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.
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
- 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.
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".
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.