Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusion

Blood And Jehovah's Witnesses 

Jehovah's Witnesses are a denomination of the Christian faith with almost 9 million followers worldwide. They are known for keeping a firm ethical code. One of many of these moral conditions in which a follower must subscribe to involves the refusal of blood products. A follower who outright agrees to receiving blood products is generally shunned from their congregation, as this is seen as a renouncement of their religious faith that the higher powers can and will preside over their life. Even in emergent situations, it is generally expected that a follower will deny the use of blood product transfusion. 

What Types of Blood Do Jehovah's Witnesses Refuse?

It is generally understood that Jehovah's Witnesses will refuse the four main types of blood products that can be simply harvested without extra manipulation. This includes:

  • Red Blood Cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  • White Blood Cells (granulocytes)
Jehovah's Witnesses will also typically refuse autologous blood, which is blood that they themselves donate to keep on shelf for potential use during an upcoming surgery. 

This is why Blood Transfusion Consent is so important to have on file. If a Jehovah's Witness adherer receives blood products against their wishes, or without being informed properly of the possible need for blood (such as prior to surgery, etc), the hospital can be liable for damages for not properly following the patient's religious wishes. 

Why Do Jehovah's Witnesses Refuse Blood Transfusions?

The main reason of refusal lies in that portions of the New and Old Testaments lay out that one should not take in the blood of other beings. Additionally, it is seen as disobedient to God to receive blood products as "blood is considered life" and "God gives life".  

Blood Substitutes

What, if anything, can Jehovah's Witnesses due in the event of requiring blood products?

Jehovah's Witnesses will usually allow certain manufactured blood components, such as Albumin, antibody preparations, Recombinant Factor solutions, fibrinogen concentrate, cryoprecipitate, etc. 

Other options include trying to raise blood counts through the use of other mechanisms, such as Iron supplementation (if indicated), giving Erythropoietin (tells the bone marrow to make more Red Blood Cells), etc. 

Surgical procedures may elect to perform "Bloodless Surgery" which involves the use of procedures to minimize bleeding such as using lasers and/or electrocautery to stop active bleeding, minimally invasive surgical techniques, etc.  

Blood Transfusion Consent

Blood Transfusion Informed Consent

Blood transfusion consent is the process of obtaining permission from a patient to receive a blood transfusion. A blood transfusion is a medical procedure in which blood or blood products are given to a patient through an intravenous (IV) line.

Before a blood transfusion can be given, the patient or their legal representative must provide informed consent, which means they must be fully informed of the benefits and risks of the procedure and understand the implications of their decision. This is typically done through a discussion with the healthcare provider who is overseeing the transfusion.

During the informed consent process, the healthcare provider will explain why the patient needs a blood transfusion, the potential risks and benefits of the procedure, and any alternatives that may be available. The patient will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss any concerns they may have.

Once the patient has given their consent, the healthcare provider will verify the patient's identity and blood type to ensure that the blood transfusion is appropriate for their individual needs. The transfusion will then be administered by a trained healthcare professional in a sterile environment.

Obtaining informed consent is an important part of the blood transfusion process, as it helps ensure that the patient is fully informed and has the opportunity to make an informed decision about their medical treatment.

Emergent Transfusion and Consent

In emergency situations where a patient requires a blood transfusion immediately and is unable to provide informed consent, healthcare providers may need to administer the transfusion without obtaining explicit consent from the patient or their legal representative. In these situations, the healthcare provider must follow established protocols and guidelines to ensure that the transfusion is given in the patient's best interests.

In most countries, there are laws and regulations that allow healthcare providers to provide emergency treatment without informed consent in situations where it is necessary to protect the patient's health and well-being. These laws and regulations typically require that the healthcare provider make a good-faith effort to obtain consent from the patient or their legal representative as soon as possible after the emergency situation has been stabilized.

In emergency situations where the patient is unable to provide consent, healthcare providers may rely on other sources of information to guide their decision-making, such as the patient's medical history, any advance directives or living wills that the patient may have created, or the preferences of family members or other caregivers who are present.

It is important to note that emergency situations where transfusion consent is not possible are relatively rare, and healthcare providers are trained to prioritize the safety and well-being of their patients while respecting their autonomy and right to make informed medical decisions whenever possible.

Examples of Transfusion Consent Forms:

Blood Consent from UCLA

Blood Consent from Kaiser Permanente