Blood transfusion refusals – why new guidelines aren’t up to scratch
February 22, 2017
Blood transfusions are a common and often lifesaving procedure. However, some groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, forbid blood transfusions on religious grounds. Recently, the Royal College of Surgeons issued new guidelines on what to do when a person rejects a transfusion based on religious belief. However, these guidelines need further clarification to make it easier for surgeons to act fully in line with developments in English law when it comes to children.
In recent years, there has been a move away from paternalistic medicine, where the doctor always knows best, and a move towards “shared-decision making” – a process that is enshrined in English law. This means that the patient is informed of all the risks and, together with the doctor, they make an informed decision.
The issue of transfusion refusals is becoming increasingly important because the population of Jehovah’s Witnesses is growing, as well as people who refuse blood transfusions for reasons unrelated to religion. And the guidelines make a good attempt to give direction to surgeons who have to grapple with potentially life-threatening situations involving the refusal of blood transfusions using a patient-focused approach.