If Your JW Relative Needed Blood, Would You Force It On Them?
The reason I say "force" is the key word here is because you are taking the individual's right to decide for themselves as to how they will live or die, and I don't think that's your right.Any act of force against a person's will , I am uncomfortable with, especially if the person is sound in mind and mature in all respects. I do not appreciate anyone policing another person, even if the majority feel that this is the only right course to take. If my JW mom refuses blood because of her beliefs, I would not legally try to force blood on her. And if a person can live by machines only, with no quality of life ever possible, yet that person makes known beforehand that if anything like that were to ever happen to them, they would not want to be sustained to live like that, I would honor that request too. It is WRONG to force my personal opinion on another. If a person chooses to live with cancer and not treat it because they feel it's terminal and may only get an extra year out of "life" that is not really "living", because of the terrible side effects of the torturous treatments,and they decide they will not live their remaining time like that, would you "force" a person to accept your view? I would hope not.
This has actually come up in my family, with my mother, (still living), and my father, who passed away in 2001. My mother refused blood and came within a hair of dying. Word is, she actually really would have allowed herself to fade away, and was prepared to make the sacrifice. My father, never really a good practicing JW, still would not take blood. This came up with him on many ocassions, being seriously injured in auto accident, a logging accident, a heavy equipment accident, and when he had his heart problems. He also gave instructions to my mother who made certain that no blood was given to him. At one point, he made a phone call to me before he went in for surgery, to say he loved me and "goodbye". He really thought he was going to die. As it turned out, neither of them died because they didn't take blood. My mom strugged for nearly three years to get her blood count up, but she is doing alright today at nearly 80.
I would NOT force someone in my family to go against what their heart is telling them. I would not make a big deal out of it. It's their life. Their decision. I don't know how I would react if there were children involved, with parents dead, and I had to make that decision. I would know in my heart what the parents would do, but because I am the next of kin, it would be MY decision. In that case, I would no doubt sign papers for them to receive blood.
I suppose we all think about it. No one knows how they would react until it actually happens. I can say that the hospital staff thought both of my parents were absolute nuts, and they basically treated the rest of us like we were stupid religious freaks--even though we don't practice that belief any longer.
Plain text is me. Italics is onacruise I indented stuff we have said already.Issue 1: There is no subsitute for whole blood in emergency situations. I, for one (blame it on ignorance, if you will) have never seen any statistics that can verify that claim.
I bet there is, based on some basic facts about our physiology. First of all, without enough oxygen-carrying blood running through our system, our body dies. Draining the body of blood is a death sentence. Always.Admittedly, there are many cases where this is true, but I seriously doubt that there's any objective evidence to prove that's it's unequivocally and universally the case. After all, how in the world can anyone definitively say "He's alive today only because he took a transfusion"?
I guess we could say that jumping off a ten-story building might not always kill you, or that talking a man off the ledge is not 100% successful. Can we definitively say that a suicidal person who was talked off the ledge is alive today because of the actions of the negotiator? The use of transfusions has been studied extensively, as they have been part of regular medical practice for over 60 years. There are no doubt many studies in the early days that showed that blood transfusions definitively save lives. A quick browse of the internet shows that blood transfusions are still studied intensively. The studies do not focus, however, on whether they should be done or not, but rather how they might be made safer. Doctors are a conservative bunch. If a therapy saves lives, they are loath to drop it. Sixty years ago, a woman haemorrhaging after pregnancy would likely die. Now, she will likely not. Coincidence?
Issue 2: The WTS mixes religious religion with science, muddying the waters.
If the video had stuck to scriptural/religious reasons alone, and made it clear that the consequence of refusing a blood transfusion could very well lead to death, fine.They've said that, openly, with the caveat that future everlasting life was thereby preserved.
Not on the video. A few minutes of scripture, then science, science, science. The message is clear. “Don’t worry about the consequences of your decision, because modern science will be able to resurrect you anyways.”
Instead, they have muddied the waters with pseudo-science and reassuring men in white lab coats.A good number of the "white lab coat" professionals, and thousands of operations, have confirmed that non-blood treatment is not pseudo-science at all.
Yes. For planned surgeries. What the video did not explain is that blood substitutes are not working as well as hoped, and that risks to the patient’s health is compounded by refusing blood. Also, there is no substitute for whole blood in emergencies. The WT video is just as deceptive as everything else they write. Only one side of the story is told, important information is left out, bad news is glossed over.Issue 3: To force or not to force?
I am willing to go against my honey’s wishes if he is in no condition to stop me. Do note that I and my honey have discussed the blood transfusion issue openly, and I have plainly said that I will not stand by and watch him die. If it is in my power to change the outcome, I would approve a blood transfusion. If he is lucid and refuses, I will respect his decision.
The questions raised here are extremely difficult and I don't think that there are any clear cut answers. What anyone does, what anyone ought to do, should depend on the exact situation of the person who might die.
I would almost certainly never agree not to allow blood to be given to a dying parent if medical authorities deemed it necessary to prevent death. I wouldn't want the responsibility. The only way that I would agree to such a thing would be if they could answer a good many questions about their belief, and convince me that they were making this decision of their own free will, and without coercion from the Watchtower Society. This is for one simple reason: I know very well that most JWs would abandon the present JW blood policy if the Society did, just as surely as most JWs will take an organ transplant today even though they once put this in the same category as taking a transfusion.
The questions I would ask would be medical and Biblical. I would present Deuteronomy 14:21 and ask them about just why God there allowed non-Jews to eat blood, despite the Society's claim that Genesis 9 contains a universal prohibition against eating blood. I would discuss this thoroughly and if they could not come up with reasonable answers, I simply would not agree to help them. Let them find someone else to take the responsibility.
Onacruse said of JWs generally:
: They haven't decided to refuse blood tranfusions simply because the WTS told them so. Whatever may be said about the validity of their theology, the fact remains that they have deliberately considered the matter and voluntarily chosen to refuse that treatment.
I thoroughly disagree. First, as I said above, if the Watchtower changed its doctrine, most JWs would also change in a New York minute. That's because if they didn't, they'd be guilty of contradicting "the faithful slave" and would be disfellowshipped for "causing divisions" or some equally stupid reason. Second, any JW who decides not go along with the doctrine is disfellowshipped and shunned -- which is crass coercion. The case of Lawrence Hughes in Canada illustrates this perfectly. Third, I've had personal and online discussions with dozens of JWs about the blood doctrine. Not one -- NOT ONE! -- has ever successfully dealt with the many arguments, including Biblical, against the Society's claims. This includes the present keeper of the Society's policy, one Fred Rusk who is a GB assistant. Fourth, the Watchtower has actively misrepresented the medical issues with regard to blood transfusions so as to instill an irrational fear of the procedure into the pliable minds of JWs. Transfusions these days are about as risky as any other organ transplant.
In general, if I happened to know that someone took a stance that could result in their death, based on information I consider false, I would not act for or against their wishes. But if the responsibility were plopped in my lap, then I would in general act in such a way as to save life -- even if it violated the wishes of the person in question. This is because I consider life more important than the right to make bad decisions. For example, if I were plopped into a situation where I had to make a decision whether to allow blood to be given to someone who was bleeding out on the emergency room floor, I wouldn't hesitate a minute to give permission, unless I already knew the person and personally knew for a fact that they had already made a decision to die in such a situation. This is the only exception that I would make -- if the person had already convinced me, by careful and reasonable and uncoerced arguments, that if a life-and-death situation came up, he or she would prefer to die in that situation. For example, my wife and I have discussed the situation that if either of us became a vegetable on life support, and the best medical opinion was that it was permanent, we would want the other to give permission to pull the plug. That's because each of us is convinced that it is a reasoned decision by the other, one that we would make for ourselves if we could. Similary, if a loved one asked me to help them die because of a terminal and horrible illness, I would consider doing it, after a long and careful discussion.
They haven't decided to refuse blood tranfusions simply because the WTS told them so. Whatever may be said about the validity of their theology, the fact remains that they have deliberately considered the matter and voluntarily chosen to refuse that treatment.
Though the above defence has been used successfully by the WTS in law suits, I have to agree with Alan here. I know very few Jehovah's Witnesses who have made an unencumbered choice over the matter of Blood Transfusions. Few of them, even the elders, totally understand the WTS position these days as the WTS have deliberately obscured the issue in an ambiguity which has an eye not on Scripture, but on legal ramifications.
When the WTS introduced its ‘blood fractions’ edict I had numerous telephone calls from confused Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding the matter. One overriding phrase that was used almost universally by them all was very telling. The phrase was, ‘What are we allowed to take and what should we not take’. I understand from speaking to a number of others, that my experience was not unique.
The average JW relies not on informed choice but on the dictates of its leaders whom they have been convinced speak for God. In actively perpetuating this fallacy, the WTS have unleashed a very dangerous Frankenstein who shows all the signs of causing them even deeper future problems with this issue.
I and my honey have discussed the blood transfusion issue openly, and I have plainly said that I will not stand by and watch him die...If he is lucid and refuses, I will respect his decision.
That's right on target. You've made your feelings clear to each other, and he knows that you won't over-ride his conscious decision, even if you disagree with it. As far as the moral and ethical issues, that's all I'm arguing for...the individual's fundamental right to choose for themselves, and our obligation to respect that decision, even if we don't honor it.
As for the efficacy of transfusions (not to be a jerk in saying this ): You made the assertion that there is no substitute for blood in ER situations. I seriously doubt that you, or anybody, can produce statistical evidence to support that claim. Mind now, I'm not disagreeing with your basic premise...but unless there is 100% demonstrable evidence, then the "benefit of doubt" rightly goes to the individual, imo.
AlanF and HS:
And according to whose standards do we determine that an adult has made a truly informed and rational decision? Good lord, if we demand that every adult decision be as free from intellectual error, outside influence, poor choice of authority figures, and as fully knowledgeable as we would "like," then 99.9999% of the human population would be classified as incapable of making an informed choice. And so then who do we set up as their thought-guardians? to dispense to them each and every one what we have decided is right or wrong?
JWs are generally misinformed, but they didn't just wake up one day and say "Gosh, it just occurred to me, I think I'm gonna refuse blood transfusions." The elders didn't walk up to them and say "Here, take this blood card that we already filled out for you."
So I say again: It's their moral choice, and my ethical obligation to abide by their choice.
And my heart aches as I think of the consequences of my opinion.
My moral or ethical decision to help someone is based on my beliefs, not theirs. Why should I care if my good deeds will be punished? – Gamaliel
I don’t know exactly how I feel about that. In a way I’m glad you left this discussion because your provocative perspective was beginning to make my head swim!
Shouldn’t our decisions be at least SOMEWHAT affected by others’ beliefs? And, outside of minors in our care, how far should that sphere of rights that we individually have impinge on the rights of others? (No need to respond... just thinking out loud. Or trying to.)
And according to whose standards do we determine that an adult has made a truly informed and rational decision? So I say again: It's their moral choice, and my ethical obligation to abide by their choice. – Craig / “onacruse”
There you go! What makes my belief / decision superior to theirs, especially when it involves THEIR life?
The last time she was given a No Blood Card, my JW wife and I had this very discussion. I let her know in no uncertain terms that, in the event I was incapacitated, she was to allow (insist on) a blood transfusion for my 4 year old and me if that was the medical recommendation; and that if I later awoke only to discover that she had not heeded my wishes and my daughter had died as a result – there would be serious hell to pay. I made her understand the gravity of my position, and as far as I could tell, she understood. She will (she says) accede to my wishes. She better.
It was interesting when I asked her the flip side of the question, i.e.: In the event that you (my jw wife) are in need of a transfusion, what decision would you want your non-believing husband to make? She didn’t want to / couldn’t answer right then, so I gave her a couple of days to mull it over. When she finally answered, she said that she’d accept one.
At the time, I told her that I was willing to honor her wish to NOT accept a transfusion if that had been her request, but now I’m not so sure what I’d do. Damn you, Gamaliel!
And my heart aches as I think of the consequences of my opinion.
And if my parent or relative has a good chance at a reasonably healthy existance after a life saving blood transfusion, my heart won't ache if I facilitate that. Of that I'm sure. I'd feel good about my decision, and what's more, I think most witnesses would feel pretty good about having been saved. Whether or not they'd admit that when they sued my do-gooder arse is another matter all together, lol.
: And according to whose standards do we determine that an adult has made a truly informed and rational decision?
Our own. That's why I described what I would do, not what I thought anyone else should do.
: Good lord, if we demand that every adult decision be as free from intellectual error, outside influence, poor choice of authority figures, and as fully knowledgeable as we would "like," then 99.9999% of the human population would be classified as incapable of making an informed choice. And so then who do we set up as their thought-guardians? to dispense to them each and every one what we have decided is right or wrong?
We're not talking about "every adult decision" here. We're talking about decisions that involve life and death matters. We're talking about such situations in the context where one can objectively demonstrate that a position is wrong, or at least grossly misinformed.
For myself, if there is any doubt about the informed consent -- and I mean truly objectively informed consent, not the kind of consent obtained at the point of a gun or threats issued by a cult -- then I will almost always come down on the side of saving life.
In non-life-threatening situations, I really don't care what people do to themselves. Just let them not hurt others, especially children.
: JWs are generally misinformed, but they didn't just wake up one day and say "Gosh, it just occurred to me, I think I'm gonna refuse blood transfusions." The elders didn't walk up to them and say "Here, take this blood card that we already filled out for you."
The amount of time it takes to convince them of an unscriptural, death-dealing position is irrelevant. Some people are converted in a day. Some take years. In all cases, they're convinced, not by good reasoning, but by misrepresentation of the Bible and of medical reality. That's why no one besides JWs accepts their position on blood, any more than any Christians outside the crazy snake handlers accept that snake handling is a Christian requirement.
Actually, snake handlers are a good example of the kind of nonsensical, death-dealing doctrines that some cults promote. They allow themselves to be bitten by poisonous snakes, and they swallow poisons like strichnine. Some die from it. If adults want to kill themselves this way, fine. But children should not be allowed, by our government, to participate. And while I would not stop an adult cult member from killing himself, I would certainly not cooperate with him in doing so. If he found himself in a situation where he was about to die from his poor judgment, and I found myself with the power to save him, then I would, despite his expressed will to die.
Here's another example. Suppose I decided that I could fly, by putting on a Superman costume and jumping off the roof of a 20-story building. Suppose I visit you and say, "Craig, come with me and watch me fly off this building!" Would you go along? Or would you try to convince me, even by tying me up, not to go? If we got to the top of the building, would you hang on to me to stop me from jumping? Or would you say, "Alan has the right to decide that he can fly and who am I to stop him?" Please explain all the ethical nuances with respect to what you would do, and what society in general ought to teach people to do in this situation.
: So I say again: It's their moral choice, and my ethical obligation to abide by their choice.
As I said, I think that the highest ethical obligation is to preserve life. All others almost always take a back seat.
: And my heart aches as I think of the consequences of my opinion.
As it should. We should never be put in a position like this. Cults like the JWs bear great responsibility -- especially before God, if he exists -- for screwing up the lives of their own members, and for putting others in a no-win situation. One could take the position, "Screw them! Let them all die in their stupid arrogance!" But how would that affect your own conscience? We have to live with ourselves.
Teejay: She didn’t want to / couldn’t answer right then, so I gave her a couple of days to mull it over. When she finally answered, she said that she’d accept one.
My honey responded in a very similar fashion. He is ambivalent about my declaration that I would override his beliefs if he were incapacitated. I think many JW's feel similarly. They are caught in a double-blind in their beliefs (the WT missives are not open to interpretation or criticism), so any possible escape is actually welcomed. I found it telling that Shunned Father's daughter was perfectly fine with passive resistance until others intervened.
A medical ethics article I read on the subject (darn! I can't find the link) showed a great deal of sensitivity towards patient rights. Above all, a patient's dignity is to be respected, and sometimes by forcefully healing (using methods that the patient finds reprehensible or deadly) we do more damage than good. It is very difficult for nurses and doctors to stand by and watch patients fade away, when they know a perfectly good treatment is available.
The WTS puts up a good front that it's members are well-informed on the issue and that the reasons to refuse blood are purely religious in nature. I doubt that. I think every JW deserves some "alone time" with an objective third party to help them mull over the consequences of their decision.
Onacruse - a typical blood transfusion to recover from an auto accident would require 50 units of blood.