University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Should religion restrict blood transfusions for their believers
Over the centuries, there has been constant debate regarding the prohibitions outlined by religious denominations specifically Jehovah Witness who have held their grounds with regards to refusing the use of blood in the treatment of Witnesses thus causing so much uproar in medical circles; some doctors cry out that this request, ties their hands when it comes to offering healthcare services to Witnesses. The most accessible means by medical practitioners have boycotted this call is through writing controversial articles either supporting or disputing the use of blood related treatments for Witness patients. This paper seeks to shade light on this topic by taking into consideration three articles that poster divergent views on what should be adopted by medical practitioners across the globe while at the same time ensuring ethical issues are not disregarded in the process. The combination of these article will show what different people think about whether or not the Jehovah Witness has any authority over deciding what medical procedures should be adopted by their irrespective of what is at stake in some situations.
On one hand we have Osamu Muramoto’s article, “Bioethics of the refusal of blood by Jehovah’s Witnesses: part 1. Should bioethical deliberation consider dissidents’ views?” that appears in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 1998 and Dan Bloom’s article, “Husband tells of agony over death of Jehovah’s Witness wife who refused blood transfusion after C-section,” that appears in the MailOnline website earlier this month. Both this two articles share the same concerns regarding the acceptance of blood related treatments by the Jehovah Witnesses. On the other hand the Jehovah Witness website has an arsenal, “Jehovah’s witnesses the surgical/ethical challenge,” ready to defend themselves that was adapted from The Journal of the American Medical Association published in 1981. The above outlined articles have utilized the use of personal anecdotes, comparison and contrast techniques coupled with excerpts from the Bible to come up with detailed pieces about the aforementioned topic that seeks to attend to the concerns of their audience; both medical practitioners and Jehovah Witnesses.
Osamu Muramoto’s ethos is based on his achievements in the medical field, with this in mind people will easily feed into his thoughts concerning anything medical. His credibility is further boosted by the fact that he has various accolades under his belt namely; he is a medical doctor, has a PhD and a neurologist at the Northwest Permanente PC in Portland Oregon. The credibility of his concerns is further bolstered by the fact that he is a member of the Ethics Committee at Kaiser Permanente Northwest Division. Bearing in mind these, he does not need to establish who he really is and what topic he is making a reference to for he assumes the ideology that his audience will pay attention to his concerns wholeheartedly and similarly influence them respectively. Dan Bloom is a contributor of the MailOnline health section, his articles have had influences on huge number of people across the globe, a look the comment section of this article in particular speaks volumes about matters related to religion and the practice of medicine. Similarly, the Jehovah Witness has a worldwide following of believers who adhere to their doctrines to the latter, also to their advantage, we have several Witnesses medical practitioners who have been on the forefront pushing for adopting of non-blood related practices thus whatever article pops up on their website will be infused with equal measure of passion and vilification that the followers have for the religion.
Bloom begins his article with a personal anecdote that accentuates on the horrifying grief that a husband is undergoing after the death of his wife- a Jehovah Witness, who passed on after turning down blood transfusion to be utilized in her treatment schedule. The anecdote presented as the introduction of the much debated refusal of blood treatment techniques for Witnesses patients across major hospitals in the world on the premise that they are upholding the doctrine of their religions. Upon capturing the audience’s on the topic, Bloom reflects on the legalities bit of this issue by considering the involvement of Homerton chiefs looking into the tragic events that led to the death of Mrs. Keh – the Jehovah Witness Patient in this case. The husband was wrecked by the fact that every single time he got to visit the hospital his wife was in no capacity to be discharged on the grounds she was not stable yet simply because she had rejected the use of blood transfusion to her in the recovery process. Her decision was based on the doctrine of religion which does not allow blood transfusions for they consider blood to be representational of life which God is the only giver. Over the years and across the globe, the courts have had to intervene into such cases to help save lives despite continous backlash from the Jehovah Witness with the backing of their medical specialists who strongly suggest that, “No one can say for certain that a patient will die because of refusing blood or will live because of accepting it CITATION Blo14 l 1033 (Bloom).”
On the contrary, the Jehovah Witness website strongly differs on the use of blood related treatment practices for their followers on the grounds that, there exists experts in the Bible that instruct us not to ingest blood for it is against God’s will. Doctors therefore consider it a daunting task to treat Jehovah Witnesses. The “Jehovah’s Witnesses the Surgical/Ethical Challenge is keen on pointing out specific verses of the Bible from the beginning of the world to books of the New Testament. Their push has led to treatment cases of Witnesses being managed without blood transfusion procedures which was only adopted after meetings between representatives of Jehovah Witnesses and medical and surgical personnel who came to understanding to avoid case where there are medical/legal confrontation that are tied back the Jehovah Witnesses doctrine and beliefs. Witnesses believe that several Biblical passages like Genesis, Leviticus and Acts forbid blood transfusion. To quote Genesis 9:3-4, “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat CITATION ORG14 p 23:12 l 1033 (Org 23:12).” It is following this verses that Witnesses reject the administration of blood transfusion but has specified exceptions for blood components like albumin and globulins which can be used for treatment of their followers. It has gotten to the extent that Witnesses have to sign the American Medical Association form that absolves medical practitioners from any liability in case of loss of life during medical procedures for they were restricted not to use blood related treatment procedures.
Osamu Muramoto has an interesting piece that suggests despite the fact that the blood transfusion doctrine gaining mileage amongst the medical community, there seems to be some sought of revolt from former Jehovah Witness members who are not contented with its use for medical practice which posters to the front a moral issue for medical practitioners who are unable to voice their concerns. He argues that the blood doctrine has flaws that make the stand on treatment by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (WTS) should be dropped for it generally contains hypocritical propagations that have been misinterpreted from how they appear in the Bible CITATION Mur98 p 224 l 1033 (Muramoto 224). He argues that the tongues of Witnesses are tied with reference to raising their thoughts on the use non-blood related treatment plans on the grounds that their religion does not allow them criticize its doctrines on the grounds that it is equivalent to questioning God’s authority. Further adding that in actual sense, Witnesses do not have the freedom of speech or thought and anyone who goes against this tenet is exfoliated and obliterated as an outcast to the religion. Muramoto disputes the one of their doctrines as outlined in Acts 15:29 “keep abstaining from blood CITATION Mur98 p 227 l 1033 (Muramoto 227),” by comparing the same with a case where a patient is fed intravenously through the veins and where an individual receives blood transfusion. In this case, the food fed intravenously is first infused into the digestive system as compared to the case of blood where the blood directly gets into the circulation system as opposed to being digested first thus there exists no evidence of ingestion of blood.
Most important is that the three articles discussed above suggest differing stances with regards to adoptions of the use of blood transfusion on Witnesses. The Jehovah witness is keen on upholding their stand on religion and running with the blood doctrine come what may while on the other hand Bloom and Muramoto suggest exceptions in situations that could lead to medical complications. A look at how both Muramoto and Bloom’s way of expressing their views can be considered as controversial thus will be taken as a backlash by Jehovah Witnesses but considering his target audience, the way the two authors suggest the abolition of the blood doctrine is a very effective way for their arguments are based on what is ethical under the practice of medicine that could even lead to individuals involved being charged or fined and in other circumstances the death of patients. On the other hand, the stand by Jehovah Witness is dictated by history and Biblical which is hard to underpass considering what is promised for those who against the laws of God. It thus remains as a matter of whether or not the blood doctrine is an ethically responsible practice whose adoption or rejection depends on whether or not one is a believer.
Bloom, Dan. “Husband tells of agony over death of Jehovah’s Witness wife who refused blood transfusion after C-section.” 10 November 2014. MailOnline . 18 November 2014 <3. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2828862/Husband-tells-agony-death-Jehovah-s-Witness-wife-refused-blood-transfusion-C-section.html>.
Muramoto, Osamu. “Bioethics of the refusal of blood by Jehovah’s Witnesses: part 1. Should bioethical deliberation consider dissidents’ views?” Journal of Medical Ethics (1998): 223-230.
Org, JW. “HOW CAN BLOOD SAVE YOUR LIFE: JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES THE SURGICAL/ETHICAL CHALLENGE.” 14 June 2014. Jehovah Witness . 18 November 2014 <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1377670/>.