Emory Center for Ethics director faces some of the most complex—and controversial—issues in medicine Paul Root Wolpe and his team think through the tough questions brought about by medical advances
January 28, 2016 Tony Rehagen
"The surgeon didn’t know what to do. He was scheduled to perform a risky operation on a 17-year-old patient who was also a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion that forbids blood infusions. Prior to the surgery, the young man’s parents had signed a document refusing blood during the course of the procedure—no matter what might happen. In their presence, the son had verbally agreed.
"However, in the days leading up to the operation, with his mom and dad out of the room, the young patient had made a quick, cryptic comment to the surgeon: It is against my religion to receive blood, he had reminded the doctor. But I want you to know that my religion states that if you were to give me blood without my knowledge, it would not imperil my eternal soul.
"Was the boy saying that he wanted the doctor to act against the family’s written wishes? The surgeon felt a moral obligation to preserve his patient’s life, having taken a Hippocratic oath to “do no harm.” But should he accept the boy’s seemingly tacit permission?"
"In the case of the Jehovah’s Witness, Wolpe explained to the surgeon that the parents’ written consent legally obligated him to withhold blood. But given the boy’s declaration, Wolpe helped the doctor determine that if the operation took a turn for worse, his own moral imperative to save a life would take precedence." - See more at: