MINOR CHILDREN MATURE MINORS UNBORN CHILDREN ADULT CHILDREN
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES PARENTAL OBLIGATIONS TO THEIR CHILDRENBLOOD TRANSFUSION COURT CASES
1970s - 1980s Court Cases
1950s-1960s Cases * 1990s-2010s Cases
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JEHOVAH'S WITNESS PARENTSWILL CHOOSE TO EFFECTIVELY COMMIT SUICIDE,WILL CHOOSE TO DEFAULT ON THEIR PREVIOUSLY OBLIGATED PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES,
WILL CHOOSE TO ABANDON THEIR CHILDREN TO BE REARED BY THE TAXPAYERS AND OTHERS,WILL CHOOSE TO BECOME THE NEWEST MARTYRS TO BE CELEBRATED BY THE WATCHTOWER CULT,
RATHER THAN ACCEPT LIFE-SAVING BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS FORBIDDEN BY THE WATCHTOWER CULT.
CHARLENE NEUMANN TRAGEDY. In October 1971, Charlene Sparrow Neumann, age 20, of Cleveland, Ohio, made the conscious decision that rather than violate the WatchTower Society's prohibition against accepting blood transfusions that she would allow herself to die and leave motherless two young daughters -- Corene Renee Neumann (Branan), then age 2, and newborn Lara Michelle Neumann (Rohrer). Ten days after delivering her second daughter, Charlene Neumann began to hemorrhage due to the placenta not being completely expelled and beginning to grow into her uterus. Doctors at Lakewood Hospital attempted the limited medical options available to them given that husband Jeffrey J. Neumann, age 23, stood solidly behind Charlene Neumann's decision to refuse any transfusions. When her bleeding could not be stopped, a hysterectomy was ultimately performed. Although that surgery was successful, by that time, Neumann had already lost most of her blood, and died shortly thereafter from blood loss.
Officials at Cleveland's Lakewood Hospital had seriously considered obtaining a court order authorizing them to administer the needed life-saving transfusions -- thus "shouldering the responsibility" before God per WatchTower teachings -- but they decided not to pursue such after they were threatened with one or more lawsuits by several WatchTower Society officials present at the hospital to make sure that no transfusion did occur.
Twenty-three year old Jeffrey Neumann, a Jehovah's Witness Pioneer and "Servant" who later began to claim that he was "one of the 144,000", repeatedly stated for media consumption: "I don't think any person loves anyone as much as I love my wife." Cleveland area WatchTower Society spokesperson, Eugene Tenke, explained that because a blood transfusion is used "tonourish and feed the body", Jehovah's Witnesses considered blood transfusions to be "eating blood", which is prohibited by the Bible.
Charlene Neumann's death resulted in much public outrage. One of the most common reactions was that Neumann should have considered her responsibility to her two young daughters. WatchTower Society spokesperson Gene Tenke responded, "When a young father dies in a war people don't say, 'He should have thought first of his family.'" What a bunch of HALF-WITS!
In October 1972, a yet-to-be specifically identified Jehovah's Witness Female, age 28, died slowly from blood loss over an 18 DAY PERIOD, while staff and administrators WATCHED at the good Catholic St. Vincent's Hospital in Billings, Montana. The deceased JW Female's non-JW Family were outraged for a number of good reasons. First, they had not particularly approved of this marriage when it occurred back in 1962. The widower whom their 5 foot tall, 98 pound, 18 year-old daughter had married had an unspecified number of children -- the youngest being 6 years-old. The financially poor Husband earned a living by trucking hay and grain. The couple lived in a mobile home in a rural area near Shepherd, Montana.
Around the same time of the marriage, the Husband became fascinated with the WatchTower Cult. After "studying" for 5 years, the couple were baptized around 1967 (which was around the time that the WatchTower Cult started preaching that Armageddon would occur in 1975). The deceased JW Female's non-JW Family claimed that they had known for years that she and her husband were interested in the Jehovah's Witnesses, but that they were unaware that she and her husband actually had joined the Cult until they were told such by reporters.
JW Husband and his children from his first marriage were attending Kingdom Hall services on the Sunday in October 1972, that PREGNANT JW Wife, whom had stayed home with the flu, telephoned a neighbor for help. That neighbor found PREGNANT JW Wife so sick and so weak that she could not walk, and could barely speak. The neighbor immediately drove pregnant JW Wife to St. Vincent's Hospital in Billings, Montana. Two days later, JW Wife delivered a healthy baby girl 14 weeks early. Three days later, JW Mother also had corrective surgery for a bleeding abdominal ulcer.
It was not until JW Wife had been hospitalized at St. Vincent's for 10 days (Oct. 18) that JW Husband contacted JW Wife's non-JW family in Minnesota to let them know only that the baby had been delivered early. (JW Wife's Sister and BIL lived in Montana, which apparently was JW Wife's connection to Montana. However, at the time of the hospitalization, Sister and BIL were visiting the two sisters' parents in Minnesota.) JW Husband never told JW Wife's family that she had been sick with influenza, nor that JW Wife had had surgery to correct a bleeding ulcer, nor that JW Wife was slowly bleeding to death due to their refusal to consent to needed blood transfusions.
JW Wife's Sister and BIL returned to Montana, and went to see JW Wife at St. Vincent's on Saturday, October 21, 1972. There, JW Husband told them that JW Wife was unconscious in ICU, but was doing alright, and that the doctors were doing all they could for her. JW Husband NEVER ONCE mentioned that JW Wife was slowly bleeding to death because JW Wife had signed documents forbidding the administering of any blood transfusions. On Monday, October 23, Sister telephoned St. Vincent's and spoke with ICU nurses who told her that JW Wife was unconscious, but "holding her own". Sister did not learn until it was too late that JW Wife had been going in and out of consciousness during this time period. The result was that Sister did not wait around at St. Vincent's, and thus was never able to speak with JW Wife and learn her thought process.
On Wednesday, October 25, Sister visited St. Vincent's for the second time, and was again told that her sister was unconscious. HOWEVER, this time, the charge nurse pulled Sister aside and first asked if she too was against blood transfusions. Befuddled Sister said "No". Then, FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME, that ICU charge nurse explained to Sister that JW Wife needed blood transfusions to survive. JW Wife's hemoglobin count was down to "4", and it should have been "14". Sister immediately telephoned her parents in Minnesota to let them know that JW Wife was slowly bleeding to death, and that such was because JW Wife was not receiving needed blood transfusions.
The two sisters' parents drove all night and arrived at St. Vincent's on Thursday, October 26. There, the same ICU nurse provided the family with the name of a local Billings attorney whom she thought could help the Family get a court order to authorize blood transfusions for JW Wife. Before seeing that attorney, the family naively attempted to convince JW Husband to change his mind about JW Wife receiving blood transfusions. JW Husband typically repeated the memorized WatchTower Cult spiel why blood transfusions were a "sin" which would prevent JW Wife from being resurrected.
On Friday, October 27, the Family saw the unnamed Billings Attorney, who made repeated telephone calls to St. Vincent's. St. Vincent's attending physician supposedly told the Attorney that JW Wife was so weak that her system could not withstand a blood transfusion -- that it was too late for transfusions. Based on that assessment, court intervention was not even attempted. JW Wife lingered for another four days. She died on Tuesday, October 31, 1972. Until we published this case summary in 2016, JW Wife's story was all but forgotten. We weren't even able to uncover this over-reached victim's name.
Nowhere in any of the multiple newspaper articles covering this tragedy was there even the slightest indication of the consideration by anyone that JW Wife had existing legal responsibilities previously made to her husband, her step-children, her newborn daughter, and possibly others.
Although the BILLINGS GAZETTE documented JW Wife's case, the newspaper also accepted JW Husband and local WatchTower Cult hatchet-man Eugene Shaw's BULLSHIT explanations with little questioning. It is obvious from this December-May relationship that JW Husband foisted his own personal beliefs and choices onto his younger, dominated wife. One even must question the mental competency of JW Wife simply for having entered this relationship. The reason that it took JW Wife nine years to get pregnant would probably also be revealing. The neighbor whom had transported JW Wife to St. Vincent's Hospital probably best summarized the situation for outsiders, stating to a reporter, "I just don't know if she was a fool or a martyr."
We can't leave this case without expressing our suspicions that something else also may have occurred in this case. We aren't physicians, but it sounds odd to us that it was too late for blood transfusions when JW Wife lived for four additional days. Besides, what did JW Wife have to lose -- four days of suffering? Is anyone else suspicious that making sure the possibly litigious family of JW Wife counseled with an Attorney of St. Vincent's own choosing possibly was a conspiracy? Attorney speaks to St. Vincent doctor who tells Attorney and Family that transfusions are too late, thus stopping the Family from publicly seeking court authorization for possibly life-saving transfusions? The WatchTower Cult is not the only bureaucracy that seeks its own benefit over that of others.
KATHLEEN HOLMES v. SILVER CROSS HOSPITAL was a 1972 Illinois federal district court decision. Ernest J. Holmes, a twenty year old Jehovah's Witness, was seriously injured in an automobile accident in August 1969. Due to excessive loss of blood, Ernest Holmes was told that he would need a blood transfusion to survive, which he promptly refused citing his religious beliefs as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Ernest Holmes was recently married to Kathleen Holmes, and they had an infant child. However, Kathleen Holmes also refused to consent, as did Ernest Holme's parents, brother, and sister. Ernest and Kathleen even signed a form releasing the Hospital and doctors from liability if they were to perform surgery without any blood transfusions.
Ernest Holmes lost consciousness about four hours after arriving at the hospital, and in desperation the Hospital petitioned a local court to declare Ernest incompetent as a "neglected minor" in order to have a guardian appointed for the purpose of authorizing a blood transfusion. The court granted the Hospital's petition, and the guardian authorized a blood transfusion. Despite the transfusions and the doctors best efforts to save his life, Holmes died from the injuries and blood loss attributable to the accident.
Ernest Holmes' family was not notified of the emergency court hearing; thus were unable to contest such. Kathleen Holmes filed a federal lawsuit against the Hospital, multiple doctors, the guardian, and even the Trial Judge; claiming they had all conspired to deprive the deceased Ernest J. Holmes of his civil rights by medically treating the decedent in a manner inconsistent with his religious beliefs while acting under color of State law.
Ruling on the defendants' motions to dismiss, the USDC ruled that the trial judge and the court-appointed guardian enjoyed judicial immunity in this suit. Motions from the defendant hospital and doctors to dismiss were denied. Outcome unknown, but the fact that this lawsuit has received little publicity may speak for its outcome. This decision is sometimes cited to acknowledge a court's right to consider the affect that the death of a Jehovah's Witness parent would have on their minor children, but the fact that this decedent had an infant child evidently did not change this decision.
IN THE MATTER OF CHARLES P. OSBORNE was a 1972 District of Columbia appellate court decision. Charles Osborne was a 34 year old father of two young children. Osborne was admitted to Cafritz Memorial Hospital with injuries and internal bleeding caused when a tree fell on him. As the need for whole blood became apparent, Osborne and his wife both refused to give their consent for the necessary transfusion. Both gave as reasons their religious beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses. The Hospital petitioned the local court for guardianship and authority to administer medically required transfusions.
When the petition was brought to the judge's home the night of the accident, the patient's wife, brother, and grandfather were present. They stated the views of Osborne, and agreed with them, explaining that those views are based on strong religious convictions. The grandfather explained that Osborne wanted very much to live, but that, "He wants to live in the Bible's promised new world where life will never end. A few hours here would nowhere compare to everlasting life." Osborne's wife testified: "He told me he did not want blood ... he did not care if he had to die."
Concerned with the patient's capacity to make such a decision in light of his serious condition, and also recognizing the possibility that the use of drugs might have impaired Osborne's judgment, the judge went to the hospital to talk to Osborne and his doctors. Osborne was aware of the implications of his refusal and was fully competent. His beliefs were longstanding. His father had even died a few months before, refusing blood, a decision which the same family members supported. Testimony was given which indicated that the family would care for Osborne's two young children if he did die.
The judge even sought out the solution some Jehovah's Witnesses had hinted at in order to save their lives. [See GEORGE below.] The judge asked Osborne if he would consider himself blameless before God if the court ordered the transfusion against his wishes. Instead of answering like most Jehovah's Witnesses answered similar questions -- then the JW would not sin -- Osborne said he would still be accountable before God. Such would cause him to lose everlasting life in the new world - even if he "unwillingly" received a transfusion.
The judge thereafter denied the Hospital's petition. On emergency appeal, the appellate court affirmed the denial. Fortunately, Osborne recovered without any blood transfusions, and was discharged from the hospital.
IN RE ROBERTA C. NAU was a 1972 Florida court decision. In November 1972, Roberta Nau, then age 22, delivered twin girls at Bayfront Medical Center, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Roberta Nau lost a significant amount of blood during the delivery, and needed a blood transfusion simply to survive. However, both she and her JW Husband, Steven Richard Nau, refused to give their consent. Hospital administrators sought and obtained court intervention. The following day, a hospital spokesperson reported that Nau was still listed in "serious condition", but that she was demonstrably "happy", and "proud" of her twin girls.
IN RE VENIA MICHELLE POGUE and IN RE JANET POGUE were related 1974 Washington D.C. court decisions. In the late evening of November 11, 1974, Janet Pogue, age 26, delivered a newborn baby daughter, named Venia Michelle Pogue at Columbia Hospital for Women. Venia Pogue needed a blood transfusion to prevent mental retardation and possible death when a pigment that produces jaundice began rising rapidly within her tiny body. Both Janet Pogue, and her JW Husband, Welbourne Pogue (a Prince Georges County employee), of Carmody Hills, Maryland, refused to consent to the necessary blood transfusions. Venia Pogue was transferred to Wash D.C.'s Children's Hospital, where an emergency AM hours court hearing was requested to obtain court authorization for the needed transfusions. That Judge agreed with the doctors and gave the needed authorization.
However, while that emergency court hearing was taking place, Janet Pogue began to hemorrhage, and her doctors deemed that an emergency hysterectomy was needed, and possibly a blood transfusion due to anticipated blood loss. Once again, both Janet Pogue and Welbourne Pogue refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions. A second emergency hearing was convened, and at this hearing there were ACLU lawyers present, a JW lawyer present, and multiple JW Elders, who all made certain that Judge Timothy Murphy ruled so as to allow Janet Pogue to die. Those FOOLS won, and Janet Pogue died within a couple hours -- leaving a newborn daughter without her natural mother. Judge Timothy Murphy decided such based solely on Janet Pogue's constitutional right as a competent adult to choose to die. Apparently, Tim Murphy had zero foresight to understand that Venia Pogue's constitutional and societal rights to be reared by the natural mother who gave her life outweighed any rights that Janet Pogue had to commit "backdoor suicide" based on religious nonsense.
IN RE HUBERT LEE HAMILTON and HUBERT LEE HAMILTON v. JUDGE JOHN F. MCAULIFFE were related 1974-76 Maryland state and federal court cases in which a Jehovah's Witness Minister and building contractor named Hubert L. Hamilton, then age 35, of greater Baltimore, Maryland, sued the state judge whom, at the request of Hamilton's non-JW wife and non-JW relatives, had SAVED HIS LIFE by ordering the administration of life-saving blood transfusions after Hubert Hamilton was twice gunshot in the chest during an otherwise unspecified heated argument around midnight on an evening in December 1973, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Physicians determined that Hamilton could not survive without immediate surgery and a blood transfusion. Hubert Hamilton consented to the surgery, but refused to authorize a blood transfusion, even though he was informed by his physicians that he would die if surgery was undertaken and a blood transfusion was not given in the course of the surgery. Hubert Hamilton's wife and two non-JW brothers filed a petition in a local court seeking authority for the physicians to proceed with the transfusion -- notwithstanding Hamilton's refusal to consent. The court appointed counsel to represent Hamilton and an emergency hearing was held in the hospital on December 12, 1973, at which Judge John F. McAuliffe presided. Judge McAuliffe was convinced that Hamilton fully understood the ramifications of his decision not to consent to the blood transfusion. However, although Hamilton was then separated from his wife, they had a two-year-old child for whom Hubert Lee Hamilton was the sole support.
Judge McAuliffe authorized the transfusion; concluding that, "... since death would likely follow unless a transfusion was authorized, I should authorize the hospital and physician to proceed with transfusions as if the patient had given consent, and that the substantial interest of the state [presumably to protect innocent third parties] warranted the exercise of equitable jurisdiction."
Thereafter, Hamilton appealed the lower court decision in Maryland state court, but the appeal was dismissed as "moot". Undoubtedly at the direction of the WatchTower Society's Legal Department, Hamilton then filed in federal court this lawsuit which requested that the USDC issue a declaratory judgment against Maryland state Judge McAuliffe declaring that his order of December 12, 1973, authorizing the blood transfusion, had been "erroneous", and preventing Judge McAuliffe "from presently and in the future ordering a blood transfusion for Mr. Hamilton." As had other courts in similar cases, the USDC declared the issues to be "moot".
IN RE WILLIAM J. DELL was a 1975 Pennsylvania trial court decision. In January 1975, Bill Dell was admitted to North Hills Passavant Hospital, where he was informed that he had lost so much blood from a bleeding ulcer that he would die within hours without a blood transfusion. William J. Dell refused to consent based on his WatchTower beliefs (that Armageddon would occur in October 1975). William Dell's wife, Karen Dell, a non-JW Registered Nurse, petitioned a local Judge for authorization for the needed transfusions, and such was granted. Judge Barry noted in part:
"A small religious sect known as The Holiness Church believes that the true test of faith is the handling of poisonous snakes. A true believer will not be harmed by the snakes. The validity of state statutes making the performance of rites of the [The Holiness Church] criminal have been upheld by the courts ... . ...
"[Pennsylvania law] makes it a crime to cause another to commit suicide or attempt suicide. The public policy of the Commonwealth thus expresses abhorrence at the act of self-destruction. In the present case, to ignore medical help and advice is in effect to court suicide. It is not a legal wrong to prevent suicide. As the court stated in [REYNOLDS v. UNITED STATES] ... it is within the power of government to prevent a religious suicide. ... .
"Today in our managed society when there are so many necessary and perhaps unnecessary restrictions on individual liberties it is not tyrannical to contend that a person does not have the right to do away with his own life even on sincere religious beliefs. If the Buddhist monks wanted to immolate themselves in Allegheny County should the public allow such self-destruction? Freedom of conscience still remains. The courts have a right to intervene and to choose life rather than death. The right to practice religion freely does not include the right to diminish the respect for life which is the basis of all society.
In July 1975 (just three months prior to Armageddon), a Jehovah's Witness named Kathy Fenelon, age 22, of Dubuque, Iowa, delivered a newborn boy at home with the aid of a midwife. When Kathy Fenelon began to experience severe hemorrhaging, her non-JW husband, Michael Fenelon, age 25, took her to a hospital in Cuba City, Wisconsin -- after the local WatchTower HLC had first eliminated hospitals in Dubuque because they would not guarantee to treat Kathy Fenelon without the use of blood transfusions. When the first Wisconsin Hospital also wanted to administer blood transfusions, the Fenelons transferred to Madison General Hospital, where hospital administrators agreed not to use blood transfusions. After much additional expense and several weeks of non-blood treatment, Kathy Fenelon apparently recovered.
In March 1977, Puerto Rican Luz Santana, age 26, of Lorain, Ohio, died of massive blood loss at Elyria Memorial Hospital less than two hours after delivering via cesarean section, Sandra Santana, one month early. Luz Santana was fully supported in her decision not to consent to a life-saving blood transfusion by her husband, Miguel Santana, who was a local JW Elder. In a telephone interview, Santana's JW sister in Puerto Rico, Wilfredo Rodriguez, stated to a reporter, "In the Bible, it is very clear that someone's blood isn't pure and harm would come upon the persons who took the blood."
IN THE MATTER OF SUSAN ANN FRYE was a 1977 Pennsylvania court appellate court decision. In June 1977, a Jehovah's Witness Wife and Mother of two children, Susan Ann Frye, age 24, was admitted to Pittsburgh's Montefiore Hospital suffering severe blood loss from a bleeding lesion. Having refused the blood transfusions needed to preserve her life, non-JW Husband, Trevor Frye, petitioned a local Judge for authorization to save the life of his wife and mother of his two young children. Judge John Flaherty refused. Trevor Frye then petitioned Judge Cercone, who decided that the state had an interest in preserving the life of a parent of two young children. Necessary life-saving blood transfusions were court authorized.
DEBORAH HAMRICK SUICIDE. In March 1977, Deborah Hamrick, age 17, wife of Randall Hamrick, was involved in an automobile accident in which she and her 3 month-old daughter, Phadra Hamrick, were both seriously injured, and 18 month old Randall Hamrick, Jr. was only slightly injured. At Centralia General Hospital, a blood transfusion was started for Deborah Hamrick as soon as she arrived due to massive hemorrhaging from a ruptured spleen. However, when Debbie Hamrick's Jehovah's Witness family members arrived, and saw that she was receiving a blood transfusion, they put a stop to such. The doctors revived Deborah Hamrick, and when asked her desires in front of her family, she also rejected any further blood transfusions. Doctors at Centralia General Hospital told Hamrick that she would certainly die if she did not allow them to operate using blood transfusions, but that with such, she had a 80% chance of survival. Deborah hamrick and her Jehovah's Wiotness Family decided to transfer to a Seattle hospital that they thought could operate without blood transfusions. Centralia prepped Debbie Hamrick for the transfer using "blood substitutes", but Deborah Hamrick died from massive blood loss during the transfer.
IN RE PHADRA HAMRICK was a 1977 Washington state court decision. Phadra Hamrick also needed a blood transfusion, so Centralia General Hospital sought and obtained court authorization for such, and she recovered. Randy Hamrick, Jr. was also treated and released.
Several interesting comments resulted from this scenario from both the involved doctors, and the local Jehovah's Witnesses. Dr. Larry Nelson told a reporter that WatchTower teachings regarding blood transfusions "were a form of human sacrifice", and that JWs who died obeying WatchTower rules were committing "suicide".
When asked to respond, local JW Elder and scientific genius, Wayne Rees, dodged the issue by stating, "Can you think of anything closer to suicide than overeating?" Responding to Nelson's remark that JWs were "incompetent" to make the decision to refuse blood transfusions in the multitude of varying life-n-death scenarios that arise, JW Elder Wayne Rees stated that no other group than doctors knew more about blood transfusions than Jehovah's Witnesses. Rees also went into great details misquoting Bible verses in an attempt to equate a blood transfusion with the "eating" of animal blood. Wayne Rees further stated:
"The Bible says the soul of the body is in the blood. ... Most any doctor will admit that blood is an organ ... . A blood transfusion is actually an organ transplant. Yet, most people have the right to reject an organ transplant." [At that time, the WatchTower Society forbid organ transplants. Today, they allow such.]
IN RE ANDREA DANIELS was a 1978 Pennsylvania court decision. In June 1978, a Jehovah's Witness named Andrea Daniels, age 34, of Chester, Pennsylvania, gave birth to her 8th child at Crozer-Chester Medical Center via unplanned caesarean. Excessive blood loss made a blood transfusion absolutely necessary in order to try to save Andrea Daniels' life. Although Daniels was under anesthesia, she had signed all the legal paperwork required to avoid any transfusions. Her husband, Alvin Daniels, age 33, was standing there, and he remained resolute -- "No Transfusion". The hospital sought and obtained court intervention. The court agreed. The interests of EIGHT CHILDREN, and the state, to see after their welfare outweighed Daniels right to her religious belief to choose certain death.
Alvin Daniels was outraged. He maintained that administering a transfusions would not guarantee that she would live. He was correct. But a chance at life beats a certainty of death. At last report, Andrea was in serious, but improving condition. The husband, Alvin Daniels, later told reporters that "MY RIGHTS WERE VIOLATED". Alvin also told reporters that giving his wife a blood transfusion was a form of "cannibalism", "A blood transfusion is like taking a bowl of blood and a spoon and eating it"
IN THE MATTER OF BRENDA MITCHELL was a 1978 Virginia court decision. In October 1978, Brenda Mitchell, age 24, gave birth to a daughter, but hemorrhaged and lost an excessive amount of blood. When informed that a blood transfusion might be necessary to save her life, Brenda Mitchell refused to give her consent A Richmond hospital petitioned four different courts for authorization to administer a transfusion, but all four refused the petition. Those judges obviously gave no weight to the parental obligations that Brenda Mitchell owed to her newborn daughter. Fortunately, Mitchell recovered without receiving a transfusion.
In September 1979, the WatchTower Society lost one of its few "celebrities" to its own blood transfusion prohibition. Eleanor Letitia Maurer, age 31, daughter of retired Rear Admiral Robert Holden Wilkinson, died at Falmouth Hospital in Falmouth, Massachusetts, after she repeatedly refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions made necessary by excessive blood loss following the natural birth of her third child -- a daughter. John E. Maurer, age 30, a marine biologist and high school science teacher, was present during the entire ordeal, and later spoke to the media about having supported his deceased wife in steadfastly obeying the WatchTower Society's prohibition against consenting to necessary life-saving blood transfusions by denying four requests from doctors for his consent to the needed transfusions. John Mauer apparently never re-married, but instead reared newborn Caroline Maurer and her two older brothers by himself. John Maurer may have eventually exited the WatchTower Cult before his own death in 2005.
JANICE SUE MALCOME. In August 1979, in Bloomington, Illinois, after 32 hours of labor at St. Joseph's Hospital Medical Center, doctors performed a necessary cesarean section on a pregnant African-American Jehovah's Witness named Janice Sue Malcome, who was 39 years-old, and weighed 290 lbs. Blood clotting in her lungs forced doctors to give her blood thinners. Due to excessive blood loss, doctors told Janice S. Malcome that she would need a blood transfusion or she would die. While reared-Jehovah's Witness Husband, Richard Malcome, age 49, JW Elder Jon Feeny, JW Friend Louise Wilkerson, and a crowd of other fellow JWs, counseled Janice Sue [Fulmer] Malcome that death was preferred to consenting to a life-saving blood transfusion, Janice Malcome's non-JW mother and sister, Bonna Lacey, did everything they could to try to convince Janice to consent to the necessary blood transfusions. Finally realizing that she was in fact going to die, Janice Malcome consented to receiving blood transfusions. However, her decision came too late, and she died three days after the delivery. Richard Malcome was left alone to rear his new infant daughter, Melissa Renee Malcome, and her four siblings -- Ronald Malcome, Brian Malcome, William "Bill" Malcome, and Mary Malcome, age 16.
IN RE BABY GIRL LANCASTER was a 1981 Delaware court decision. In August 1981, a 33 weeks pregnant Cheryl Lancaster, age 29, of New Castle, Delaware, was admitted to Wilmington Medical Center, in critical condition, after suffering a cerebral aneurysm. Both Cheryl Lancaster and her JW Husband, Anthony Lancaster, refused consent for life-saving blood transfusions for Cheryl Lancaster and her unborn child. The 24 ounce baby girl was delivered by cesarean section, but needed a blood transfusion to save her life. The hospital sought and obtained court-ordered guardianship and medical authorization for the baby, but not for Cheryl Lancaster, whom lingered for a week or so before eventually dying. The newborn's outcome is unknown.
IN RE JOSEPH DAVIS was a 1982 Illinois court decision. Joseph Davis and Elaina Davis, of Akron, Ohio, were involved in a serious automobile accident. Elaina Davis was killed, and Joseph Davis, age 42, had his left leg so severely injured that it required amputation. Joe Davis lost approximately 80% of his blood in the accident and during the amputation, but as a Jehovah's Witness, he refused any blood transfusions at Akron General Hospital. Davis was then air-flighted to Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, which had expertise with administering some unidentified WatchTower Society-approved "blood substitute". When that "blood substitute" failed to keep Joseph Davis alive, the Chicago hospital applied to a local judge for permission to administer necessary blood transfusions in order to save Davis' life. Judge Walter P. Dahl of Cook County Circuit Court ruled that since Davis was now the sole provider for five of his six children -- ages 2, 4, 10, 16 and 17 years old -- that the children of Joseph Davis had a greater right to have their father alive than Davis had to refuse the blood for religious reasons. Timothy L. Rowells, a Chicago area Jehovah's Witness Attorney, attempted to have that lower court order blocked by the Illinois Court of Appeals, but that court denied the appeal. Unwilling to allow the Illinois Supreme Court rule against them on this issue in this "losing" set of facts, and set legal precedent in Illinois, the WatchTower Society's Legal department backed off this "back-door suicide" case.
IN THE MATTER OF MARSHA FUENTES was a 1983 Maryland court decision. While most courts have refused to grant court-ordered blood transfusions for Jehovah's Witnesses Mothers whose baby is not itself endangered, this judge did grant such. Interestingly, the judge did so after the Jehovah's Witness Husband, who reportedly worked for a "family services" governmental agency, stated that if a transfusion was ordered, he would not challenge the judge's decision. Frank Fuentes Jr., who also just happened to be an Elder of the JWs, was supported by his fellow JW Elders at the Gaitherburg Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.
In August 1983, Marsha Ellen Fuentes, age 28, was near death at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital due to blood loss after childbirth. Although both Frank Fuentes and Marsha Fuentes had refused to give consent to a blood transfusion, they apparently were appreciative of the fact that the hospital sought a court-ordered blood transfusion. Judge John F. McAuliffe, awakened by hospital officials at his home in the early A.M. hours, rushed to the hospital to hold an emergency hearing. The hospital's petition was granted after Frank Fuentes Jr. gave the judge his promise not to contest the decision. The Judge ruled that the state had a compelling interest in saving the life of a young mother now with her fifth child under the age of nine.
This Judge, whom was thoroughly familiar with the nuances of the WatchTower Cult's beliefs and practices (see above), knew exactly how to save this JW Mother's life without violating the WatchTower Cult's rules. The Judge stuck around and made sure no transfusions were administered until there was no question but that Marsha Fuentes would die without one. He and the hospital kept it quiet as to how many transfusions were actually administered after the hysterectomy (two or more). Then, once the emergency was past, the Judge terminated the order. More JWs need to understand that there is more than one way to skin a chicken, or, let someone else be the WatchTower Cult's latest Martyr.
IN RE LOLA JEAN AUSTIN was a 1984 Kentucky court case. A Jehovah's Witness Couple named Harold "Butch" Austin and Lola Jean Austin, age 27, of Beaver Dam, Kentucky, were involved in an automobile accident in January 1984, and Lola Jean was injured critically. Lola J. Austin suffered head and internal injuries, including a broken pelvis, and was bleeding internally from her brain and lungs. At Owensboro-Daviess County Hospital, Harold Austin refused to override his wife's signed, dated, and witnessed "NO BLOOD" card. Non-JW relatives of Lola Jean Austin intervened and requested that hospital officials seek a court order to administer needed life-saving blood transfusions. Such was granted by Owensboro, Kentucky Circuit Court Judge George Triplett, who stated that he wasn't going to let Lola Jean Austin die when she had two young daughters to take care of and rear -- Eve Austin, age 5, and Brandy Austin, age 3.
A JW MORON named Charles M. Gipe Sr., who was the Presiding Overseer at the Owensboro West Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, ran around wringing his hands and repeating for reporters the WatchTower Cult's mantra that, "The life is in the blood, and its not supposed to be transfused." The ungrateful Lola Jean Austin also had reporters' attention when she began repeating the LUDICROUS WatchTower mantra that administering a blood transfusion to her was the equivalent of RAPING HER.
IN RE CAINE was a pre-1985 court decision, during which a 35 year-old Jehovah's Witness Father of three was court-ordered to receive a blood transfusion due to his parental responsibilities outweighing his desire to commit "backdoor suicide".
In May 1985, WELL-MEANING BUT IGNORANT employees at University Hospital in Boston donated $1430.00 to a Dorchester, Massachusetts Jehovah's Witness Father of 11 children, who had been in their ICU for a month because he would not accept the blood transfusions required to treat his kidney condition. James H. Williams, age 45, needed the MONEY OF NON-JW STRANGERS so that he could fly to New Jersey where a doctor supposedly would use artificial blood to treat his kidney ailment. Jehovah's Witness Father James H. Williams was willing to die and leave the rearing of his 11 children to someone else rather than violate the doctrines of a religious CULT that would not even pay the additional expenses associated with the obeying of their orders.
ST. MARY'S HOSPITAL v. MARK RAMSEY was a 1985 Florida appellate court decision which involved a 27 year-old DIVORCED Jehovah's Witness FATHER of a MINOR DAUGHTER, who chose to commit back-door suicide rather than suffer with kidney disease that required a lifetime of regular renal dialysis. Due to unspecified complications, Ramsey required a life-saving blood transfusion. Mark Ramsey refused to provide consent. Officials at St. Mary's Hospital sought court intervention. The local Circuit Judge ruled that, "The state and petitioners have not demonstrated sufficient compelling interests to outweigh Mr. Ramsey's constitutional entitlement to privacy and to make this decision without governmental interference." The Florida Court of Appeals affirmed that decision, but did so restricting its decision to the specific facts of this case. Notable quotes include:
Thus if an adult, competent patient refuses a blood transfusion, it would appear he has a right to do so, providing there is no overriding reason why his life should be preserved. ... ...
... the protection of third parties is exemplified when the refusal of treatment and subsequent death results in the abandonment of minor children. ... In the case at bar, there is a minor daughter. Yet, it is difficult to categorize the refusal of treatment here as an abandonment. First, the primary physical residence of the child is with the mother in another state; as a result the father seldom sees the child. Second, there is evidence in the record that the mother, and both families, will help to support the child. Third and finally, there is evidence that the patient owns a small annuity which names the child as beneficiary.
WINTHROP UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL v. SUSAN HESS was a 1985 New York court decision. Susan Hess was admitted to Winthrop University Hospital with a severe case of kidney stones only one month after delivering her second child. Blood transfusions were then only rarely needed during the kidney stone surgery Hess needed, but the surgeon refused to operate without prior authorization -- JUST IN CASE. Susan Hess and her JW Husband refused to give their consent.
The Hospital then petitioned a local court for guardianship and authorization to administer a blood transfusion if such became medically required to save her life. After taking testimony from Susan Hess and her husband, the court granted the petition. This seems to be another case where the judge quickly came to the realization that the Jehovah's Witness Patient would accept a blood transfusion if such were court ordered, and that decision was removed from their shoulders. Note the pertinent verbiage in this court's decision:
"Courts are generally without power to order compulsory medical treatment over a competent adult patient's objection. ... However, whether a competent adult patient's religious right must yield to the State's interest in acting as parens patriae by ordering compulsory medical treatment to save the life of the mother of infants, has not been reported in this State.
"In [Powell v. Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center (1965)], emergency blood transfusions were ordered for a mother of six children who refused to authorize same on religious grounds. But that decision was based upon a finding that the patient would accept the transfusions if Court ordered rather than the State act as parens patriae.In [Matter of Melideo (1976)] ... noted that the welfare of infants may be an appropriate exception to the proscription against court-ordered medical treatment of nonconsenting competent adults citing ... Jones v President Directors of Georgetown College ... where emergency transfusions refused on religious grounds were ordered to save a mother of an infant in this language: "The state, as parens patriae, will not allow a parent to abandon a child, and so it should not allow this most ultimate of voluntary abandonments. The patient had a responsibility to the community to care for her infant. Thus the people had an interest in preserving the life of this mother."
In September 1986, Scott Robert Hackert, age 24, of Warminister, Pennsylvania, died in the emergency room of Cherokee Memorial Hospital, in Cherokee County, South Carolina. Scott R. Hackert, his wife, Susan Hackert, and six other family members were traveling to Georgia to visit relatives when the Hackert vehicle was involved in a single-car accident early on a Sunday morning. (Given Scott Hackert's age, marital status, and number of vehicle occupants, it is highly probable that his survivors included multiple children.) Scott Robert Hackert died after his Jehovah's Witness Family members refused to grant consent for life-saving blood transfusions, and while the hospital's attorney was preparing the required legal paperwork to seek a court order to administer life-saving blood transfusions. A local Judge had already been called out of church to sign the paperwork once it was completed, but Scott Hackert died on the operating table while the hospital administrators jumped through all the legal hoops forced upon them by Scott Hackert's Jehovah's Witness Family.
IN THE MATTER OF SUSAN PAVONE was a 1986 Florida court decision. Susan Pavone, age 46, of Margate, Florida, was admitted to Broward County's Northwest Regional Hospital on March 11, 1986, with a severe bleeding ulcer. After refusing to consent to necessary blood transfusions, Susan Pavone transferred to Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. There, Susan Pavone's condition worsened. Supported by her 14 year old daughter, Carol Pavone, also a Jehovah's Witness, Susan Pavone pleaded with her non-JW husband, Joseph Pavone, not to let the doctors administer blood transfusion to her. However, non-JW husband Joseph Pavone was NOT going to sit by and allow his wife to die needlessly. Joseph Pavone petitioned a local court for authorization to administer blood transfusions. An emergency hearing was convened in Susan Pavone's hospital room, and the sane Judge authorized blood transfusions if such became necessary to save Susan Pavone's life. The judge cited the interests of the state and society, as well as those of the husband and the fourteen year old daughter. Blood transfusions were administered, and Susan Pavone eventually recovered and was discharged in good health. Chuck Kohnert, one of Susan Pavone's Elders from the Coconut Creek Florida Congregation of Jehovah's Witnessess told reporters that Joseph Pavone "will face God on Judgment Day".
TEXAS v. NATHAN LEE DAVIS was a 1988-91 Texas court decision. At some point prior to October 30, 1988, an African-American Jehovah's Witness named Lillie Mae Davis, of Houston, separated from her husband Nathan Lee Davis, age 31, religious affiliation unknown. On that date, Nathan L. Davis spotted Lillie Mae Davis, and her daughter, Kaleela, age 10, (who apparently was not Nathan Davis' daughter), riding in a car driven by Albert Matthews (who thereafter relocated to Phoenix, Arizona) on Veterans Memorial Parkway.
Wondering what his estranged wife and step-daughter were doing riding with Al Matthews (who reportedly turned out to be JW Wife's boyfriend), Nathan Davis attempted to get Matthews to stop his auto, but he apparently would not stop. In his efforts to stop the Matthews vehicle, Nathan Davis, who was a railroad locomotive driver, "accidentally" made contact with the Matthews vehicle a number of times. Finally, Matthews crashed head-on into a third vehicle driven by two females. All five people were injured, and were transported to Hermann Hospital. Lillie Mae Davis was thrown from the Matthews vehicle when it collided with the third vehicle, and she received a broken leg and internal injuries. Lillie Mae Davis refused to consent to needed blood transfusions -- at the scene, and later in the ER. Lillie Mae Davis died from blood loss four hours after arriving at Hermann Hospital. Given the specifics related above, it is unknown who reared the daughter that Lillie Mae Davis left behind.
In March 1991, in this state prosecution, a jury passed over a number of possible felony convictions, and convicted Nathan Lee Davis of misdemeanor negligent homicide. Davis was eventually sentenced to 30 days in jail, eight months probation, and 200 hours community service. He also was being sued civilly by the two females in the third vehicle.
CINDY K. WERTH and DONALD E. WERTH v. TAYLOR ET AL was a 1987-91 Court of Appeals of Michigan decision, which resulted when the Werths' doctors ignored both Werths' refusal of blood transfusions, and saved Cindy Werth's life. As thanks for saving her life, the Werths sued those life-savers for battery and medical malpractice (undoubtedly at the urging of the WatchTower Cult's Legal Department).
In August 1985, Cindy K.Werth, the mother of two children, became pregnant again with twins. About two months before the expected date of delivery, Cindy Werth went to Alpena General Hospital to pre-register. She filled out several forms, including a "Refusal to Permit Blood Transfusion" form. Cindy went into labor on May 8, 1986, and entered Alpena General Hospital on that date. While she was being admitted, Donald Werth signed another "Refusal to Permit Blood Transfusion" form. Cindy gave birth to her twins on the evening of May 8, 1986.
Following delivery, Cindy Kay Werth was found to be bleeding from her uterus, and eventually an emergency D&C was performed after it had been re-confirmed that Cindy Werth would not consent to a transfusion if such became necessary. However, the D&C did not stop Cindy Werth's uterine bleeding, and her life was at risk. At that point, a blood transfusion was administered to save the unconscious Cindy Werth's life by Taylor, the anesthesiologist. The Werths showed their appreciation for saving the life of Cindy Werth by suing the hospital and every doctor present in the operating room for civil "battery" and medical malpractice.
The local trial court granted a summary dismissal to Taylor. The Werths appealed. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision. Using DORONE, the court held: "Only the contemporaneous refusal of treatment by a fully informed, competent adult patient is sufficient to override evidence of medical necessity, and no action lies for battery for treating a patient without such refusal." In other words, the Michigan court ruled that Werth's refusal would have had to been made at or near the point that death would have been a certainty under conditions where Werth was fully informed and absolutely competent. Otherwise, doctors and hospitals should not be penalized for saving lives. Notably, this decision did not address the Werths' medical malpractice claims. Outcome unknown.
In August 1988, Juan Ortega, a 38-year-old Jehovah's Witness Father of four children died at North Broward Medical Center due to excessive blood loss. Juan Ortega was injured while working at a Publix grocery distribution center in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Juan Ortega, a forklift operator, had his lower right leg severely mangled when it got caught in a conveyor belt, while he was feeding pallets into a pallet-loading machine. Juan Ortega and his wife, Tila Ortega, refused to allow doctors to administer blood transfusions needed in the attempt to save Juan Ortega's life. Tila Ortega complained that the hospital blamed her and her WatchTower Cult religion for the death of Juan Ortega. Tila Ortega told reporters that she knew in her heart that she did the right thing when she refused permission to give her husband a blood transfusion. As Jehovah's Witnesses, she said,"NO" was the only possible answer the Ortegas could give.
IN RE FRANCISCO Q. CABRERA was a 1989 Florida court decision. In December 1989, Francisco Q. Cabrera, age 26, of Pahokee, Florida, was severely injured in an automobile accident. Both Francisco Cabrera and his unidentified Jehovah's Witness Wife refused to consent to necessary life-saving blood transfusions. Administrators at Glades General Hospital, in Belle Glade, sought court intervention. Palm Beach County Court Judge Gary L. Vonhof STUPIDLY ignored the fact that Frank Cabrera had THREE MINOR CHILDREN for whom he was responsible in every way imaginable. Instead, FOOL Gary Vonhof ruled that Cabrera's right to freedom of religion EXCEEDED the plethora of legal and natural rights held by Cabrera's three minor children.
IN RE LISA LEIS was a February 1989 Ohio court decision in which officials at Cincinnati's Good Samaritan Hospital were forced to seek court intervention to administer life-saving blood transfusions to Lisa Leis, age 21, of Mount Airy, Ohio, who hemorrhaged severely after a cesarean section delivery. Both Lisa Leis and her devout Jehovah's Witness Family refused to give consent for the life-saving blood transfusion. No mention of a "husband" appeared in the media report. Judge Gilbert Bettman of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court did not hesitate to give physicians permission to administer life-saving blood transfusions to Lisa Leis. Judge Bettman reasoned, "She was in such a weakened position that she wasn't able to make a decision. ... I know what she believed, but she had a child to live for."
In August 1989, Sheri Mattingly, an Anaheim, California, Jehovah's Witness Mother of four children, chose to die rather than accept a blood transfusion. Sheri Mattingly, her four children, and two others were packed into Mattingly's Toyota Celica while returning home from a meeting at their Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, when Mattingly's Toyota was struck by a DUI driver. Sheri Mattingly, age 32, and the other six occupants of her car were taken to UCI Medical Center. There, Sheri Mattingly, whose injuries were consistent with a driver who was not wearing a seatbelt, refused to consent to a life-saviong blood transfusion, and DIED as a result. Two months later, the 21 year old female driver who struck Mattingly's Toyota was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter.
In December 1989, Lisa Biffle, age 25, an 8+ months pregnant Jehovah's Witness, was struck in the abdomen by a random gunshot while she was sitting in a car outside the South Jamaica Housing Project in Queens, New York. Lisa Biffle's husband was also struck, but only once in his foot. Two gang-member drug dealers were later arrested for the random drive-by shooting. At Queens Hospital Center, Lisa Biffle delivered a healthy baby via cesarean section. However, Lisa Biffle needed a life-saving blood transfusion due to excessive blood loss. Lisa Biffle refused to give her consent, and died nine hours later, leaving her wounded husband with a newborn baby to rear.
In March 1989, a 29 year-old Jehovah's Witness Mother named Lora Lee Jaudon CHOSE TO DIE at Pascack Valley Hospital, in New Jersey, and to leave her two children to be reared by someone else rather than consent to a life-saving blood transfusion. Lora Lee Jaudon had a 8-year-old son named Herbert Timothy Jaudon, and a 6-year-old daughter named Nicole Danial Jaudon. Lora L. Jaudon's doctor, Dr. Eugene Smith, said that she would have survived the blood infection if only Jaudon had allowed him to administer a blood transfusion to her. However, supported by her Jehovah's Witnesses husband, Herbert Jaudon, and her own JW Mother, Adele Christianson, Lora Jaudon refused to give consent based on the family's WatchTower Society beliefs. Dr. Eugene Smith was torn up about watching a patient die, whom he could have easily saved. A newspaper article titled its report "THE VICTIMS SHE LEFT BEHIND".
Donald Ridley, a WatchTower Society attorney, argued to reporters that a Jehovah's Witnesses' right to refuse blood transfusions is sacrosanct, regardless of the other people involved. Don Ridley stated:
"Does your right of informed choice diminish as the number of your kids grows?"
Interestingly, some discerning judges with IQs in the three digit range have answered "YES!!!"
NORMA WONS v. HOSPITAL was a 1989 Florida appellate court decision. WatchTower Society Attorney, Donald T. Ridley, submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Watchtower Society. Norma Wons was admitted to Jackson Memorial Hospital with dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Norma Wons had lost 90% of her red blood cells, and was at the brink of death. Wons needed life-saving blood transfusions, which she rejected despite the fact that Norma Wons was the mother of three children, including two minors still living at home. At the time she refused consent, Norma Wons was conscious and able to reach an informed decision concerning her treatment.
The hospital petitioned the circuit court to force Norma Wons to undergo a blood transfusion. At the hearing Wons' husband, Heinrich Wons, testified that he fully supported his wife's decision to refuse the treatment, and that, in the unfortunate event she were to die, their two children would be cared for by him and Norma Wons' mother and two brothers, who had all also expressed support for Norma Wons decision to refuse to consent to a blood transfusion. Nevertheless, the court granted the hospital's petition -- ordering doctors to administer the blood transfusion, which was done while Norma Wons was unconscious, and literally at the brink of death. The sane, wise trial judge reasoned that minor children have a right to be reared by two loving parents -- a right which overrides the mother's rights of free religious exercise and privacy.
Norma Wons survived and recovered solely due to the administering of those blood transfusion. Thereafter, Norma Wons appealed to the Third District court, which reversed the order. After holding that the case was not moot due to the recurring nature of NormaWons' condition, the district court held that Norma Wons' constitutional rights of religion and privacy could not be overridden by the state's purported interests. The Court of Appeals of Florida agreed.
In Florida, an individual's right to refuse medical treatment must be analyzed in terms of four criteria wherein the right to refuse medical treatment may be overridden by a compelling state interest. These factors are (1) Preservation of life, (2) protection of innocent third parties, (3) prevention of suicide, and (4) maintenance of the ethical integrity of the medical profession. These four factors are intended merely as factors to be considered while reaching the difficult decision of when a compelling state interest may override the basic constitutional rights of privacy and religious freedom.
Public Health Trust asserted that the children's right to be reared by two loving parents is sufficient to trigger the second compelling state interest. This court replied:
"While we agree that the nurturing and support by two parents is important in the development of any child, it is not sufficient to override fundamental constitutional rights. ... As the district court noted in its highly articulate opinion below:
'Central to Ramsey and the above line of cases in other jurisdictions is a delicate balancing analysis in which the courts weigh, on the one hand, the patient's constitutional right of privacy and right to practice one's religion, as against certain basic societal interests. Obviously, there are no preordained answers to such problematic questions and the results reached in these cases are highly debatable. Running through all of these decisions, however, is the courts' deeply imbedded belief, rooted in our constitutional traditions, that an individual has a fundamental right to be left alone so that he is free to lead his private life according to his own beliefs free from unreasonable governmental interference. Surely nothing, in the last analysis, is more private or more sacred than one's religion or view of life, and here the courts, quite properly, have given great deference to the individual's right to make decisions vitally affecting his private life according to his own conscience. It is difficult to overstate this right because it is, without exaggeration, the very bedrock on which this country was founded.'
"We hold that the state's interest in maintaining a home with two parents for the minor children does not override Mrs. Wons' constitutional rights of privacy and religion."
DENISE J. NICOLEAU v. HOSPITAL was a 1989-90 New York state "Supreme Court" decision. WatchTower Society Attorney, Donald T. Ridley, represented Denise J. Nicoleau on appeal. Denise Nicoleau, age 36, was a LPN, and her husband, Herriot Nicoleau, was a Radiologist. When Denise Nicoleau became pregnant she consulted a physician practicing at Brookhaven Memorial Medical Center to provide prenatal care and deliver the child. Denise Nicoleau informed the doctor that she was a Jehovah's Witness and would not consent to a blood transfusion in connection with the delivery. On a form submitted before admission to the hospital, Denise Nicoleau consented generally to medical procedures that might be necessary, but specifically excluded "the administration of blood, pooled plasma or other derivatives."
Late in the pregnancy it was determined that the baby would have to be delivered by cesarean section. On December 29, 1988, Denise Nicoleau went into labor prematurely and was admitted to the hospital. A cesarean section was performed, and a healthy baby boy was delivered. Following the delivery, Denise Nicoleau began to hemorrhage, and at midnight it was determined that further surgery was necessary. Denise Nicoleau remained in surgery until about 4:00 A.M. Throughout the evening and early morning hours, Denise Nicoleau lost a substantial amount of blood. Her doctor informed her that in his opinion she would die unless she had a transfusion. However, both Denise Nicoleau and Herriot Nicoleau refused to consent to a blood transfusion.
Hospital officials decided to seek a court order authorizing blood transfusions. At about 9:00 A.M. that morning, an attorney representing the hospital made the application to a Supreme Court Justice in Suffolk County. In support of the application the attending physician submitted an affidavit noting that the patient's hemoglobin count had dropped to "4", which was far below the normal range of 12-14. The doctor stated that in his opinion "unless her medical condition improves (which I consider unlikely), she must have a blood transfusion in order to preserve her life." Around noon that day, the court signed an ex-parte order authorizing the hospital to administer "necessary blood transfusions" to the patient. Denise Nicoleau and her family received no advance notice of the application and no notice of the fact that the order had been signed until late in the afternoon.
NEW YORK v. HERRIOT NICOLEAU, NEW YORK v. DAVID PEELE, and NEW YORK v. GARY DECANIO. At about 6:00 P.M. that evening, nurses attempted to administer the first transfusion to Denise Nicoleau. However, 15 fellow Jehovah's Witnesses were standing guard in Denise Nicoleau's hospital room to prevent such. The 15 Jehovah's Witnesses surrounded Denise Nicoleau's hospital bed, and refused to allow the nurses to administer the transfusion. The hospital called the police, and three Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested and jailed on charges of criminal trespass -- Herriot Nicoleau, then age 32, David Peele, then age 34, and Gary DeCanio, then age 32. (Outcome unknown.)
Denise Nicoleau was then administered her first blood transfusion. Two days later the hospital gave Denise Nicoleau a second blood transfusion. Additional blood transfusions may have followed. DENISE NICOLEAU LIVED A LENGTHY ENJOYABLE LIFE AS A MOTHER TO HER CHILDREN BECAUSE THIS BRAVE TRIAL COURT JUDGE EXERCISED SOME "COMMON SENSE". OTHER TRIAL COURT JUDGES SHOULD TAKE NOTE OF SUCH. SIMPLY ALLOW THE LIBERAL APPELLATE FOOLS TO RANT AND RAVE ALL THEY WANT AFTER THE LIFE HAS ALREADY BEEN SAVED.
On January 2, 1989, Denise Nicoleau and Herriot Nicoleau appealed to the (lower) Appellate Division to vacate the existing court order. In her supporting papers, Denise Nicoleau indicated that her refusal to consent to blood transfusions was motivated not only by her religious beliefs, but also by her concern for the dangers associated with transfusions, particularly the risk of contracting a communicable disease such as AIDS. Denise Nicoleau asserted that she had no desire to die and would accept medical treatments not involving transfusions, which she claimed were also effective in combating blood loss. Denise Nicoleau argued that compelling her to submit to blood transfusions under these circumstances violated her common-law, statutory, and constitutional right to make her own medical decisions, as well as her constitutional right to practice her religion free of government interference. She urged that there were no identifiable State interests sufficient to overcome these rights.
A divided (lower) Appellate Division vacated the existing court order. The majority held that the trial court had erred in ordering the transfusions without giving Denise Nicoleau or her family proper notice and an opportunity to be heard before the order was signed, and compounded that error by not providing that Denise Nicoleau be notified that the order had been signed, so that she could seek prompt review before the transfusions were given.
On the merits, the majority held that the State had an interest in preserving her life, but that there was no showing that this could only be accomplished by a blood transfusion, since there was no proof in the record that non-blood medical treatments would not have been successful. (Apparently, these appellate fools did not understand the concept or purpose of an "Emergency Court Hearing".) While acknowledging that the State had an interest in protecting Denise Nicoleau's children from the loss of parental support and care, these appellate FOOLS ruled that this interest would be satisfied by the father and the children's extended family. A concurring judge urged that the State had a compelling interest in preserving the patient's life for the benefit of Denise Nicoleau's children, but agreed that the order should be vacated because it was issued without notice or an opportunity to be heard.
On appeal, the hospital argued that a patient's right to decline lifesaving treatment should be limited to cases only where the patient had a terminal or degenerative disease. When the patient was otherwise healthy, as in the case of Denise Nicoleau, the State had a stronger interest in preserving life, which should be held to outweigh the patient's choice to die. The hospital contended that the State's interest was even stronger when the patient was a parent, and that the Appellate Division had erred in adopting a "one parent" rule. The hospital argued was that it is always in the children's best interest to have two parents. Finally, the hospital urged that the Appellate Division also had erred in requiring notice and a hearing whenever a hospital applied for an order in such "emergency" cases, because the delay might cause an additional risk to the patient's life, particularly if the court was required to determine the child's best interests under a "one-parent rule", which might require an extensive inquiry similar to a custody hearing.
The New York Court of Appeals proved to be even BIGGER FOOLS by affirming the FOOLS at the lower appellate court, stating in part: (Note that nowhere in these FOOLS decision is there found any acknowledgment that Denise Nicoleau would not even have lived long enough to file this appeal if the trial judge had been as big of a FOOL as they were. These FOOLS so buried themselves in logical fallacies and misapplied legalities that they could not even see the "forest" for the "trees".)
"Initially, ... the [trial] Court should not have signed the order ex parte, without giving the patient or her husband notice and an opportunity to be heard. Applications for court-ordered medical treatment affect important rights of the patients and should generally comply with due process requirements of notice and the right to be heard before the order is signed. ... We recognize that due process is a flexible concept and there may be cases in which the patient's condition is so grave that there is no opportunity for prior notice and a hearing. Even then it would seem that the court should make some effort to communicate with the patient or responsible relatives if only to give prompt notice that the order has been signed. In this case, however, the record does not disclose any such exigency. In addition, the patient's medical file recorded a long-standing unequivocal personal decision to decline transfusions. Apparently three hours elapsed between the time the application was made and the time the order was signed and an additional six hours passed before it was executed. Thus there was ample time to provide notice and an opportunity for a hearing, however informal.
"It should be emphasized that it is not always necessary for a doctor or a hospital to obtain a court order before providing treatment to a patient in an emergency. If a patient in need of immediate medical attention is unconscious or otherwise unable to consent, the doctor may treat the condition under the emergency doctrine recognized at common law and by statute, which is based on the assumption that most persons would consent to treatment under these circumstances. ... The emergency doctrine is inapplicable here, however, because the patient clearly stated before admission to the hospital and throughout her stay that she would not consent to blood transfusions.
"Although the patient's competence is not in issue here we note, as we have in the past, that when there is a bona fide question of the patient's competence the doctor or health care facility may seek a court ruling. ... In such a proceeding the court should consider whether the patient has made a decision to decline the medical treatment, is fully aware of the consequences and alternatives, and is competent to make the choice. If the patient is not presently competent the court must determine whether there is clear and convincing evidence that the patient, when competent, made a firm resolve to decline treatment. ... ...
"On the merits we have also concluded that the ... Court should not have ordered the blood transfusions in this case. The question as to whether this order violates the patient's constitutional rights to religious freedom or to determine the course of her own medical treatment raises important and sensitive issues. However, they need not be resolved here because in our view the patient had a personal common-law and statutory right to decline the transfusions. Although this right is not absolute, and may have to yield to superior State interests under certain circumstances, the hospital has not identified any State interest which would override the patient's rights under these circumstances.
"The common law of this State established the right of a competent adult to determine the course of his or her own medical treatment. ... This right has been adopted and preserved by the Legislature. ... ... ... we reaffirmed the basic right of a competent adult to refuse treatment even when the treatment may be necessary to preserve the person's life.
"We have recently held that this 'fundamental common-law right is coextensive with the patient's liberty interest protected by the due process clause of our State Constitution' and that right could be overcome only by a compelling State interest. ... But, as noted, we need not reach the constitutional question here where no statute or regulation is involved and, ... the patient's right to refuse the transfusions may be sustained on the basis of the common-law and statutory rules alone. This common-law right also is not absolute and in some circumstances may have to yield to superior interests of the State. ... But an identified State interest which conflicts with a patient's choice will not always prevail. There are many cases where the State's concern is not sufficient to override the individual's right to determine the course of medical treatment as a patient ... or as the parent of a patient. ... In these and similar cases the courts have to weigh the interests of the individual against the interests asserted on behalf of the State to strike an appropriate balance.
"The threshold inquiry is whether there is an identifiable State interest in intervening in the patient's medical choice. If there is, the inquiry must focus on whether the State's interest is sufficiently substantial to outweigh the individual's right. On this point, the extent to which the State has manifested its commitment to that interest through legislation or otherwise is a significant consideration.
The State has a well-recognized interest in protecting and preserving the lives of its citizens. However, we have previously upheld the right of a person to decline life-sustaining treatment against a claim that this is inconsistent with the State's general interest in preserving the lives of its citizens. ... In these instances, it has been noted, a distinction should be drawn between the State's interest in protecting the lives of its citizens from injuries by third parties, and injuries resulting from the individual's own actions. ... When the individual's conduct threatens injury to others, the State's interest is manifest and the State can generally be expected to intervene. But the State rarely acts to protect individuals from themselves, indicating that the State's interest is less substantial when there is little or no risk of direct injury to the public. This is consistent with the primary function of the State to preserve and promote liberty and the personal autonomy of the individual. ... In many if not most instances the State stays its hand and permits fully competent adults to engage in conduct or make personal decisions which pose risks to their lives or health. The State will intervene to prevent suicide ... or the self- inflicted injuries of the mentally deranged. ... But merely declining medical care, even essential treatment, is not considered a suicidal act or indication of incompetence. ...
"The hospital notes that most of our cases recognizing this right involved older persons who were suffering from terminal illnesses or conditions in which there was little or no hope of recovery. .... It argues that the right to decline lifesaving medical treatment should be limited to such conditions; when, in the opinion of the patient's doctors, a particular medical treatment will completely restore the patient's health, the State's interest in preserving life is stronger and should prevail over the patient's wishes.
"Actually the cited cases dealt with an extension of the rule, requiring the doctors and hospitals to respect the right even when the patient becomes incompetent if, while competent, the patient had clearly stated a desire to decline life-sustaining treatment under specified circumstances. In each case we held that this was a matter of personal choice, and that the patient's wishes should be honored if there was clear and convincing evidence that the patient had made a firm resolve to decline life-sustaining treatment. Where there was such proof, we ordered that life-sustaining measures be discontinued; ... but where the patient's statements were equivocal and did not clearly show a firm resolve to make such a choice under the circumstances ... we ordered that medical care continue.
"In those cases the patients' physical condition was considered relevant only because the patients were incompetent when the court applications were made and we were therefore required to determine whether those were the circumstances in which the patients intended to decline the medical care. The requirement was imposed by the patients, not by the State. Consideration of the patient's physical condition in those cases was necessary to give effect to the patient's wishes. The right of a patient to decline life-sustaining treatment was recognized in these cases, not because the State considered their lives worthless, but because the State valued the right of the individual to decide what type of treatment he or she should receive under particular circumstances.
"The hospital's principal argument is that the State has an interest in preserving the life of the patient for the benefit of her child. In other words, a competent adult could never refuse lifesaving treatment if he or she were a parent of a minor child. Concededly, this was the opinion of the concurring Justice at the Appellate Division, and there is authority for this proposition in some of the lower court decisions of this State and in decisions from other jurisdictions. ... However, there appears to be disagreement among the courts that recognize the exception as to whether the perceived State's interest is to preserve the family unit intact (the two-parent rule proposed by the hospital in this case) or to simply insure that the child is not left parentless (the one-parent rule adopted by the Appellate Division in this case). Some decisions suggest the court apparently would apply the restriction whenever the patient has a dependent. Other courts perceiving the State's interest to be in favor of honoring the patient's wishes, have completely rejected the proposed restriction. ...
"In our prior cases we have alluded to the problem, ... but this is the first case in which a patient refusing lifesaving treatment has a minor child, and thus the first case in which we are called upon to decide the issue.
"There is no question that the State has an interest in protecting the welfare of children. However, at common law the patient's right to decide the course of his or her own medical treatment was not conditioned on the patient being without minor children or dependents. (FOOLS: Ever wonder why?) ... . Similarly, when the Legislature codified the common-law rule it imposed no such restriction. ... And the hospital can point to no law or regulation which requires a parent to submit to medical treatment to preserve the parent's life for the benefit of a minor child or other dependent. If, as the hospital urges, the State has an interest in intervening under these circumstances, it has never expressed it. In the absence of any statute or decision from this court limiting the rights of patients who happen to be parents, the hospital turns to the law of domestic relations, and seeks to equate a parent who declines essential medical care with a parent who intentionally abandons a child. It is argued that since the State, as parens patriae, will not allow a parent to abandon a child, it will not permit "this most ultimate of voluntary abandonments". ... This argument extends the concept of abandonment far beyond the boundaries recognized in this State, and into areas where it would conflict with other substantial interests.
"Although the State will not permit a parent to abandon a child, the State has never gone so far as to intervene in every personal decision a parent makes which may jeopardize the family unit or the parental relationship. The laws of adoption and divorce show that the State recognizes competing interests and, in some instances, accords them priority. ... Thus the State's concern with maintaining family unity and parental ties is not an interest which it enforces at the expense of all personal rights or conflicting interests.
"The State's interest in promoting the freedom of its citizens generally applies to parents. The State does not prohibit parents from engaging in dangerous activities because there is a risk that their children will be left orphans. (FOOLS: Varying possibility versus 99% certainty.) There are instances, as the hospital notes, where the State has prohibited the public from engaging in an especially hazardous activity or required that special safety precautions be taken by participants. But we know of no law in this State prohibiting individuals from participating in inherently dangerous activities or requiring them to take special safety precautions simply because they have minor children. There is no indication that the State would take a more intrusive role when the risk the parent has assumed involves a very personal choice regarding medical care. On the contrary, the policy of New York, as reflected in the existing law, is to permit all competent adults to make their own personal health care decisions without interference from the State.
"In sum, the patient, as a competent adult, had a right to determine the course of her own treatment, which included the right to decline blood transfusions, and there is no showing that the State had a superior interest, in preventing her from exercising that right under the circumstances of this case. The citizens of this State have long had the right to make their own medical care choices without regard to their physical condition or status as parents. Accordingly, the order of the Appellate Division should be affirmed.
DENISE NICOLEAU and HERRIOT NICOLEAU v. HOSPITAL. Denise Nicoleau and Herriot Nicoleau went on to file a civil lawsuit against Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, her obstetrician, and the Hospital's attorneys to recover damages for alleged violations of her civil rights. In 1992, an appellate court dismissed the action against the attorneys. Outcome against the Hospital and doctor are unknown.
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