Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Lost in the shadow of the Watchtower

A 14-year-old BC girl, whose chemotherapy regime has inhibited her body’s production of new blood cells, recently traveled to Toronto hoping that an Ontario Provincial Court would allow her to seek alternate cancer treatments offered in New York that would that would not involve blood transfusions.

The girl broke into tears at the end of the court hearing when the Judge ruled she must return to Vancouver for further treatment. The BC government has a current court order which will allow them to administer a blood transfusion as a part of her therapy.

As a practicing Jehovah's Witness, this girl doesn’t merely oppose her impending blood transfusion; her religious beliefs forbid her from receiving someone else's blood.

The BC Government insists she needs a blood transfusion in order to prevent her untimely death. Ultimately these provincial laws provide protection to children who are in need of urgent medical care and the government argues her religious beliefs are of no import over her basic right to life.

But a blood transfusion is not the only option in this case.

As an alternate to accepting blood transfusions, patients (of all religions) can receive a two week course of erythropoietin (a hormone that stimulates red blood cell production), but the procedure itself is much more expensive than just an ordinary transfusion, and I am not sure it is available in Canada.

I believe that every individual should have the right to influence (if not decide) the course of their own personal health management and rehabilitation, especially when it comes to selecting and refusing medical treatments. I think if this girl has such deeply held principles and religious beliefs then compassion dictates her wishes should be given (at least) serious consideration.

Jehovah's Witness’s, rightly or wrongly, have an absolute prohibition on members receiving blood transfusions (based on their interpretation of 3 bible passages: Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10-14 and Acts 15:20-29). The theological argument revolves around the sacredness of blood, and the decision by the Council at Jerusalem to "abstain from blood". They literally interpret these passages as permanent injunctions against taking blood or blood products into their body for any reason. Even if it means they will die.

Is it controversial? Yes, even among Jehovah’s Witness’s. Is it cult like? Yes, but so is most religious doctrine. Does that remove elements of rationality for people? Yes. Do I think they are wrong? Yes. But that’s me, the Religious Scholar and Academic, speaking. My education can not supersede my humanity.

Of course, I donate my blood, giving of myself so that others may heal faster or live longer. It’s one of the most precious things I have, one of the most intimate things I can share, and the easiest thing to give. It’s hard to imagine not giving it; quite simply, it is the gift of life.

But when is a gift no longer a gift? Would I force it on someone? Would I want it forced on myself?

I fear there are no easy answers to any of this.

3 comments:

breast cancer said...

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Always looking for breast_cancer!

Anonymous said...

The following website summarizes over 200 similar court cases involving Jehovah's Witness Parents who refused life-saving blood transfusions for their children:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

http://jwdivorces.bravehost.com/

Anonymous said...

OVER 450 JEHOVAH'S WITNESS LAWSUITS, COURT CASES, ETC. SUMMARIZED


This website summarizes 300 United States court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah's Witnesses, including dozens of cases where the Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions:

DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

http://jwdivorces.bravehost.com/



This website summarizes 160 United States court cases and lawsuits filed by Jehovah's Witnesses against Employers:

EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

http://jwemployees.bravehost.com