Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusion

Blood And Jehovah's Witnesses 

bible jehovah
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

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 for Jehovah's Witnesses

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

Importance of Blood Transfusion Informed Consent
Lawyer in the hospital

What is Blood Transfusion Consent? Blood transfusion consent is the process through which a patient agrees to receive a blood transfusion after being fully informed about the procedure. This medical procedure involves the intravenous delivery of blood or blood products to a patient.

Informed Consent: The Core of the Process

  • Essential Information: Patients, or their legal representatives, must be thoroughly informed about the transfusion's benefits, risks, and any alternative options available.
  • Discussion and Questions: The healthcare provider will detail why the transfusion is necessary, the procedure's potential risks and benefits, and address any questions or concerns from the patient.

Steps Following Consent:

  • Verification: After obtaining consent, the patient's identity and blood type are verified to ensure the transfusion's safety and suitability.
  • Administration: A trained healthcare professional then performs the transfusion in a sterile setting.

The Importance of Informed Consent in Transfusions:

  • Informed consent is a critical aspect of the transfusion process, ensuring patients are well-informed and agree to their treatment plan. This process empowers patients to make educated decisions regarding their healthcare.

By emphasizing informed consent, the medical field prioritizes patient autonomy and understanding, reinforcing the significance of clear communication and patient education in healthcare decisions.

Emergent Transfusion and Consent

Navigating Emergency Transfusions: In emergencies requiring immediate blood transfusions, if a patient cannot give informed consent, healthcare providers may proceed without explicit approval. These critical situations demand swift action to safeguard the patient’s health, guided by established medical protocols and ethical guidelines.

Legal Frameworks and Ethical Considerations:

  • Legal Protections: Many jurisdictions have laws enabling emergency medical interventions without prior consent to prevent harm and preserve life.
  • Efforts to Obtain Consent: Providers are expected to attempt to secure consent from the patient or their legal representatives as soon as the emergency stabilizes.

Decision-Making in Consent's Absence:

  • In the absence of patient consent, decisions may be informed by the patient’s medical history, existing advance directives, or the input of family members and caregivers.

The Rarity of Consent-Less Transfusions:

  • Instances where transfusions occur without consent are exceptional. Medical professionals strive to respect patient autonomy, prioritizing informed decision-making and patient welfare.

This framework ensures that, even in urgent scenarios, the principles of patient care, ethical conduct, and legal adherence are maintained, balancing immediate medical needs with respect for individual rights and preferences.

Examples of Transfusion Consent Forms:

Blood Consent from UCLA

Blood Consent from Kaiser Permanente