev84

      Given how JW is essentially a cult and that these people have been told from childhood on that transfusions are evil and will destroy their life force or something to that effect, I’d question how “informed” that choice really is.

      • gski

         The moment that science shows that brainwashing has occurred I will agree with you.

    • StarStuff

      I couldn’t find in this article or the doctor’s blog post as to the date which the patient signed that paper.  Was he a minor or an adult? 

      • gski

         I admit to assuming, the O.P. says he was barely old enough to drink (that makes him 20 or 21) and that the paper was recently signed.  So I’m assuming he was over 18.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mlmccurley78 Melissa McCurley

    Here’s a thought.  Would the person responsible for this ‘street justice’ still be charged with murder if this person CHOSE to die instead of accept help?

    • Patrick

       Short answer without supporting documentation because I’m lazy: Yes.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Yes I think if he died, the attacker/s would and should still be charged with murder, because the victim was not “choosing to die,” he was choosing to forego one medical intervention that would greatly increase his chances of survival. But the attacker/s put him in that predicament.

      If the attacker/s tried to use such a defense they would basically be blaming the victim, not that far from saying that his getting drunk and getting involved in a street drug dispute means he was “asking for it.”  No, he was not attempting suicide by thug. His foolish behavior either in the street or in the hospital does not mitigate the attacker/s’ murderous behavior.

  • Liz Heywood

    It’s interesting that the patient was older–I was expecting a story about a small child.  This is the complicated nature of religion & the power it holds over believers. Kids grow up shamed & controlled and become parents who shame & control. Everyone lives in fear of breaking The Rules of their method.

    And hey, if it had been a small child (different circumstances of course) it doesn’t necessarily mean the hospital/social services/court system would had been able to intervene. 38 states have religious loopholes for the parents to choose prayer. (I lived it.) There are a lot of glass houses. Political correctness protects some terrible situations.

    I think the only hope is for our society to outgrow religion. If everyone recognized its primative nature we’d be better off, especially the kids. 

    • JA

      It’s not necessarily religion though. Parents can get exemptions from schools and other places when they refuse to vaccinate their kids, which puts their own and other people’s kids at risk. People will find reasons to do stupid things with or without religion.

  • Tainda

    People are free to live and die as they choose no matter how idiotic.

    When it’s a child it’s a different story.  It breaks my heart when a child has to suffer because of the parent’s backward beliefs.  

  • Annie

    I’m really starting to wonder if rules like the JW banning whole blood, or the Catholics actually believing that they eat and drink their savior’s body and blood are purposely put in place as a litmus test of sorts.  If the creators of these doctrines wanted to know just how gullible their flock would be, these sorts of things would certainly be an easy way to test the intellectual water.

    • JA

      I wonder how many Catholics actually believe that? I was raised Catholic and was told it was purely symbolic.

      • Annie

        Not many that I know.  But then, most Catholics I know use birth control and support (and some even actively fight for) gay rights.  Go figure.

        Transubstantiation was explained to me (in catholic school) as the actual transformation of the host and wine to the body and blood of Christ.  I remember it well, as it was one of the things I incessantly questioned as a young, doubting Catholic.  Most reasonable people think it’s symbolic, but the Catholic Church thinks it really happens.

      • StarStuff

        Oh I asked of nuns questions about the symbolism of transubstantiation and was told the priest DID have the power to turn water into wine & crackers into flesh.  I was told to shut up… (literally shut up & sit down).  

      • Kevin S.

        The study came out a couple years ago, but I think only 23% of American Catholics even knew that was official church doctrine, regardless of whether or not they believed it themselves.

        • MV

           Then most Catholics don’t attend mass or if they do, they don’t pay attention (both are believable).  During every mass I attended during my childhood, the priest waved their hands and described what happened.  There was nothing symbolic about it.

  • bob250

    More than 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses dead from Watchtowers deadly arbitrary blood ban. That is 50 times more than died at Jonestown massacre,some estimates run as high as 100,000 dead Jehovah’s Witnesses from the blood ban that is now been nearly dissolved.

    More than 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses dead from Watchtowers deadly arbitrary blood ban

    • DavidFairbanks

       I like your logic,

      If I may, I’d like to extend it a bit.  I’m thinking specifically of the Amish and their religious prohibition against driving cars or other motor vehicles.  In the United States an average of 40,338 people died EVERY YEAR, in motor vehicle accidents from 2000-2010.  Let’s do the math:  nearly an order of magnitude more people have died from car accidents in a decade, then all deaths caused by the refusal to take blood (443,723).

      The stance against driving is just as ‘arbitrary’ as the stance against blood transfusions.  However that arbitrary stance has no doubt saved lives.  (I can’t get statistics on Amish folks killed in vehicle accidents, but I’m guessing that buggy to buggy collisions rarely cause fatalities.)

      I’m not really sure what my point is other than to say if you drive a car, you are technically putting yourself at some level of unnecessary risk, the same way that Jehovah’s Witnesses do when they refuse blood.

      To close the circle on this analogy, I’d encourage you to think about that the next time you have your minor children in the car with you for an extended period of time.

      //buckle up.

      • Itarion

        Yes, the raw numbers seems to make refusing blood transfusions less of a risk than driving. But, what about the numbers as percentages of a whole?
        In 2010, there were 210 million (210,000,000) registered drivers in the US. So, in one year, .02% of drivers ended up killed in crashes per year. Conversely, August 2011 reports show 7.4 million JWs. Using bob25′s 50,000, which I assume is yearly, but don’t know, we get .68% killed by refusing blood per year. This death rate is 34 times higher. I think I will stay on the roads.

        Statistics taken from:
        http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2010/dv1c.cfm
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Jehovah%27s_Witnesses

        As an aside, driving provides a benefit to society as a whole, allowing everything nameable to be moved around the world far faster. Arguably, a .02% death rate is worth that, arguably not. Arbitrary beliefs, on the other hand, are not worth a .68% death rate by anyone’s metric.

        • DavidFairbanks

          The 50,000 JW’s dead is a total, not a yearly, so your percentages are off.  Also, it isn’t just drivers that die in crashes, so your vehicle accident percentage is also a little high.

          The problem with your use of percentages is that it turns crushed human children into grease.  Let me explain:

          Imagine we invented a new technology that allowed us to transport instantaneously from one place to another.  The only problem is that in order to use it you have to ritualistically murder 40,000 people (chosen at random) every year.  I’d be against such a technology, even if the benefits are really high.  However, the system I just described is exactly the same as our automotive transportation system.  We can get to the mall in 30 minutes instead of 3 hours, but we have to accept the fact that people are dying for our convenience.

          Your belief that a 0.02% or lower (~40,000 per year) death rate is an acceptable trade off for convenient transportation is just as arbitrary as the belief that blood transfusions are sinful or that smoke detectors make baby Jesus cry.  The difference, however, is that a greater number of people are killed in the service of your beliefs than in the service of the JW’s.  More people are killed.  More people are killed.  Don’t try and hide that fact with percentages.

  • bob250

    In 2012 God’s will and scripture got nothing to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses position on use of blood products.

    It is 100 percent what will play out in a secular court of law as to the parent Watchtower being held liable for deaths.
    Most Jehovah’s Witnesses rushed to the ER with massive blood loss will scream NO BLOOD right up to their last breath,The shocker is they can NOW have most of the blood components that will pull them through,but they are so indoctrinated that blood is forbidden that they can’t comprehend the loopholes.

    The Watchtower has drilled and grilled us that our STAND ON BLOOD IS NON NEGOTIABLE.
    The loopholes that allow blood usage is to save the Watchtower corporation money from blood death liability suits.This is a truly evil organization that would sacrifice tens of thousands of men,women,children for the almighty dollar.The blood products ban has been in force since 1945 the buzz today about it being a *personal conscience matter* and the hope of new medical advances like artificial blood don’t undo all those who have past perished.The New York city based Watchtower sect is concerned foremost with liability lawsuits for wrongful death.They know that if they repeal the ban on *whole* blood transfusion,that it will open the door for legal examination of all the thousands who have died since 1945.

  • Vicki Williams

    This is a story of an adult refusing medical treatment for reasons that are his own personal business.  Everyone should have that right.  There are, no doubt, numerous non-religious reasons for refusing medical treatment that you would have no problem with.  Do you REALLY think that doctors should be able to override the wishes of patients?

    Calling this child sacrifice is ridiculous, pointlessly antagonistic, and decidedly not friendly.  Seriously, what happened to the FRIENDLY atheist?  I miss him.

  • Bckm

    I understand, but how does this differ from a Do Not Recessitate (sp?) order?

    • Joolz

      A DNR order is usually signed by older adults who know what living life with their current illness (or just being old) is like.  They have lived their life and don’t  want it extended unnecessarily.  A young adult may not yet know what they are giving up, especially if they have been indoctrinated by a religious cult. The young man in this case may have believed in the “no blood” doctrine, but also believed that his parents would love him enough to keep him alive if it ever became real. 

      • Ron Neufeld

        The young man certainly agreed with the ‘no blood’ order – they had a signed paper to prove it. There is no ‘may’ about it. Refusing to respect his autonomy because he’s a young adult ignores the fact he’s an adult. He deserves to have his rights respected, as we all do, wouldn’t you agree?

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    As horrific as this story is, I’m not thrilled with the way it’s been presented.  Based on the title and first line, I was fully expecting a story about parents denying medical care to their minor child who had no say of his/her own.  A man barely old enough to drink is at least 21, and that’s not a child.  As misinformed as he is by his religion, his parents were representing their son’s previously expressed wishes, not making the decision without regard to what he personally wanted.  I really feel that title and first line are misleading.

    Maybe “An Awful Story of Parents Willing to Sacrifice Their Son in the Name of Faith” and , “An ER doctor from the Pacific Northwest tells this horrific story about a young adult who recently came into his hospital” would be more accurate?  Am I being super pedantic about this?

  • CanadianNihilist

    So getting shitfaced drunk and dealing/botching a drug deal are fine if you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, but blood transfusion?… No dice! 

    • Shanine

      Probably a fallen JW, one who has wandered from the flock but still believes. Either that or he get’s drunk and stoned to get some relief from the pain of being shunned. Or he doesn’t really care and they are showing an out of date NO BLOOD card. 
      Either way this man/boy was brought up to believe that is how all ‘worldly’ people behave. Anyone who doesn’t act like that is a bomb wrapped in shiny paper. 
      The thing that did it for me, the thing that made me think I’m sick of this now was when gay people were compared to paedophiles in that it a sick urge that should be resisted!! It really angered me, two consenting adults does NOT compare to a person abusing a child. While I’m on that subject another thing that got me is that one of the most heinous crimes against a human isn’t even mentioned in the bible!! It banned gay people and adultery but not child abuse. cue 13 year old think seriously this isn’t gods word!! But I stayed another 5 years for my mum and brothers. I even got baptised at 15, wish I hadn’t I think you should be able to annul your baptism if you were’t of age because if your not baptised you can’t be disfellowshipped. 

  • I_Claudia

    Is the whole idea of refusing blood transfusions because of a particular interpretation of a particular holy  book absurd? Yes.

    Is the notion of parents putting obedience to their religious dogma ahead of the safety or the very lives of their children heinous? Absolutely.

    However this was not a child.

    The post says he was “barely old enough to drink”, which by definition places him as a young adult. An older teen would be trickier, but still should be assumed to have the capacity to form firm opinions. The parents not only said they weren’t allowing transfussion, they produced a document signed by the patient himself expressing this wish. I believe adults, barring a diagnosis of insanity, should have the right to refuse treatment for any reason. Few things are more personal than your own body, and you should get to decide what gets done to that body, no matter how idiotic it may seem to the rest of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Douglas-McEwan/1565233082 Douglas McEwan

    As the survivor of a Christian Science upbringing, this story sounds perfectly normal to me. When my brother needed to have his burst spleen removed to save his life, my mother refused, and the school (It had occured playing football on campus, but football is another screed of mine) informed her that she could sign permission for the operation, or they would go to a judge and custody of him would be revoked from her THAT AFTERNOON, and he’d still have the operation. She signed the permisssion and spent the evening BITCHING about being FORCED to allow them to save my brother’s life. I was 18 at  the time, and VERY glad I was old enough to give my own permission for surgery when I needed it, as eventually, I did. Had I held to my parent’s religous delusions, I’d have died in 1996. Witholding medical attention from children because of a parent’s religion should be a CRIME! People, like my parents belong in prison, not church.

  • Shanine

    As an ex Jehovah’s witness I can tell you you are indeed indoctrinated, it’s drummed into you all the time NO BLOOD. There are even special meetings where you are given new NO BLOOD cards to sign. 
    My youngest son was ill with Kawasaki disease 3 weeks ago and had to have a transfusion of immunoglobulin. My first reaction after 12 YEARS out was oh thats a blood product. Only for a second when I remembered I didn’t care anymore, but it was strange that it’s still in my head (weird) He had the transfusion and his heart looks ok and hopefully they caught it in time. But what if I still believed? My faith was never strong, I always wondered how people could let their kids or any family die, the analogy of Abraham and Isaac is a good one. It about JWs letting their children die to prove their faith. 
    BUT we see it very differently than they do, they think they are doing what god wants and that if they die they will be united with their loved ones in paradise, everyone who’s ever lived will be raised up. (I know!!) They don’t see it as killing, I dread having to respect the wishes of my family and the pain I’ll feel if a death could be prevented by a simple transfusion. If I tried to persuade them to change there mind I’d be perceived as a devil on their shoulder and might not be able to be around to say goodbye. So what would I do??
    I would ask them to change their stance and try to reason, but I’m not sure how far I could go. I’d fight for their right for non blood products if that was a possibilities and the hospitals budget stood in the way first. If that wasn’t possible I might beg and plead, I don’t know. What if they gave in and died anyway or lived and hated me. If they did I’d just be glad they were still alive to hate me, I don’t want them to live because I don’t think I’ll see them again. I want them to live because I don’t want them to die now.
    I think I’d talk about the future they might miss out on, children, grandkids, family time, time with their loved ones. The world cup, the next Avengers movie lol, dam I’d try my best but I wouldn’t do anything in an oppressive way. Why would I do that to someone who was/could die, I love them.
    The blood issue is defiantly a non negotiable area, as bob250 said the whole it’s a conscience issue is a load of crap, they might not dis-fellowship someone for it. But everyone will know and they won’t be seen as good JWs, they would have to cry pressure and intervention.  They even have special Elders (priests) that are ON-CALL to attend hospitals and advocate for someone in these situations though. So it’s very hard for a person to say YES to blood.
    But hey it’s a conscience issue.

    • Sue Blue

      What’s the JW stand on autologous transfusion (banking one’s own blood to use when needed)?  Seems to me a lot of JWs could avoid putting their lives on the line for their faith in this way… Just start banking you or your children’s blood every so often so that it’s available in an emergency.  This service is routinely offered by many clinics and hospitals before a planned or elective surgery.  Or are they just looking for the masochistic thrill of daring God to save them?

  • blargh

    A lot of comments on this post.  I was just wondering if people would answer a hypothetical for me.  Let’s say you’re the parent of a 21 year old.  You raised your child as a non Jehovah’s Witness (i.e. anything from Atheism to Catholicism to Jainism, etc).  At the age of 18 your child converted to a Jehovah’s Witness and has been very active since then.  They have gone on retreats, done missionary work, etc. etc.  At 21 the above incident occurs to your child (got into a fight and got stabbed).  You get called in to the hospital.  Knowing your son’s (or daughters, be gender neutral here) wishes about blood transfusion, assume there is a signed piece of paper affirming his/her refusal, what do you say as the next of kin?  What should be the consequences if the doctor knew that the 21 year old was a Jehovah’s Witness, but asked the next of kin anyway?  Does your answer change if the patient is 45 (still converted at 18, and you are still next of kin)?  What about 18 and the patient only converted 6 months ago?

    • Joolz

       I would save my child – and then let hir hate me if s/he wishes.  That’s what parents do. 

    • Annie

      This is a very interesting question.  My child has almost died three times.  Once on the first night of her cancer diagnosis, and the second, in post-op when her O2 sats plummeted as well as her heart rate.  The third was at a birthday party, where she tried to eat a hot dog for the first time.  At all of these moments, I would have done anything to keep her alive.  Anything.  There is something that just kicks in that made me argue with the head of the PICU. demanding that I stay the night, made me push an orderly to the floor to make room for the nurse coming with equipment, and helped me leap across a yard to grab my child and perform the Heimlich maneuver.  I wasn’t myself at these moments.  I was stronger.  I was not using intellect or reason, but sheer adrenalin and instinct.  Because of these experiences, I’m pretty sure of how I would respond.  I would lie, finagle, beg, whatever needed to be done to save my child.  And I would ignore her wishes.  I’m not saying this is necessarily the right thing to do, but this is what I think I would do… if I’m looking at this honestly.  When you are actually faced with your own child’s death there are certain behaviors that just kick in.  This is what surprises me about JWs.  Their belief is so strong… so overpowering, that they are able to ignore that natural animal instinct of saving their young.  Perhaps they would say they are more disciplined than me… I really don’t know.  All I know is that I have become the mama bear on several occasions… and I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley anywhere.  She’d kick my butt!

    • Ron Neufeld

      Parents are very poor proxies, which is why if there is a spouse the spouse is used for an adult instead of parents. Parents tend to choose life over death regardless of the patient’s wishes – for precisely that reason they are ignored if there is a better proxy.

      If I was called to the hospital for my JW daughter I would say anything and lie about anything to keep her alive. Which is precisely why people should ensure they have an Advance Directive if they believe they have parents that won’t follow their wishes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    I don’t care if a religious person is willing to pray in lieu of medical care, even if that means dying.   Their body, their choice.  I care very much when the choice is being imposed on someone else, especially a child who isn’t capable of understanding or consenting to such a choice  (because of age or incapacitation). 

  • Shanine

    A JW would compare a forced blood transfusion to being raped and violated, it’s sad but it’s how they feel.

  • Diane Krstulovich

    pps – 365 days a year, JWs have a reason to be singled out as ‘special’ (and more special than anybody else).  Birthdays, voting, holidays, healthcare, school work, charity,  you name it.   I think it’s a special kind of ADD.

  • DavidFairbanks

    The refusal to accept blood transfusions and the increased risk of death it brings in my mind is the logical equivalent to joining the US military and ‘serving’.

    You are willing to die for a belief that the majority of humanity finds either incomprehensible or morally repugnant.

    When you die because you refuse potentially life saving medical treatment, you are just as dead as the person who died trying to ‘protect our freedoms’.

    The only difference I can see, is that usually parents don’t force their children to join the military.  In certain families the pressure is really strong, but usually you don’t see minors being sacrificed on the altar of bad ideas whether they be arbitrary medical restrictions or violent patriotism.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/Ozbj00s1p9JzCmp7F5S9fZgbBMOWLYfIKPdXZUU-#18040 interestsarefree

    Best quote:
    “Yes, I understand the legal and ethical obligations I am under as a physician, and I obeyed their wishes. But I do not respect them; in fact I hold them in the deepest contempt.”

    So, to the doctors who say, “I’m a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job,” I say, “NO, YOU DON’T!! Your loyalty is to one thing and one thing only: the Hippocratic oath!”

    Doctors, whether religious or atheist, can have their beliefs. But those beliefs cannot interfere at all when it comes to a patient’s care and cannot be imposed on the patient either.

    And to answer the question: Yes, I do find it sickening that allegedly loving parents would let their child die because of their somewhat altered perception of reality.

  • Ashlyn

    Bad form, Friendly Atheist.  Emotionally loaded language and misrepresentation are supposed to be what the other side does.  ”Parents willing to sacrifice their child”?  This wasn’t a five-year-old incapable of making medical decisions for himself.  This was a legal adult with a signed statement saying “No blood products.”
    The parents bear heavy responsibility for raising their son to believe such dangerous nonsense.  But a twenty-one-year-old is not a child, his mind is his own to make up, and his life is not his parents’ to sacrifice or save.


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