Canadian court rules FOR surgeon in case of JW who refused blood
Woman who refused blood transfusion died after hysterectomy By David Kosub
Court rules in favour of surgeon in case of Jehovah's Witness
CHILLIWACK, B.C. ? A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled in favour of a local surgeon following an eight-year lawsuit that tested the validity of a release form signed by a Jehovah's Witness patient who died following a hysterectomy.
On April 15, 1996, Dr. John Robertson performed surgery on a 35-year-old woman that was to have lasted about 160 minutes. Instead, the operation took more than four hours and resulted in the loss of approximately four litres of blood. The woman was moved to intensive care following surgery and died the following day.
As she had done on other occasions, the patient, a Jehovah's Witness, had signed a form releasing doctors and the hospital from responsibility for any unfavourable consequences as a result of her decision not to receive blood transfusions.
The woman's lawyer subsequently argued that the doctor should still be held liable for negligence after admitting that he could have switched the method of hysterectomy earlier in the operation and stopped massive blood loss.
Reversing an earlier Supreme Court judgment, Justice Ian Pitfield said ultimately the patient had been informed about the risk of bleeding from the type of hysterectomy and had signed a form prohibiting any transfusions and accepted any risk from the operation, including death. Because the woman's family has 30 days to appeal the decision, Dr. Robertson has been instructed by his lawyer not to comment.
Dr. Alex Bartel, medical director of Chilliwack General Hospital, where the surgery was performed, said while surgeons can take some comfort from the ruling, they still walk "a fine line" providing their patients with the very best of care and respecting their religious beliefs. He said several physicians at Chilliwack General will not operate on Jehovah's Witness patients. "They say I would rather not put myself or the patient in that kind of a difficult situation."
Instead, the patients are transferred to a tertiary site with the technical capacity to use the patient's own blood for transfusions. This was a recommendation of the British Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, which also investigated the case eight years ago.
The college did not find grounds for disciplinary action against Dr. Robertson.
Great news for Doctors. I do feel for these families for the deaths of their loved ones but anytime you have a surgery you never know when blood will be needed and as for Doctors not wanting to except JW patients ,i don't blame them one bit. JWS want medical care and the medical community to abide by their stand on blood but if something goes wrong they are quick to sue instead of looking at the JW beliefs . They put the blame on Doctors instead of the JW doctrine. I do feel empathy for those Doctors taking care of JWS because you never know what may happen and the chances are you maybe sued.
This really puts JWs in between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand, they tell doctors: "Our religion forbids blood transfusions", and on the other hand, the WTS is shifting its position to one that says: "You are making a personal decision to refuse blood, we can't make that decision for you. You are signing the waiver of liability. You are taking on all the risks of refusing blood. But if you do take a transfusion, you are no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses."
The bottom line for the WTS is that dead people can't sue them.
Dead people can't sue them but perhaps their loved ones left behind can.
Instead, the patients are transferred to a tertiary site with the technical capacity to use the patient's own blood for transfusions.
"transfustions".........is the article referring to that or to the machine that recirculates the person's own blood throughout surgery (which I don't know the technical term for.)
My brother in law opted for the recirculating machine method - which the WTBTS puts in writing is "each person's own personal decision."
I was under the impression that JW's still can't store their own blood for use later is needed. Is that Old Light still current or is there New Light.......again.
I agree with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons, who found Dr. Robertson did nothing wrong. I think he courageously proceeded and tried to do his best using his best judgment.
But I also understand the position of doctors who shy away from JW patients because of legal problems they can encounter even when they try to "walk a fine line".
JWS want medical care and the medical community to abide by their stand on blood but if something goes wrong they are quick to sue instead of looking at the JW beliefs . They put the blame on Doctors instead of the JW doctrine.
Bingo! They are so quick to cry "victim", when it is their CHOICE to live by the Watchtower's lethal policies.
The idiots have a poor JW sign a stupid vague piece of paper which states, no RBC, WBC, Platelets, Plasma. Then when there is trouble the elders rush in while the patient is already incoherent with some other vague form hot off the press that says oh yeah, fractions of these are okay if the patient checks this box. then comes the major crisis while the elders are in bed sleeping and the doctors are like, what the heck do they mean by "fractions"? Is autotransfusion of the patient's own blood an option? Could we have tried hemodilution? All we know is that it says no RBC, WBC Platelets or Plasma on this form the patient actually signed. Then the elders finally arive and give the doc some dumb bubble-jet printed Watchtower question and answer article to answer some life-and-death healthcare questions while someone is calling Watchtower HQ and the patient is dying.
What's a doctor to do for JWs? He gets sued if he gives them blood and sued if he doesn't. Why doesn't the W.T. Society open a Jehovah Witness only hospital somewhere, run exclusively by JW doctors and nurses? JW's from everywhere could be operated there. Maybe they wouldn't always be running into odds with the courts that way.