Can I get a Witness?
thing I'm not clear on in the case of
the BC Jehovah's Witness cancer patient is why she and her
up in Toronto. In the
Post today, a Long Island doctor who specializes in
transfusion-free treatment says he was all set to take her on.
Would the family have been stopped at the border had they just
headed straight for New York? Regardless, after learning that
"bloodless medicine" is a fairly well-established
field, and after considering Matt
Fenwick's vehement rebuttal of my reasoning, I'm going to
clarify my stand on this.
never explicitly said otherwise, but my non-expert opinion is
that the girl should not be barred from receiving competent
alternative treatment just because her doctors have deemed
transfusions the best course of action. The fact that she
doesn't want the transfusions should be a major factor in determining
her treatment, even if the doctors think it's crazy and wrong,
because the emotional stress involved is sure to
negatively impact her prognosis.
If it looks like I'm softening
my stance, it's not because I think 14-year-olds should
be allowed to choose medical treatment B where medical treatment
A offers vastly
greater odds of success. I still don't think they should.
Rather, it's because I see no evidence of vastly greater odds of
success on either side of this case.
it angers me that she has to go through this insanity. I agree
with Matt that "ironic" probably wasn't the right term
to describe someone who has willfully consented to enormously
invasive medical procedures only to balk at a blood transfusion.
"Ironic" isn't nearly strong enough a word. The
Jehovah's Witnesses' anti-transfusion stance is commonly
attributed to three Bible verses:
flesh with its soul — its blood — you must not eat. (Genesis
must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of
every sort of flesh is its blood. Anyone eating it will be cut
off. (Leviticus 17:45)
from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from what
is strangled and from blood. (Acts 15:20)
view [the verses] as ruling out transfusion of whole blood,
packed RBCs, and plasma, as well as WBC and platelet
administration. However, Witnesses' religious understanding does
not absolutely prohibit the use of components such as albumin,
immune globulins, and hemophiliac preparations; each Witness
must decide individually if he can accept these.
I'm sure that's just what Leviticus had in mind for the children
of Israel. And from the same source, here's one of my all-time
favourite religious-themed quotes: "The
Witnesses do not feel that the Bible comments directly on organ
transplants." Really? Nowhere?
What about in the New Testament, next to the stuff about MRI
scans, epidurals and hyperbaric chambers?
mean… arrgh! Am
I really prohibited from commenting on this on the grounds of
letting everyone live his or her life however he or she wants?
The Bible doesn't "comment directly" on anything that
didn't happen or wasn't invented until after the Bible was
written. I question the sanity of those who disagree with that,
and renew my demand that children be protected from the negative
consequences of such beliefs. If that means the state
"raping" them to save them from dying, then so be it.
If I'm bigoted against Jehovah's Witnesses, then so be that too.
I welcome all such accusations, provided they're accompanied by
a considered opinion of what good it would do to allow this child
this point, I think I've thoroughly explained my viewpoint, and
I've freely admitted to some degree of reaching along the way, so I don't want
to retreat into hypotheticals. I'll say this, though: if this
girl was bleeding to death — if it was obvious that no course
of action other than a transfusion would save her — then I
would be as unequivocal about her receiving other peoples' blood
as I was in my original post. In the case of permanently
vegetative 42-year-old women with no prospects for meaningful
recovery, it's arguable that we should err on the side of life.
In the case of 14-year-olds with operable cancer, it's
absolutely imperative that we do.
girl from Vernon isn't bleeding to death. Alternative treatments
exist, and the negative emotional impact of the proposed
unwanted treatment on her prognosis cannot and should not be
ignored. Bloodless treatment may be her best option. But that's
the fault of the Jehovah's Witness faith, which should not be immune
from criticism — from regular folks and from other religions
— simply because it happens to be recognized as a legitimate