The headline read: ‘Pregnant Jehovah’s Witness and her baby die after she refused a blood transfusion, chemotherapy and a C-section due to her religious beliefs’. This is the story of a 28 year old woman Sydney woman, who was 7 months pregnant and suffering from leukaemia… she was also a Jehovah’s Witness. The newspaper reported:
Her treating haematologist at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Dr Giselle Kidson-Gerber, said the mother understood the risks of her refusal to accept blood. ‘Her refusal to receive a blood transfusion meant that we were unable to perform a caesarean section and to deliver the foetus,’ Dr Kidson-Gerber told Daily Mail Australia. ‘Obviously it’s a very big ethical issue. Legally in Australia the mother has the right to make decisions on her behalf and her foetus’s behalf.
‘Most mothers would make decisions in favour of the unborn baby and this was a decision that was not in favour of the unborn baby.’ Dr Kidson-Gerber added: ‘If we were to give chemotherapy without blood transfusion support she surely would have died.’ Hospital staff were ‘distressed’ over what were perceived to be two avoidable deaths, as 83 percent of pregnant leukemia sufferers go into remission with treatment. Dr Kidson-Gerber said it was a challenge to respect a patient who refuses life-saving treatment. ‘It was sad. I think that I did my best to help her. But ultimately I couldn’t change the course of events,’ she said.
‘Refusal of a lifesaving intervention by an informed patient is generally well respected, but the rights of a mother to refuse such interventions on behalf of her foetus is more controversial.’ Sascha Callaghan, an expert in ethics and law at the University of Sydney said the current law allows the mother to make decisions that would directly affect her unborn baby, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. She said Jehovah’s Witnesses are often condemned for their beliefs, especially in relation to their stance against blood transfusions. ‘This woman has a long-held commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and that’s how she chose to die,’ she told the Herald. ‘When your foetus is in utero, it is inextricably tied to your life.’ (Daily Mail online April 7 2015).
Usually a person makes a choice when he/she is presented with all the facts. Clearly, according to the report, this woman was given all the facts about her medical condition and the consequences of refusing blood. With all the medical facts given, she was then faced with a choice and she regrettably chose to sacrifice her life, and the life of her unborn child.
It was said that: ‘This woman has a long-held commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and that’s how she chose to die’
This is undoubtedly true. She would have been very familiar with certain Bible verses prohibiting the ‘ingesting’ of blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10,11 and Acts 15:28,29). She would have been taught that to accept a life saving blood transfusion, would be to break Jehovah’s law. She would have known that to accept blood may have avoided the loss of her life and that of her child, but she would also know that to accept blood would have almost certainly involve a different kind of loss.
For many Witnesses, fidelity to the blood transfusion teaching can be what defines them
as a follower of Jehovah; but exactly what the teaching regarding blood transfusions is, has become decidedly confusing in recent years. This is what JW.org. has to say:
What Does the Bible Say About Blood Transfusions?
The Bible commands that we not ingest blood. So we should not accept whole blood or its primary components in any form, whether offered as food or as a transfusion.
The Bible, of course, says nothing of the sort. This is Watchtower eisegesis (that is reading into the biblical text that which it does not say). Because Witnesses see The Watchtower as speaking for Jehovah, they make no distinction between the two, and so blindly follow what they are told.
This chart shows current Watchtower teaching:
Let us return to the statement: ‘This woman has a long-held commitment to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and that’s how she chose to die’ .
As previously stated, choice implies a range of options, but did this woman really have a choice?
As a Jehovah’s Witness she only had one choice. She only had one option. Should she have broken rank and had a transfusion, she would have suffered a great loss. There would have been the possibility of being disfellowshipped, shunned by her family and friends as one disloyal to Jehovah. If not disfellowshipped, there would have certainly been a need for prolonged repentance, a loss of privileges and a loss of friendships. On top of this trauma, would have been the guilt of offending Jehovah and the feeling that any chance of eternal life is now lost.
Had this woman been free to consider other views on the issue of blood transfusions she may truly have had a choice. But Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they alone have the truth, that they alone are Jehovah’s people and as such they need not read literature/ or listen to those from outside the Watchtower Organisation. This again leaves the Witness with very little the choice with regard to blood transfusions.
Had this woman been free to chose, to read and listen to those outside of the organisation, she may have read/heard that the Bible does not teach she cannot have a blood transfusion (a teaching practically unique to JWs). She may have realised that she could have accepted life saving blood and still been accepted and loved by God; that Jesus came to bring life in all fullness. Had this woman truly had a choice she and her child might still be alive.
The reality is, that this woman and child lost their lives not because she refused to have a blood transfusion. They didn’t lose their lives because of an allegiance to Jehovah and His Word. The real reason she and her child lost their lives is because she gave over her mind to a cult.
A cult that controls the thoughts and actions of its adherents to such an extent, that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for it. So sad!