Harmful beliefs – woman and her unborn child perish after she refuses a blood transfusion
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Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, where a Jehovah's Witness woman and her child have died due to the blood policy

Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, where a Jehovah’s Witness woman and her child have died due to the blood policy

Is there such a thing as a lifesaving blood transfusion? To some that may seem like a silly question, but it’s something many Jehovah’s Witnesses are skeptical about. Section 4 of their new “history” book mentions the concept while talking about parental custody battles involving non-believing parents:

“The non-Witness parent may petition a court for custody of the child or children so that he or she can control their religious upbringing. Some allege that being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses is harmful. They may contend that the children will be deprived of birthday celebrations, holiday festivities and, in the event of a medical emergency, a ‘lifesaving’ blood transfusion. Thankfully, most courts consider what is in the best interests of the child instead of judging whether they consider the religion of one parent to be harmful.”

In my time as an online activist I have encountered many Watchtower apologists, and their arguments on this topic are always very similar. First, they say it’s their unalienable right to be able to decide to refuse a medical treatment, even if it means their own demise. Second, they say there are most likely better options. In my experience, it’s almost impossible for them to admit the existence of scenarios where a blood transfusion is the only logical option. This mentality is mirrored by the above quote’s use of quotation marks around the term “lifesaving” which are often used as a form of mockery.

Yet, on April 6th 2015 a seven-months pregnant woman in Sydney Australia, and her baby, died due to the mother’s refusal of a blood transfusion. The account of her case had this to say following the tragedy:

“Refusal of a lifesaving intervention by an informed patient is generally well respected, but the right of a mother to refuse such interventions on behalf of her fetus is more controversial…”

Rather than responsibly addressing the clear ethical dilemma that their religious policy creates, Watchtower would rather question the premise altogether and hide behind religious freedom.

The real question, that demands an answer, is whether or not someone’s religion can actually be considered harmful to themselves or others. The answer to this riddle has far-reaching implications, because if it were true any legal systems established to mitigate harm would need to account for it.

Between a rock and a hard place

Many people would argue that this woman was simply exercising her rights. For instance, Sascha Callaghan, an expert in ethics and law at the University of Sydney, said this about the situation:

“This woman had a long-held commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and that’s how she chose to die.”

What Dr Callaghan isn’t factoring into her assessment is the religious coercion that the woman was subjected to. She fails to mention that Jehovah’s Witnesses can be expelled from their organization and severely ostracized for unrepentantly accepting a lifesaving blood transfusion. That’s the reality that this poor woman was violently thrust into. She could save her own and her child’s life, but she could lose her life in a different way altogether.

Clearly, this kind of pressure constitutes an undue influence on the part of the religious hierarchy that is essentially governing her beliefs. It’s extremely unethical to put anyone through this dilemma, but Watchtower stubbornly clings to their destructive doctrine even as more and more avoidable deaths rack up.

Simply making blood transfusions a matter of conscience altogether would do wonders to improve this dire situation. How can one’s decision to die, or let their children die, be taken seriously when they face total ostracism if they unrepentantly choose life over death?

Scan of pages 111 and 112 of "Shepherd the Flock of God"

Scan of pages 111 and 112 of “Shepherd the Flock of God”

 

JW.org explicitly states that anyone they expel from their congregation they consider to be wicked. How can giving no apology for your decision to save you and your child’s life be, in any way, considered an act of wickedness?

Life and love over law

Ethics in the medical community place an extremely high value on life itself. Practices that cost life rather than save it are rightly taken very seriously due to their far-reaching repercussions.

For example, the victim’s obstetricians were said to “rarely see people die, or make a decision that will hasten death.” These practitioners were essentially forced to play a role in an avoidable death – a role that can come with negative psychological consequences.

The community in which the deaths happened was also forced to look on in horror. All of the people who value life over someone’s religious beliefs simply didn’t get a vote. Maybe one day that might change.

It’s difficult to imagine that even with a dead mother and child, a traumatized medical staff and a shocked and grieving community, the Watchtower deity is said to be looking down with happiness and approval. How could such an entity be considered the very personification of love while showing utter disregard for the sanctity of life itself?

A voice for the voiceless

Children of Jehovah’s Witness parents, born and unborn, are powerless to make medical decisions for themselves, so these are often made by their legal guardians. Yet, when the child’s life is on the line, do they have rights that protect themselves?

Dr Kidson-Gerber and her colleague Dr Amber Biscoe wrote the following in an account of the case where the woman died:

“A doctor indeed has moral obligations to both the pregnant woman, and perhaps with differing priority to the unborn fetus. Circumstances where fetal and maternal autonomy conflict, or where fetal beneficence conflicts with maternal autonomy, create challenges.”

Who speaks on behalf of the child when the mother’s medical decisions are blatantly not in the child’s best interests? The answer is: everybody. Simply put, the community that the unborn child is entering into has a vested interest in the introduction of a new citizen.

Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses want to believe that they have a “kingdom” which is no part of this earth. They see ones who are born into their families as citizens apart. The Watchtower’s religious hierarchy wants to be able to micromanage the lives of these citizens even to the point of influencing decisions over the life and death of children, born and unborn.

The fetus who perished didn’t even have a chance to understand its vital role in the dramatic struggle between the religious and governmental powers of the day. Perhaps if enough people speak up for those who are too young to speak for themselves, they will be able to become neighbors rather than uncomfortable memories.

 

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67 Responses to Harmful beliefs – woman and her unborn child perish after she refuses a blood transfusion

  1. John says:

    I’m active JW whose been dissed, reproved, sent home from bethel, treated like dirt by the elders, and everything else that ex-jws whine and cry about, so I have plenty of reasons to be mad at the organization. But I still dont understand whats up with yall and this blood. Why would you want someone elses blood in your body? Its utterly disgusting. Just think about it. Would you want someone elses urine in your bladder, feces in your bowels, spit/saliva in your mouth, or vomit in your stomach? Blood visits all those places yet I’m gonna take a complete strangers blood and put it in my body. Its f**king sick.

    • @John . Well my friend you are an active witness. ??? What LESSON in the Theocratic School Guidebook are you working on in your last sentence when you use that EXCELLENT SCRIPTURAL TERMINOLOGY ‘ F***king!!! I think you need to WORK ON the Number of Asterisks!!

    • anonymous says:

      Wow John!!! Blood is like urine, feces, spit and vomit? I know it’s sticky but urine, feces, spit and vomit? I for one am glad I got it coursing through my veins or I’d be dead and if somebody was nice enough to give me some if I was bleeding to death, I’d never think of it like that. To me it would be the gift of life, not something disgusting.

      • @Anonymous. WELL SAID in answer to John!
        I wonder if John has a wife& children ? How would he feel if In an EMERGENCY his Wife was BLEEDING PROFUSELY in childbirth & without blood she would immediately DIE & his Children were CRYING Because they would be MOTHERLESS for the rest Of Their GENERATION which could mean 70 0r 80 years or whatever the rest of their lives are!!!

        • John says:

          Yes, I do have a wife and child. I’ve also watched 2 witness children die from refusing to take blood and was the paul bearer at one of their funerals. I also use to work in the basement of one of the top hospitals in the US near the receiving docks and watched how this “lifesaving” blood was mishandled before being giving to patients. And to answer your previous question Mr. Pickle, the last student counsel point I worked on was accurate pronunciation which I think is #5. So do you have anything else ignorant, stupid, dumb, or foolish you’d like to say?

          • anonymous says:

            John, you say you watched two Witness children die from refusing blood and still you look at it as disgusting? You don’t say a word about it being condemned in the Bible but you say the reason is because to you it’s like vomit, spit, urine and feces. The fact that you personally know of two children who died from refusing blood, means that there must be thousands of children who die from refusing blood every year then. We have no way of knowing just how many children die from blood because the Society doesn’t publish the figures. At one time, they were so proud of it that they put a bunch of their faces on the Awake magazine, like doing that was some kind of consolation to the parents or something. If you as an adult don’t want something so disgusting keeping you alive, doesn’t mean that you have the right to decide for a child who is too little to make a reasoned decision. I can’t think of anything more ignorant (to put it in your words to Picked Brain), stupid, dumb or foolish than that a reason for two young children to die than your reasoning.

            You say you are married but like Pickled brain said, how would you feel if it was your child that had died from refusing blood? It’s easy to make a statement like that if it was not your child that had died.

            I did go through that experience and my child more than likely would have died if she didn’t have blood and then five years later, I found out that there is nothing in the Bible at all that tells us that God would kill a person at Armageddon for taking blood. How would I have felt if she did die because of refusing blood 5 years ago and now I find out that the Society was making the whole thing up? She would have died for nothing. I would hate the Governing Body so much that I’d feel like bombing the Watchtower buildings down. That is how angry I would have felt when I found out that the Society is nothing but a money grubbing cult and they don’t give a rip about all the people that die every year because of their man made rules that are not backed up by Scripture.

            It’s all a man made religious belief about blood and that’s is all. Give us some proof that God is speaking through the JW religion. I want to hear your proof. The Society has changed it’s stance on blood so many times, that they can no longer come back and say that the Bible condemns it.

            So, the only reason those two children died in your opinion is because to you, blood is likened to spit, urine, vomit and feces. It is impossible for me to come up with a more ridiculous statement than that.

            When you claim that you have all kinds of reasons for you to be mad at the Society, what would it take for you to really be mad at them after what you have gone through? Just how many lies to they have to tell you before you would believe that they are full of s***t and you have been tricked into believing them that they were appointed by God? Are you in some kind of coma or something? I don’t get why you are still loyal?

          • James Strait says:

            Hello John, if you or your children were in need of a life-saving surgery would you be opposed to it even if it was done bloodless? The reason why I ask is because the argument you are using for your stance against blood transfusions can also be applied to surgeries or actually the whole medical field in general. Terrible things have happened to innocent people because of mistakes, abuse and even negligence by practitioners. Does that mean that the entire field of medicine should be judged as immoral or just not worth it? Does that mean we should mistrust a doctor because other doctors have done bad things and made terrible mistakes? That’s not reasonable.

            Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t seem very comfortable being up front about their views on blood transfusions. Their position is really simple: they say the Bible prohibits them. Yet, I see Jehovah’s Witnesses all the time arguing that blood transfusions are dangerous. As if their stance is somehow practical in addition to Biblical.

            The way I see it is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you refuse blood transfusions because you think they are dangerous, well then so is getting a surgery done. Why not use the same standard? Why not just be honest and say that the MAIN reason you don’t take them is because of a religious belief.

    • Excelsior! says:

      John,

      Sir, there is a medical procedure where some poop with good bacteria is injected up into the intestine of someone who does not have healthy bacteria! It can help in certain circumstances.

      If you have been treated so badly by the WTBTS, why have you remained?

      I am genuinely interested to know.

      Peace be with you, Excelsior!

      • Shanti says:

        Premarin, a common form of hormone replacement therapy, is made from pregnant mare’s urine.

        I’m not clear if John is defending the JW’s stance on blood transfusions or if he personally can not accept it for reasons other than religion.

        I know people who would accept a transfusion but who can not bear to go through the process to donate blood. I can remember my first time donating blood was extremely scary and held a certain “ick” factor.

        As far as some of the blood for transfusions not being handled correctly (per John), I don’t doubt that possibility and it is sad. I don’t think we live in a sterile environment anyway. The streams are full of e-coli from sewage and animal manure. My personal favorite is a guy I knew who used to be a waiter and claimed to spit in the food of all the customers who were rude to him! There’s a good chance we are all consuming urine, feces and spit!

    • Mindshadow says:

      I feel a bit sorry for your wife, then, if you stronglyfeel that taking in someone else’s bodily fluids is “disgusting”.

  2. Grace says:

    John, you must be a vegan I gather.

  3. Grace says:

    And John, did you let your wife breastfeed your children?

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