Every now and then a major news outlet runs a story involving the Jehova’s Witnesses and their inane prohibition on blood transfusions. This time around, it is CNN.
(CNN) –Relatives of a 38-year-old Argentinian man are fighting a legal battle over whether his religious beliefs should be allowed to trump doctors’ recommendations that he be given a blood transfusion.
The life of Pablo Albarracini may hang in the balance.
Since early May, when he was shot six times during a robbery in which he was the victim, Albarracini has been hospitalized in critical condition in Buenos Aires. Though he was in a coma initially, that is no longer the case.
“He’s not at risk of dying, but he could be at any moment in the event of some complication,” said Jorge Albarracini about his son.
“Thank God that hasn’t happened yet. But he needs to undergo several surgeries that will need blood. So I’m worried about the future. In three months or more, when they want to take the bullets out of his head and hip, which they have to do, they’re going to think twice.”
The father said he is seeking to have a court void a will signed four years ago by his son that said he would not want any blood transfusions.
The patient’s wife, Romina Carnevale, is also a Jehovah’s Witness.
She has said she wants her husband’s desires to be followed, regardless of the possible consequences.
Argentina’s Supreme Court has ruled in her favor.
According to all-knowing Wikipedia, the Jehova’s Witnesses base their prohibition on transfusions on the following biblical passages:
That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
It seems rather clear the authors were writing about dietary restrictions. Don’t eat the meat of animals sacrificed to pagan deities and don’t drink blood (I wonder how the Catholics reconcile this verse with their Eucharist). Ingesting blood and receiving a transfusion are such dynamically different processes, I struggle to understand precisely how The Watchtower Society has connected the two. Furthermore, it goes without saying none of these passages explicitly prohibit medicine or medical treatment. They merely warn off ingesting blood.
That said, I don’t disagree with the court’s decision. This man is an adult and has the right to refuse whichever medical treatment he so pleases. All too often, however, these stories involve children whom their parents refuse to treat because of some indescribably stupid religious tenet.
In 2007, a fourteen-year old Jehova’s Witness died of leukemia – a highly treatable form of a cancer – after refusing a blood transfusion which very well may have saved her life.
More disturbing is the case of fifteen-year-old Joshua McAuley, who was hit by a car while preaching (supreme irony, I know). McAuley refused a blood transfusion, and as a result died of injuries secondary to the accident. The car’s driver, an Iraqi immigrant, was then charged with causing McAuley’s death. By all accounts, the driver lost control of his car and hit McAuley, but did the driver cause McAuley’s death when McAuley didn’t try very hard to stay alive? What of the role the Jehova’s Witnesses played? What of the role of McAuley’s parents playing, in their informing him with such nonsense?
In Pablo Albarracini’s case, it is only his life he presently endangers. His life is his own, I think, and while I would persuade him to seek the best medical treatment available to him, I don’t believe I, or anyone else, has the right to force it upon him. But too many are the cases in which parents deny their children medical treatment based on the inane writings of the Watchtower Society. In this regard, the Witnesses’ prohibition on blood transfusion is absolutely, without question, unconscionable.