BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS &
ADULT CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
JEHOVAH'S WITNESS PARENTS & GRANDPARENTS
WILL ALLOW THEIR ADULT CHILDREN & GRANDCHILDREN TO DIE
RATHER THAN CONSENT TO A BLOOD TRANSFUSION
This page will be used for the posting of case summaries which involve Jehovah's Witness Parents, GrandParents, or other relatives who refuse to consent to the administration of medically required blood transfusions for their adult children, grandchildren, or other family members who are somehow incapacitated and unable to give their own consent.
At the bottom of this page, I will also post a few case summaries that are transfusion-related, but which do not fit into the above scenario, or scenarios posted on the previous four pages. I will try to use bolding to help readers recognize cases not fitting the main scenario of this page.
The question of whether the Grammy Award-winning singer, Selena Quintanilla Perez, died because her father refused to consent to blood transfusions still makes the rounds on the internet. The quick answer is NO.
On March 31, 1995, 23 year-old Selena was shot in the back by former employee, Yolanda Saldivar. A .38 caliber hollow point bullet severed an artery leading away from Selena's heart, and she bled to death. Selena was "dead on arrival" at Corpus Christi's Memorial Medical Center. Despite such, the receiving doctor went ahead and started treatment -- possibly because of who she was. In the ER, a doctor using manual manipulation was successful at establishing a heart beat long enough to move Selena into the operating room. By then, 6 units of blood at been administered, but nearly all of such was pouring out into her chest cavity, rather than going into her circulatory system. Doctors continued with their futile efforts, but life was never restored at the hospital.
Selena's father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., had been told that Selena had been in an accident, and had been taken to Memorial Medical Center. It was not until he arrived at the hospital that he learned that she had been shot. The staffer who met with Abraham Quintanilla informed him of the doctor's efforts, including that Selena had been administered the six units of blood. When Abraham Quintanilla heard such, he reportedly yelled, "No! She doesn't want that!"
The doctors working on Selena never heard Abraham Quintanilla's attempt to stop the transfusions, nor were they told about such until after the fact. But, "if" Selena had still been alive at that point, and "if" blood transfusions could have saved her, then "yes", Selena's death might have resulted from her father's refusal to allow any more transfusions.
With regard to Abraham Quintanilla's status as a Jehovah's Witness, media reports repeatedly used the blurp that Abraham Quintanilla "had followed his father into the Jehovah's Witnesses faith some years earlier". Whether that verbiage was intentionally specific, or just chance is unknown. Abraham Quintanilla may have been reared as a JW, or he may have converted as an adult after his own father, Abraham Quintanilla, Sr., first converted.
Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. reportedly was "inactive" at the time of Selena's death, which can simply mean that he did not regularly submit monthly recruiting reports required of all "active" members. Such is not necessarily an indicator of how often a JW does or does not attend "meetings" at the Kingdom Hall. In fact, one media report quoted a "family friend", who was probably a JW, as stating that Abraham Quintanilla, Jr. and Selena were the most "active" (which can be taken to mean just about any amount of activity) of all the Quintanilla family, which included Selena's mother, Marcela Quintanilla, Selena's brother, Abraham "A.B." Quintanilla III (Vangie Quintanilla, wife) and Selena's sister, Suzette Quintanilla Ariaga (Billy Ariaga, husband). Such would also likely indicate that Abraham Quintanilla had reared his three children with WatchTower beliefs.
Reportedly, Selena had not been baptized into the religion. The status of her two siblings and their spouses is not known. Whether Selena's husband, Christopher Perez, had any connection to the JWs is not known. It is known that JWs are heavily pressured to marry only other JWs. Undoubtedly, over the years, Selena had attended many "meetings" at the Kingdom Hall, and various WatchTower assemblies and conventions, with either her father or paternal grandfather. The fact that Selena received a private Jehovah's Witness funeral, conducted by a JW named Sam Wax, indicates that Selena was considered "in good standing" with the local JW congregation.
H.H. v. H.I. and PROTECTIVE COMMISSIONER was a 2009 Australian adult "custody" court case which we believe readers will find interesting. H.I. was an 88 year-old longtime Jehovah's Witness female who lived in a residential aged care facility. In addition to her age, H.I. also suffered from alcohol related brain damage and was cognitively impaired. H.H., who was also a Jehovah's Witness, and a close friend of H.I., had been appointed under Australia law as H.I.'s guardian to make decisions about "accommodation, services, health care and medical and dental consents".
One of the issues raised in this court opinion was whether the Facility had been respecting the WatchTower Society's teachings which prohibited its members from participating in holidays and birthday celebrations. The Director of the Facility testified that, "We were told in no uncertain terms by [H.H.] that we could not allow [H.I.] to participate in any Christmas-themed activities, and if that meant she was by herself in the cottage whilst every other resident went to an activity, that's what had to happen." However, the Director of the Facility further testified that the Facility "has a lot of Christmas themed activities," and that [H.I.] "wanted to attend every Christmas-themed activity that took place." The Director indicated that despite H.I.'s dementia, H.I. was fully aware that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and that as a Jehovah's Witness, she was prohibited from celebrating Chistmas.
However, H.I. was permitted to attend these "Christmas-themed activities" after being so persuaded by H.I., who told the facility Director, "Yes, I believe in Jehovah, and I don't celebrate Christmas, but my God is a loving God, and I think he'd want me to be happy, and if going to listen to the children sing makes me happy, he would want that for me."
When H.H. discovered that H.I. had been attending "Christmas-themed activities", she had a heated discussion with the facility Director, who indicated that she would continue to allow H.I. to make her own choices as to what holiday activities she would or would attend. H.H. responded by having an Attorney (probably from the WatchTower Society of Australia) telephone the Director, and in a second heated discussion, attempt to intimidate the Director, which failed.
Essentially, the Jehovah's Witness Guardian was attempting to require the enforcement of the WatchTower Society's strict religious rules by a public Facility, and thereby force that Facilty's elderly, infirm Jehovah's Witness Resident to obey the WatchTower Society's strict religious rules against her own personal wishes. One of the questions needing addressed by this court was whether Australia's guardianship laws permitted a legal guardian to force their own personal religious beliefs, practices, and interpretations onto that of the person over whom is exercised the guardianship. This decision included many other issues, and ultimate outcome is unknown.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. BROWN was a 1991 Washington D. C. appellate court decision. In 1983, a Jehovah's Witness, named Mary C. Brown, sued the District of Columbia, Armor Elevator Company, and an elevator maintenance company, for the "wrongful death" of her 19 year-old son, Dwight Covington. Around 1989-90, a typical Washington D.C. Jury awarded Mary Brown $300,000.00 from the District of Columbia only. The two elevator companies were not held liable. In 1991, on appeal by the District of Columbia, the appellate court reversed the trial court decision, ruling that Covington was contributorily negligent as a matter of law, and thereby avoiding having to rule on the District of Columbia's argument that Covington's death was caused by the "deliberate and intentional intervening act of refusing a blood transfusion", rather than by the negligence of the District of Columbia.
In March 1982, 19 year-old Dwight Covington, a 320-pound, six foot-three inch, former High School football player, intentionally threw himself against an elevator door inside a Greenleaf Gardens public housing project apartment building. Covington was supposedly demonstrating a football move to his friend Michael Gathers. About a week later, and again accompanied by Gathers and two others (possibly all JWs doing door-to-door witnessing), Covington repeated the moronic act of vandalism on the third floor of another Greenleaf Gardens public housing project apartment building, despite the fact that there was a visible gap at the right side of the elevator door, large enough to permit one to see the elevator arrive or to look into the elevator shaft. This time, this elevator door gave way, and Covington plummetted 40 feet to the bottom of the elevator shaft, and sustained injuries that included multiple fractures of his pelvis, left leg, and hip socket.
At the hospital, Dwight Covington, evidently a devout Jehovah's Witness, refused to consent to blood transfusions made necessary by the fact that he eventually lost half or more of his blood volume. He was apparently fully supported in that decision by his JW family and other congregation members given that Covington was eventually transferred to a medical facility in Chicago for the infusion of a supposed blood alternative. However, by that point, he was physically unable to undergo the procedure, and died.
At trial, Mary Brown claimed that if the elevator doors had been in conformance with applicable elevator regulations they would not have opened when subjected to the pressure exerted upon them by a contact of the type brought to bear by her son. Brown claimed that negligence in construction, maintenance, installation, and repair of the elevator door caused Covington's injuries and death. The typical Washington D.C. Jury agreed with Mary Brown.
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals reversed, and noted, in part:
"... Covington frequented the public housing project to 'hang out' with friends. He was more akin to a trespasser rather than a resident tenant or a tenant's guest at the housing project. This project apparently had no doors to prevent non-residents from entering the premises. Doors put up to replace the ones torn down were apparently removed repeatedly by vandals; this presented a persistent problem for the District. In addition, Covington did not use the elevator on March 7, 1982 as a passenger. Gathers testified that the elevator was out of service that evening. Instead, he and Covington used the stairs to explore each floor of the project looking for acquaintances.
"... one of the purposes of the Elevator Code is to ensure the safety of the general public. ... This purpose, however, is not inconsistent with requiring members of the public to use due care when they are using elevators. ... Banks ... , we held that it was consistent with the Housing Code to require tenants to exercise due care in their activities as tenants, even in the face of noncompliance with certain provisions of that Code. As we determined in Banks that the purpose of the Housing Code was not to protect persons from their own negligence, we also conclude that the Elevator Code does not insulate persons from the legal consequences of their failure to exercise ordinary care. We conclude that the trial court erred when it failed to rule to that effect and instead left it to the jury to determine whether a purpose of the Elevator Code is to protect members of the public from their failure to exercise ordinary care for their own safety.
"Having determined that ordinary contributory negligence rather than aggravated contributory negligence is available as a defense, we consider the District's argument that the trial court should have granted its motions for directed verdict or, alternatively, its post-trial motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict because Dwight Covington's act of 'vandalism' in deliberately striking the elevator door with his shoulder was contributorily negligent as a matter of law. Brown counters the District's argument by stating that it was for the jury to determine whether Covington was contributorily negligent. ... She concludes it would be unreasonable for Covington to have foreseen that his contact with the doors would lead to his fall. ... ...
"... Michael Gathers, acknowledged that Covington 'lunged at [the elevator door] and hit it hard and did it deliberately.' Before Covington did so, there was a visible gap at the right side of the elevator door, large enough to permit one to see the elevator arrive or to look into the shaft. Gathers had warned Covington against such conduct about a week previously. Covington's actions clearly violated the objective reasonableness standard ... in light of the obvious danger presented by this particular elevator and by qualities of elevators generally. ... Consequently, the trial court erred in failing to grant the District of Columbia's motions for directed verdict and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict."
IN THE MATTER OF C.A. was a May 2011 Ontario, Canada Consent and Capacity Board proceeding in which it was deemed necessary for her wellbeing to continue CA's detention as an "involuntary patient" in an Ontario mental health treatment facility. CA's brother was appointed as her "substitute decision maker", who consented to needed treatment. CA's Jehovah's Witness Mother did not approve of CA's detention and treatment, and may partially be the cause of CA's continuing problems.
C.A., female, age 28, has a lengthy history of psychiatric illness. Her first psychiatric admission was in 2000, when she was only 17 years-old. CA has had at least ten admissions since that time. Most recently, CA was hospitalized from December 2007 until January 2009. CA was re-hospitalized in February 2009, and has remained hospitalized since. CA has been diagnosed as suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder - Bipolar Type. CA suffers from disorganized thinking, distressing auditory hallucinations, agitation and self-injurious behaviour. On at least three occasions since November 2010, her behaviour was of such a dangerous nature as to require a "Code White" response by hospital staff.
CA's Jehovah's Witness Mother objects to her daughter being hospitalized, and objects to the administration of medication. Anything to do with needles and bloodwork is problematic for CA's mother. CA has great difficulty resisting her JW Mother, to whom she has a strong attachment. CA's mother would visit her daughter every day if permitted by staff. However, visits by JW Mother are limited because such cause CA to suffer a high level of agitation and distress. During one such visit, CA suffered levels of distress, agitation, and uncontrollable behavior which necessitated a "Code White" response from hospital staff. During the midst of such, CA's mother asked to take CA on an outing to the mall. CA's own insight and judgment regarding her mental illness are impaired. While CA is generally happy to remain in hospital, her attitude changes after her JW Mother has visited.
IN THE MATTER OF JODI ANN MORREN was a 1990 New Jersey court decision. This case should be extremely enlightening to non-JWs who are married to, or dating, a Jehovah's Witness or former Jehovah's Witness. Incomplete details. Reportedly, Wayne Morren and Jodi Ann Morren, 22, of Piscataway, New Jersey, married sometime in June 1990. It is not known if Jodi Morren had warned her future husband that she had been reared as a JW, but apparently she had either disassociated, been disfellowshipped, or otherwise become "inactive" when she was 18 years-old. Only two months after being married, doctors notified the couple that Jodi Ann Morren had a serious blood disease that required treatments that included blood transfusions. Jodi Morren notified her new husband and her doctors that she would NOT consent to blood transfusions even if such meant that she would die. Out of love for his new bride, Wayne Morren attempted to get a local court to declare his wife legally incompetent to make her own medical decisions. However, he lost. Outcome of Jodi Morren's medical battle for her life is unknown.
IN THE MATTER OF TAWNYA NISSEN was a 2006 Iowa court decision. Suffering from neuroleptic malignant syndrome, a condition that was induced by appetite suppressants, 28-year-old Tawnya Nissen was comatose at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport. When her husband of six years, Chris Nissen, of Clinton, Iowa, was informed that Tawnya would possibly need a blood transfusion if her conditioned worsened, he refused to give his consent, citing Tawnya and his own beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses.
Fortunately, Tawnya Nissen's parents, Thomas and Becky Reid, of Camanche, Iowa, were NOT Jehovah's Witnesses, and they sought and was granted court-ordered temporary guardianship over Tawnya's medical affairs while she was comatose. Fortunately, no transfusions were needed. When Tawnya awoke, and was informed of everything that had happened, she told her mother that she would accept a transfusion if she was in danger of dying. "She told us earlier today that if it meant her living, she would take the blood," stated Becky Reid.
However, while all this was going on, Chris Reid, had been fighting the court-ordered guardianship. Once Tawnya's life was no longer endangered, all parties agreed to terminate the temporary guardianship. Once Tawnya was "talked to" by her husband and most likely one or more Jehovah's Witness Elders [who likely informed her that her statement to her mother was very close to grounds in the Watchtower religion for "disassociation" (excommunication)], then a public statement was released that she actually would not have accepted a blood transfusion. She also signed a WatchTower Society standardized legal document giving her husband authority to make all future medical decisions for her if she was unable to do so.
HARVEY v. STRICKLAND was a 2002 South Carolina Supreme Court decision. In November 1996, diagnostic testing revealed a blockage in Charles Harvey's carotid artery. Dr. Glen Strickland recommended a carotid endarterectomy. On November 4, 1996, in anticipation of surgery, Harvey, a Jehovah's Witness, signed written forms entitled "Refusal of Treatment/Release from Liability" and "Consent to Operation." The documents indicate that he refused to have blood or blood products given to him, and that he fully understood the attendant risks. They state that "in all probability, my refusal for such treatment, medical intervention, and/or procedure (may)(will) seriously imperil my health or life." The release relieves the attending physician, Lexington Medical Center, and its agents and employees from any and all claims of whatsoever kind or nature. Hospital forms list Harvey's mother, Julia, as his emergency contact. On January 14, 1997, the day before his surgery, Harvey signed another consent to operation form indicating that he did "not give permission to the doctor to use blood or blood products if necessary." However, Dr. Strickland testified that although he knew Harvey was a Jehovah's Witness, Harvey had verbally told him he would consider a blood transfusion.
Harvey's surgery was performed January 15, 1997. Although the surgery initially appeared to have gone well, Harvey developed a blood clot and had a stroke while in the recovery room. Because Harvey was unconscious, hospital personnel located his mother, Julia, in the waiting room and obtained her permission to perform a CT scan and an arteriogram. A second surgery was performed and more blood clots were removed along the side of the carotid artery. Harvey was moved to the intensive care unit. Harvey was intubated that evening by the on-call emergency room physician after the ICU nurse discovered Harvey was having trouble breathing, and his blood pressure was 200/110. The next day, Harvey began bleeding from the surgical site at his neck; he had lost approximately 30% of his blood volume, and his heart rate was extremely high. Dr. Strickland was concerned that if they could not get the heart rate down, Harvey would have a heart attack and die. When his hemoglobin level reached 8, Dr. Strickland recommended a blood transfusion to Harvey's mother, Julia, who initially declined due to her son's faith as a Jehovah's Witness. Ultimately, Harvey's Mother consented to giving Harvey two units of packed red blood cells.
Harvey recovered fully from the procedures. In fact, Harvey did not even become aware that he had been given a blood transfusion until several months after his surgery. The 50 year old Jehovah's Witness said that when he found out, "It hurt me so bad. I just lost it. I cried and cried for days." Since only a big check could alleviate that much grief, Harvey instituted a lawsuit in July 1998 alleging medical malpractice, medical battery, breach of express contract, and lack of informed consent.
The trial court directed a verdict for Dr. Strickland on the breach of contract claim at the close of Harvey's case; the court directed a verdict for Dr. Strickland on the lack of informed consent claim at the close of the defense's presentation of evidence.
The medical malpractice and medical battery claims were submitted to the jury, but the jury could not reach a decision. The court then granted Dr. Strickland a directed verdict on the malpractice and battery claims and dismissed the jury.
Harvey appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court, which reversed the trial court's grant of a directed verdict and remanded for a new trial. The court cited the SC's Adult Health Care Consent Act, which addresses patients who are unable to consent. The law prohibits the attending physician from authorizing treatment when he knows the treatment is contrary to either "the religious beliefs of the patient" or to "the patient's unambiguous and uncontradicted instructions expressed at a time when the patient was able to consent." Strickland had insisted that Harvey had told him that if an emergency arose, he might consider a transfusion, but Harvey denied that assertion, and the justices ruled that that issue was a matter for a jury to consider. They also ruled that the question of whether the transfusion had really been necessary, which was disputed by the medical experts who testified, should also be decided by a jury. Strickland also argued that since Harvey had suffered no "legally cognizable" injury, there were no grounds for damages. But the court held that physical injury is not necessary for a damage claim, and that a plaintiff can seek recovery for any "violation of a legal right."
Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Strickland's insurance company did not chance that two juries in a row would exercise the common sense unavailable to SC Supreme Court justices. The case was settled for an unknown amount sufficiently large for the WatchTower Legal Dept to claim another significant victory.
IN RE LELAND ANTHONY THOMAS was a 2002 Georgia court decision. On March 4, 2002, 19 year-old Leland Thomas was severely injured in a single-car auto accident on Interstate 85. Thomas was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta where he initially received three units of blood. When his parents arrived there about two hours after the wreck, they informed doctors that they and their unconscious son were Jehovah's Witness, and that no more blood transfusions should be administered. They claimed that Leland carried the standard WatchTower Society "NO BLOOD" legal document in his wallet. However, when Thomas' wallet was searched, no such document was found.
Due to excessive blood loss from a broken left femur, a ruptured spleen, a torn aorta and bruised lungs, the ER doctors continued giving Leland Thomas blood transfusions over the parent's repeated objections. Their rationale was that Leland was an adult, and that if he did not want blood transfusions, then he would have been carrying the standard document that all JWs are required to carry. Otherwise, they were legally obligated to do all they could to save his life until he himself stopped them. On August 6, Grady's lawyers petitioned the local court for authorization to administer necessary blood transfusions in their efforts to save Leland's life. The petition was granted.
Despite the hospital's best efforts, Leland's condition worsened, and the parent's gave permission for Leland to be removed from life-support on March 7, and he died shortly thereafter.
In April 2002, the parents filed an appeal to the March 6 order. They claimed that although they knew that the hospital was going to petition the court for authorization to continue to administer transfusions that they were not notified of the time and place of the hearing, and thus were unable to be present to present testimony to prevent such authorization. Although their son was dead and buried, the Thomas's wanted to make sure that in the future other Jehovah's Witness Parents had the right to stop hospitals from saving the lives of their unconscious adult children by administering blood transfusions. Outcome unknown.
IN RE MATTER OF EDEL CARVAJAL, JR. was a 2000 Florida trial court decision. Edel Carvajal, Jr., a 23-year-old Jehovah's Witness, was injured in a construction accident in which he fell from an expressway ramp. After being airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, it was determined that he would need one or more blood transfusions. Carajal, Jr. verbally rejected the required blood transfusions, and his newlywed JW wife supported his decision. However, Edel Carvajal, Sr., who was NOT a Jehovah's Witness, proceeded to obtain an emergency court order appointing himself temporary guardian, with authority to authorize blood transfusions for his son. Nine pints of blood were administered while Carvajal Jr. was comatose.
Edel Carvajal Sr., a Roman Catholic, said he didn't know much about his son's presumably new religion, and that he had never heard his son say that he would refuse blood transfusions. Distraught over his presumably new daughter-in-law's decision to refuse his son a blood transfusion, Carvajal Sr. sought help to override her decision. Coral Gables attorney, Jose R. Iglesia, filed a petition for emergency medical treatment on his behalf on Sept. 14 in Miami-Dade County court. The petition was granted by Circuit Court Judge Ronald Dresnick.
It is unclear whether Carvajal Sr.'s daughter-in-law was notified of the legal proceedings. The Judge also may not have been told of Carvajal Jr.'s wife's rejection of blood. The Judge reportedly was told that Edel Carvajal, Jr. had verbally refused blood transfusions before becoming comatose, but Edel Carvajal, Sr. pointed out to the court that Jr. had been given morphine at that point. Carvajal Sr.told the court to "give him enough blood to bring him back [to consciousness], then you ask if he wants blood. If he doesn't, it's his own choosing.'' The court reversed its ruling after Jr. regained consciousness and again refused blood. It is unclear whether he was aware that he had already been given blood while he was comatose.
Normally, the WatchTower Society pushes its Jehovah's Witness members, who have been infused against their wishes, to pursue all legal recourse, but this case was receiving so much publicity which was favorable to the non-JW father who saved his son's life, that the case was quietly dropped. How would it look for a son to sue his own father for saving his life? How would it look for a Catholic father to do for his JW son what a JW would not do for his own JW son?
NORTH CAROLINA v. WELCH was a 1996-9 North Carolina court decision. On the evening of December, 17, 1996, Theondray Ozell Welch stabbed his live-in Jehovah's Witness girlfriend, Marina Lemmons. Here is the statement Welch gave police:
"I have been living with Marina Lemmons for about nine months. We have been having problems off and on. Tonight I arrived home around 5:00 p.m. . . . Marina was in bed. I left and went up the street and smoked a cigarette. I returned and Marina was in the bath tub. I went into the bathroom and washed my ring finger on my left hand that I cut earlier. Marina was telling me she did not have time for any fake nigger. She was telling me this over and over. I went downstairs in the living room. Marina later came down and started talking on the phone. Marina was talking with some guy in front of me and this made me mad. After talking on the phone, she went back upstairs. After a few minutes I followed. I asked her how come you call other guys and go see other guys after we just broke up. Marina started laughing and saying something smart. I went downstairs and then went back upstairs. I don't remember where I got the knife. I stabbed Marina one time as far as I know. Marina was in the front bedroom facing the road. After I stabbed Marina, she started calling my name. I helped Marina up and helped her with her coat and shoes and helped her downstairs and helped her in the car, a blue Ford, and drove to the hospital. I don't remember where the knife is, but it must be in the apartment. Its a knife that I carry for protection. The knife is a kitchen knife about 6 inches long."
By the time Lemmons was admitted at Central Carolina Hospital she had lost 80-85% of her blood volume. Marina Lemmons, age 19, refused to consent to the blood transfusions needed to save her life based on her beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. Lemmons' mother and other family members also refused to consent or help obtain Lemmons' consent based on their beliefs as Jehovah's Witnesses.
Marina Lemmons was alert and oriented before surgery, and she was stable after surgery, but she eventually died from the natural complications that resulted from the low blood volume condition that she and her JW family intentionally and purposefully allowed to continue.
Welch was subsequently jury tried and convicted of second-degree murder, and the court sentenced him to a term of 251 months imprisonment. Welch lost both during the trial and subsequent appeal his argument that Lemmons' death was actually caused by her refusal to accept a life-saving blood transfusion.
Like moronic JWs, both the original jury and the appellate justices "hung their hats" partially on the doctors' testimony that Lemmons may not have lived even if she had consented to blood transfusions:
"Furthermore, Dr. Stanton could not state with certainty whether Lemmons would have survived had she received a blood transfusion."
While JWs-with-blinders spout such nonsense, it is inexcusable for educated, intelligent judges to ignore routine "C-Y-A testimony" of doctors in such scenarios. No informed doctor should ever testify that such a patient would absolutely have survived massive blood loss if given a transfusion. Instead, they should testify to the "odds" (80%, 90%, 95%, etc.) that such a patient would have survived.
Welch should have been charged with an appropriate aggravated assault charge that provided a sentence in the 8-12 year range, especially given the additional mitigating factors, instead of being sentenced to a 21 year term.
Readers should be aware that this scenario is not an isolated instance. Over the decades, there have been many, many similar scenarios in which similar defendants with little chance of jury sympathy -- DUIs, Armed Robberies, Assaults, etc. -- have been convicted of both second and first degree murder, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, when their JW victim would have had 95+% chance of survival if they had been given blood transfusions. While such Perps deserve no sympathy, the fact is that their peers, whose victims survived after receiving full medical care, are receiving jail terms of 25-50% of what they are receiving.
CAUDILL v. JOHN ET AL was a 1997 Kentucky court case. Sketchy details. In 1997, Michael Caudill, the minor son of Edward Caudill, sued an unknown Kentucky hospital and its emergency-room doctor, named Sarah John, because they had failed to administer a blood transfusion to his father after a motorcycle accident in 1996. Michael's mother, Regina Sargent, was either divorced from, or never married to Edward Caudill. Edward Caudill's then current wife, was also riding on the motorcycle, and she also was seriously injured. At the hospital, it seems that Edward Caudill was unconscious, but his wife apparently was less injured and conscious. As a Jehovah's Witness, she refused to consent to a blood transfusion for herself or Edward. Apparently, she convinced Dr. Sarah John that Edward was also a Jehovah's Witness, who supposedly would not consent to a blood transfusion. Thus, neither injured person was transfused, and both died. However, Edward's injuries being more serious, he died first. Apparently, Edward Caudill and his then current wife owned valuable property under a survivorship type deed that vested all ownership in the survivor. Since Caudill's current wife survived Edward for a short period of time, the property vested in her, and then to her heirs. Michael Caudill, as Edward Caudill's only child, received ZERO. In his lawsuit, Michael Caudill evidently alleged that his father was not a Jehovah's Witness, and that he would not have refused a transfusion, if conscious. Thus, the hospital and doctor were negligent in accepting the wife's statements that Edward Caudill would not want to be transfused, and their negligence resulted in Michael Caudill not receiving his rightful inheritance, because if transfused, Edward Caudill would have most likely outlived the wife, if not survived the accident. Outcome unknown.
On Friday night, March 23, 1984, in south Phildadelphia, a 19 year-old Jehovah's Witness, named James Himmons, attended a party, during which a nemesis, named Jerry Woodward, supposedly "snatched" Himmons Cazals designer sunglasses from Himmons face. It is unclear whether the glasses were stolen, or returned. Later that evening, after he left the party, James Himmons was ticketed for driving on a sidewalk. Himmons apparently had had too much to drink at the party, so it is uncertain why he only received a ticket. After being allowed to go, Himmons went to a southside bar, where Jerry Woodward had gone to meet up with friends, where Himmons apparently also frequented.
James Himmons confronted Jerry Woodward about the glasses incident earlier that evening, and a fight broke out, in which a cousin, named Anthony Woodward, joined in against Himmons. At some point during the brawl, Jerry Woodward stabbed Himmons. Himmons was transported in a police van to Misericordia Hospital, where transfusions were administered, and emergency surgery was began. At some point, Himmons' two Jehovah's Witness Parents arrived and demanded that doctors stop the transfusions. The hospital complied, and Himmons died shortly thereafter.
The following widely publicized case occurred in England in 1996. A Dutch family of five Jehovah's Witnesses were "holidaying" in England, when the 19 year old daughter broke both legs while in-line skating down a hill. Emelie Grootjes died from fat-embolism syndrome five days later. Fat and marrow from her bones was entering her blood system, and then jamming up around her lungs. Doctors could have performed a surgical procedure to stop such from continuing, but that procedure also required the administering of a blood transfusion. Both Emelie and her two parents refused to give consent for such. Emelie's doctors stated that given her age and excellent physical conditioning that if given a blood transfusion there was a 90% chance that she would have lived.
The father, Cornelius Grootjes, said: "We accept other treatment but not blood or blood products. I think the situation with blood is not so black or white as it looks. I think the doctors did all they could and I am very happy with all that they did."
The coroner ruled that Emelie Grootjes died as the result of an accident -- "the consequences of which were contributed by the refusal of blood transfusions on religious grounds".
IN RE ANNA SMITH was a 1987 Florida case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Registered Nurse, named Margaret Pizza, and her elderly mother, who may not have even been a JW. 80 year-old, Anna Smith, had been involuntarily committed to G. Pierce Wood Memorial Hospital, suffering from Alzheimers, since 1981. Due to a bowel inflammation, periodic blood transfusions were needed to keep Smith alive.
In September 1987, Margaret Pizza RN went to court trying to stop the repeated transfusions. Pizza reportedly pleaded with the Judge to let her mother die quickly and painlessly. Media did not report any argument that such transfusions violated Anna Smith's personal religious beliefs, which would seem to indicate that Smith was not a JW.
Pizza's request was denied, because Florida's ''Right to Decline Life-Prolonging Procedures'' law did not apply in this case, because Smith was not terminally ill, which would mean there was no reasonable chance of recovery, and death was imminent.
STATE v. WILLIAM OLLIFF, and STATE v. JOHN OLLIFF, and STATE v. BEN OLLIFF. In April 1952, a Texan divorcee, named Grace Marie Wright, 20, who was also the mother of a 13 month-old daughter named Clydene, remained unconscious for a full week in Odessa's Ector County Medical Center after an extremely serious automobile accident in which her skull, both legs, and pelvis were fractured. Doctors apparently started to administer a blood transfusion when initially treating Wright's injuries, but William Olliff, 51, Wright's father, who was a Jehovah's Witness, stopped the doctors by telling them that his daughter was also a Jehovah's Witness, and that she would not consent to such if she were conscious.
Evidently, Wright's two older brothers, John Oliff, 27, and Ben Olliff, 23, who worked at WatchTower HQ in Brooklyn, NY, must have returned to Texas to help their father "guard" Wright's hospital room, so as to physically ensure that Wright was not given any blood transfusions.
The accident occurred on a Sunday. On Wednesday, Wright's ex-husband, Clyde Wright, as Clydene Wright's representative, obtained an injunction against the JW Trio. However, officials at the Odessa hospital would not request the Police to enforce such, unless Grace Wright's condition worsened, and a transfusion was absolutely required to save Wright's life.
Grace Wright regained consciousness after seven days. When told that she needed a blood transfusion, but that her father and two brothers were preventing such, Grace Wright declared that she was NOT a Jehovah's Witness, and that she would consent to any needed blood transfusions. During this conversation between Wright and doctors, her two "Bethelite" brothers were in the room repeatedly telling her to claim that she was a JW, and that she did not want a transfusion.
Doctors finally had to have two Deputies remove the two Oliff brothers from Wright's hospital room.The Oliff Clan continued to create a disturbance out in the hallways. The Deputies first simply tried to get the Oliff Trio to leave the hospital, but the Trio evidently refused to leave, so they were arrested for disturbing the peace and taken to jail.
Grace Wright's condition was so bad that she received at least four transfusions over the next week or so. It is not known whether she survived, and if not, whether the week's delay in receiving them led to her death.
Due to the ongoing nationwide bad publicity that the Jehovah's Witnesses received from this scenario - and especially because the two Olliff brothers worked at the WatchTower Society world headquarters, in Brooklyn, the head of the WatchTower Society's Legal Department, Hayden C. Covington, issued a press release in which he threatened to file lawsuits against the Hospital and all the doctors on behalf of the father and the two brothers. In typical Jehovah's Witness Stupidity, Covington threatened to file a "civil rights" lawsuit on behalf of Grace, who was consenting to the repeated transfusions. That fool even threatened to file a "wrongful death" lawsuit on behalf of the JW Trio if Grace died, when it was the JW Trio that delayed the transfusions for a week.
TEXAS v. WILLIAM M. OLLIFF was a 1954 Texas criminal court decision. William Oliff owned and operated a "trailer park" in Midland, Texas. Sometime in latter 1952 or 1953, Olliff's "sons" (interesting if the two "Bethelites" for multiple reasons) and the "sons" of one of his tenants got into a literal "mud slinging" contest, and Oliff told the family to move. The tenants were not happy, and the family moved their trailer without paying their final bill. Evidently, that angered Oliff, and he went looking for the former tenants. When Oliff did not find the tenants at the relocated trailer, he evidently spotted the couple entering a friend's home somewhere else in Midland. Oliff pulled into the drive, and got out of his car. Oliff and the former tenant first argued, and Oliff claimed that the tenant grabbed his arm. Oliff then reached into his car and got his loaded pistol, which just so happened to be lying on the front seat. Oliff testified that he did so simply to bluff the tenant. Oliff further testified that he only intended to scare the tenant when he pulled the trigger after being certain that the gun was pointed away from the tenant. Amazingly, the bullet struck the tenant in the heart, and he died. At a June 1954 trial, William M. Oliff was convicted of murder and sentenced in 15 years in the state penitentiary. It does not appear that appeals were successful. I wonder whether the WatchTower Society issued any national press releases when this scenario developed?
In June 1958, 19 year-old Phillip Peace was involved in a terrible accident at a WatchTower Society owned property. Phillip had grew in in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was the second of three sons of a Jehovah's Witness couple, named Mr/Mrs William Peace. Evidently, like his older brother, Clayton, 25, Phillip had applied to do volunteer work for the WatchTower Society as soon as he had turned 19. Phillip was accepted, and he was assigned to work on one of the WatchTower-owned farms in New Jersey.
On June 25, 1958, as he was forking hay into a baling machine, Peace somehow fell into the machine feet first. Both legs were crushed past his knees, and much of the flesh was stripped away. It took two co-workers and a passing highway patrol officer nearly an hour just to extricate Peace from the hay baler. The blood loss must have been massive, and Peace was fortunate to even make it to Hunterdon County Medical Center, where emergency surgery was performed. Does anyone believe that given this scenario that Peace was not given multiple blood transfusions on arrival and during the surgery?
The report simply indicates that after Peace regained consciousness that he refused to consent to a blood transfusion. The hospital then contacted his parents in Cincinnati, and they too refused to give their consent. There is little doubt in my mind that he would not have survived long enough to have had the chance to refuse a transfusion but-for the fact that he had already received multiple.
Five weeks later, just before the opening of the 1958 WatchTower Convention, a news conference was arranged at the hospital, which featured Phillip, his parents, and his 7 year-old brother, Alan Peace. Phillip's left leg had been amputated, and his right leg was "in a cast", with nothing reported as to its' condition. The AP headline was, "WITNESS REFUSED BLOOD AND IS NOW RECOVERED". While much was made of Peace's refusal after he regained consciousness, and his "quick recovery" sufficient to attend the Convention and his Bethelite brother's upcoming wedding, this AP article, as was true of previous articles, did not state that no blood transfusions were ever administered to Peace.
In July 1995, an unidentified Massachusetts Jehovah's Witness female removed her 46-year-old mentally disabled brother from Carney Hospital, where his legal guardian had given consent for the administering of blood transfusions and other necessary medical care. Theodore Mueller, 46, of Dorchester, was listed as a missing person, and both he and his Jehovah's Witness sister were sought by the police.
IN THE MATTER OF DAVID GARCIA was a 1993 Florida court decision. In January 1993, 30 year-old mechanic David Garcia, Of Lake Worth, Florida, was severely injured when a tire he was changing exploded. The explosion ripped off one arm and did severe damage to the rest of his body, including his face, all of which required extensive skin and muscle grafts. Arriving unconscious at St. Mary's Hospital, Garcia was unable to communicate then, or afterwards due to heavy sedation. David's wife, Jane Garcia, informed the hospital that David and herself were Jehovah's Witnesses, and that blood transfusions would not be permitted. David was suffering from excessive blood loss, and would not survive without transfusions before, during, and after all the many surgeries his severe injuries would require.
David Garcia's parents and siblings, who were NOT Jehovah's Witnesses, were outraged. They immediately obtained legal counsel and petitioned the local court for guardianship and authorization to consent to all medical care necessary to save David's life. At the hearing, during which Jane Garcia did her best to fight against blood transfusions, David's family testified that David was NOT a Jehovah's Witness, had never joined the Jehovah's Witnesses, and had told them that he only attended WatchTower meetings to keep his JW wife happy. Doing such nearly cost David Garcia his life. The court granted Garcia's own father guardianship, with power to authorize all necessary medical care. Outcome unknown.
IN THE MATTER OF LESLIE LINART was a 1993 California court decision. In May 1993, a Jehovah's Witness named Leslie Linart was seriously injured in an automobile accident in San Bernardino county. At the hospital, a semi-conscious Linart refused to give doctors consent to administer the blood transfusions needed to save her life. Rather than sit by and watch her daughter die, as her daughter's Jehovah's Witnesses family and friends were willing and anxious to do, Leslie Linart's mother, Carma Lou Saathoff, of Temecula, California, who was NOT a Jehovah's Witness, sought and obtained temporary medical guardianship of her daughter, which allowed her to consent to all medical treatment needed to save her daughter's life, including transfusions.
IN RE ESTATE OF DARRELL DORONE (officially mis-spelled) was a 1987 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision. On July 30, 1984, Darrell Doron, 22, was seriously injured in an automobile accident in New Jersey. He was flown by helicopter to Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, in Pennsylvania, where Doron was unconscious and in need of emergency surgery to attempt to save his life. When Doron's Jehovah's Witness Parents, named William Doron and Carol Doron, arrived at the hospital, they refused to consent to needed blood transfusions. The parents also "alleged" to Hospital staff that Darrell had signed and carried on his person a "NO BLOOD" legal document, which was supplied to all Jehovah's Witnesses by the WatchTower Society. However, all of Darrell's personal effects were left back in New Jersey, and I have found no indications that the "alleged" card was ever later produced for the media or appellate courts.
The Hospital petitioned the local court via telephone for an emergency temporary guardianship, plus the authority to perform emergency surgery, which would also require the administering of blood transfusions. Such was granted. Doron's JW Parents complained that they were not informed about the emergency petition, nor were they given the opportunity to testify.
Two days later, in another emergency situation, the hospital again petitioned the court via telephone for permission to perform a transfusion during a second surgery required when a blood clot developed in Doronís brain. During this second petition, the doctors informed the judge that Darrell's parents had signed release forms for the surgery, but they had refused to consent to any blood transfusions, because they were Jehovahís Witnesses. A telephone call from a WatchTower Society attorney, who represented the parents, was patched into a conference call with the judge. The WatchTower attorney raised the issue of the "NO BLOOD" card. He even read the standardized verbiage to the judge. However, the judge again appointed the Hospital guardian, and again authorized the administering of blood transfusions.
Thereafter, William and Carol Doron appealed (no doubt at the insistence of the WatchTower Society's Legal Department), arguing that the local judge should have appointed them as temporary guardians of their son, rather than a hospital administrator, and that his two orders authorizing blood transfusions infringed their son's right to self-determination and his First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
In 1985, the appellate Superior Court of Pennsylvania ruled, in part:
"... the court's orders did not violate the rights of appellants' son, either to self-determination or freedom of religion. We therefore affirm the orders.
"... The trial court issued the orders in response to emergency telephone calls during which the patient's attending surgeon and the assistant hospital administrator said that the patient was unconscious; that he would die unless surgery were immediately performed; that if complications developed during the surgery, he would die without a blood transfusion; but that the patient's parents would not authorize a transfusion. ... It is not surprising that in these circumstances the orders were terse. ... ...
"The patient was in danger of death every moment surgery was delayed. ..."
In what probably made the WatchTower's lawyers wish that this case had not been appealed, the Superior Court further ruled that the medical card would only be "some" evidence of what Darrell Doron might have done if he had been competent. Even if a signed card could have been produced, the Superior Court ruled that such could not alone support a determination by the court of what Doron would have done had he been competent. A further hearing would have had to be conducted to determine Dorone's frame of mind when he signed the card, whether Doron had signed the card merely as a "statement of unity with other members of his congregation, or whether he had really contemplated it as binding in a death threatening situation. ... The court would also have to consider whether circumstances had intervened since the card had been signed that cast doubt on whether it still expressed the patient's firm and final decision," the court said.
On further appeal, in 1987, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a trial court could permit the administration of blood transfusions to an uncounscious adult patient, over parental objection, if the patient's life was in danger. The Supreme Court found that under the circumstances, the failure to take direct testimony from the parents did not constitute judicial error. Given the exigencies of both operations, nothing less than a fully conscious, contemporaneous decision by the patient could override medical necessity.
In December 1991, Lester Douglas, 54, of Evansville, Indiana died of a kidney ailment after he refused to consent to a blood transfusion. Why does this scenario belong with the "children" summaries on this website? Because while this website is chocked full of Jehovah's Witness parents going to every length to ensure the death of their children (of all ages), in Lester Douglas' instance, his NON-JW Mother, although probably in her 70s, was working furiously (although futilely) to get a court injunction even as Douglas lay dying in the hospital surrounded by his preferred "JW family".
IN RE MATTIE BROWN was a 1985 Mississippi Supreme Court decision. This was a highly unusual court case involving a Jehovah's Witnesses family and how the WatchTower Society's "no blood transfusion" doctrine affected some of the decisions made by various family members.
Full decision not available, and details are sketchy, but apparently the twenty year old daughter of Andrew and Mattie Brown allegedly first murdered her father by feeding him rat poison. This is interesting, because the chemical in rat poison is the same chemical used to thin blood. In the event the father had lived long enough to get medical attention, the recommended treatment would likely have been blood transfusions, which he would have had to refuse per WatchTower requirements.
In this court case, the same twenty year old daughter allegedly later shot and seriously wounded the mother. At the hospital, Mattie Brown refused any blood transfusions. Fearing that if she died that there would be no eyewitness to the murder and the attempted murder, the county prosecutor sought a court order to have Mattie Brown transfused. The local trial court granted the petition, and Mattie Brown was transfused and survived. However, Brown soon needed another surgery, which would also present the possibility of another transfusion, so Brown filed an emergency appeal regarding the first decision.
Unknown what happened at the murder trial, but regarding Mattie Brown's appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that to force a blood transfusion on Brown violated her rights to the free exercise of religion and to privacy.
MOREL v. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL ET AL was a 1990 Tennessee court case. In September 1989, David Michael Morel, age unknown, of Lavergne, Tennessee, was seriously injured in an automobile accident. He was taken to Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, where he arrived unconscious. There, Morel's mother, Ann Marie Barrow, allegedly told "someone" that her son was a practicing Jehovah's Witness and that he did not consent to any blood transfusions or blood products in his medical treatment. That information evidently did not make it to the surgeons, who administered a transfusion while working on Morel.
Thereafter, David Morel filed a $4,500,000.00 lawsuit against the hospital and five doctors, in which he claimed emotional distress caused by insult to his religious beliefs and anxiety due to fear of catching a disease from the transfused blood. The lawsuit also alleged that Morel was carring the WatchTower Society's "NO BLOOD" legal card on his person at time of admission. Outcome unknown.
WRIGHT v. UNITED STATES was a 1983 Michigan federal United States Court of Appeals decision. Limited details only. Sharon Lee Wright was employed as a secretary in the Psychiatry Department at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Allen Park, Michigan. On September 8, 1975, while performing her secretarial duties, Wright began experiencing severe abdominal pain. A fellow employee transported her by wheelchair to the hospital's emergency room. Wright was not eligible for treatment at Allen Park Veterans Administration Hospital. Nonetheless, the hospital staff undertook to treat her. Wright, a Jehovah Witness, was conscious and alert. She refused to accept blood transfusions.
Wright's parents arrived at the hospital soon after being notified of Wright's emergency. No husband was mentioned in available details. Wright's age also unknown. Wright's condition had worsened. She was still conscious, but unable to communicate effectively. Wright's parents maintain that they requested that their daughter be transferred to a hospital which was better equipped to treat a young female with pregnancy complications. The VA medical staff, allegedly, rejected this request. Wright's parents confirmed that Wright's religious beliefs prevented her from receiving blood transfusions. Although uncertain, the hospital probably had asked Wright's parents to consent to blood transfusions due to Wright's apparent uncompetency, and they had also refused to consent.
Hospital personnel, nevertheless, elected to perform an exploratory laparotomy. A ruptured tubal pregnancy with massive intra-abdominal hemorrhage was discovered. When complications developed, Wright was placed on a respirator. The next morning, Wright agreed to submit to a blood transfusion. Several days later Wright was discharged from the hospital.
Two years later, just days short of what was probably a statute of limitations, Wright filed a malpractice claim with the Veterans Administration under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Wright's claim alleged that a respirator had been improperly applied and operated, causing damage to her trachea, vocal cords and pharynx. Other injuries to her abdomen, etc. were also alleged. It is not known if or how the blood transfusion issue related to any of Wright's alleged injuries.
The federal district court dismissed Wright's suit holding that the Federal Employees Compensation Act was Wright's exclusive remedy due to Wright's status as an employee of the defendant. The Court of Appeals reversed based on the dual capacity of employer. While Wright was injured at the workplace, her injury, a ruptured tubal pregnancy, was not work-related. Furthermore, the alleged malpractice resulted in an alleged injury wholly separate and distinct from the injury for which Wright was being treated. Thus, a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act was Wright's exclusive remedy. Outcome unknown.
KENNEDY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL v. HESTON was a 1971 New Jersey Supreme Court decision. Delores Heston, age 22 and unmarried, was severely injured in an automobile accident. She was taken to the Hospital, where it was determined that she would die unless operated upon for a ruptured spleen; and that if operated upon she would die unless whole blood was administered. Delores Heston and her parents were Jehovah's Witnesses, and a tenet of their faith forbids blood transfusions. On appeal, Heston insisted that she verbally expressed her refusal to accept any blood transfusions. However, the trial record indicated that she was in shock on admittance to the hospital, and in the judgment of the attending physicians and nurses was then or soon became disoriented and incoherent. Heston's mother, Jane Heston, remained adamant in her opposition to a transfusion, and signed a release of liability for the hospital and medical personnel. Miss Heston did not execute a release. Presumably she could not. Her father could not be located.
Death being imminent, the Hospital, with notice to the mother, made application at 1:30 A.M. to a judge of the Superior Court for the appointment of a guardian for Miss Heston, with directions to consent to transfusions as needed to save her life. At the hearing, the mother and fellow Jehovah's Witnesses testified that a certain doctor would pursue surgery without a transfusion. But that doctor, in response to the judge's telephone call, declined the case. The court appointed a guardian with authority to consent to blood transfusions "for the preservation of the life of Delores Heston." Surgery was performed at 4:00 A.M. the same morning. Blood was administered. Miss Heston survived.
Thereafter, the Hestons moved to vacate the order. The trial court declined. The Hestons appealed. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's ruling, adopting reasonings that later courts ignored, stating in part:
"In Perricone (see summary), we sustained an order for compulsory blood transfusion for an infant despite the objection of the parents who were Jehovah's Witnesses. In Raleigh Fitkin-Paul Morgan Memorial Hospital ... (1964), it appeared that both the mother, a Jehovah's Witness, and the child she was bearing would die if blood were not transfused should she hemorrhage. We held that a blood transfusion could be ordered if necessary to save the lives of the mother and the unborn child. We said ... :
'We have no difficulty in so deciding with respect to the infant child. The more difficult question is whether an adult may be compelled to submit to such medical procedures when necessary to save his life. Here we think it is unnecessary to decide that question in broad terms because the welfare of the child and the mother are so intertwined and inseparable that it would be impracticable to attempt to distinguish between them with respect to the sundry factual patterns which may develop. The blood transfusions (including transfusions made necessary by the delivery) may be administered if necessary to save her life or the life of her child, as the physician in charge at the time may determine.'
"The case at hand presents the question we thus reserved in Raleigh Fitkin-Paul Morgan Memorial Hospital.
"It seems correct to say there is no constitutional right to choose to die. Attempted suicide was a crime at common law and was held to be a crime under [New Jersey state law.] ...
"Nor is constitutional right established by adding that one's religious faith ordains his death. ... conduct in pursuance of religious beliefs is not wholly immune from governmental restraint. ... Of immediate interest is Reynolds v. United States, ... (1878), in which it was held that Congress could punish polygamy in a territory notwithstanding that polygamy was permitted or demanded by religious tenet, and in which the Court said ... :
'Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship, would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband, would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?'
"Complicating the subject of suicide is the difficulty of knowing whether a decision to die is firmly held. Psychiatrists may find that beneath it all a person bent on self-destruction is hoping to be rescued, and most who are rescued do not repeat the attempt, at least not at once. Then, too, there is the question whether in any event the person was and continues to be competent (a difficult concept in this area) to choose to die. And of course there is no opportunity for a trial of these questions in advance of intervention by the State or a citizen.
"[The Hestons] suggests there is a difference between passively submitting to death and actively seeking it. The distinction may be merely verbal, as it would be if an adult sought death by starvation instead of a drug. If the State may interrupt one mode of self-destruction, it may with equal authority interfere with the other. It is arguably different when an individual, overtaken by illness, decides to let it run a fatal course. But unless the medical option itself is laden with the risk of death or of serious infirmity, the State's interest in sustaining life in such circumstances is hardly distinguishable from its interest in the case of suicide.
"Here we are not dealing with deadly options. The risk of death or permanent injury because of a transfusion is not a serious factor. Indeed, Miss Heston did not resist a transfusion on that basis. Nor did she wish to die. She wanted to live, but her faith demanded that she refuse blood even at the price of her life. The question is not whether the State could punish her for refusing a transfusion. It may be granted that it would serve no State interest to deal criminally with one who resisted a transfusion on the basis of religious faith. The question is whether the State may authorize force to prevent death or may tolerate the use of force by others to that end. Indeed, the issue is not solely between the State and Miss Heston, for the controversy is also between Miss Heston and a hospital and staff who did not seek her out and upon whom the dictates of her faith will fall as a burden.
"Hospitals exist to aid the sick and the injured. The medical and nursing professions are consecrated to preserving life. That is their professional creed. To them, a failure to use a simple, established procedure in the circumstances of this case would be malpractice, however the law may characterize that failure because of the patient's private convictions. A surgeon should not be asked to operate under the strain of knowing that a transfusion may not be administered even though medically required to save his patient. The hospital and its staff should not be required to decide whether the patient is or continues to be competent to make a judgment upon the subject, or whether the release tendered by the patient or a member of his family will protect them from civil responsibility. The hospital could hardly avoid the problem by compelling the removal of a dying patient, and Miss Heston's family made no effort to take her elsewhere.
"When the hospital and staff are thus involuntary hosts and their interests are pitted against the belief of the patient, we think it reasonable to resolve the problem by permitting the hospital and its staff to pursue their functions according to their professional standards. The solution sides with life, the conservation of which is, we think, a matter of State interest. A prior application to a court is appropriate if time permits it, although in the nature of the emergency the only question that can be explored satisfactorily is whether death will probably ensue if medical procedures are not followed. If a court finds, as the trial court did, that death will likely follow unless a transfusion is administered, the hospital and the physician should be permitted to follow that medical procedure.
"The precedents are few. ...
"... In Georgetown College, ... a single judge of the Court of Appeals ordered the transfusion. ... The sole appellate decision expressly reaching the merits appears to be In re Estate of Brooks, ... . There a conservator was appointed to authorize the transfusion for a Jehovah's Witness. After the transfusion, the patient and her husband sought unsuccessfully to have the order expunged. The Supreme Court of Illinois reversed. The court could find no 'clear and present danger' warranting interference with the patient's religious proscription. It has been suggested that the 'clear and present danger' test, appropriate with respect to free speech, is not the appropriate criterion here, and that the relevant question is whether there is a 'compelling State interest' justifying the State's refusal to permit the patient to refuse vital aid. ... We think the latter test is the correct one, but it cannot be said with confidence that Brooks would have gone the other way if the decision had been made in its light. In fact the court there did mention conceivable interests. Thus it noted that the patient did not have minor children who might become charges of the State. But the court did not expressly consider whether the State had an interest in sustaining life, a consideration which would not be apparent when the focus is upon a 'clear and present danger.' Nor did the court consider the sufficiency of the interest of a hospital or its staff when the patient is thrust upon them. In fact there the applicant was the patient's regular physician who had long treated her for an ulcer, knew of her religious tenet, and had assured her that he would not administer blood. The court noted, too, a fact of uncertain force in its decision, that the application was made to the trial court without notice to the patient or her husband, although time was adequate to that end.
"It is not at all clear that Brooks would be applied in Illinois to an emergent factual pattern in which a hospital and its staff are the involuntary custodians of an adult. In any event, for the reasons already given, we find that the interest of the hospital and its staff, as well as the State's interest in life, warranted the transfusion of blood under the circumstances of this case. The judgment is accordingly affirmed. No costs."
IN RE ROGER MULLER was a 1976 Ohio court decision. In August 1975, Roger Muller, 21, of Aurora, Indiana, was seriously injured in an automobile accident. When Muller's Jehovah's Witness family refused to consent to necessary blood transfusions, Cincinnati's General Hospital sought and obtained court intervention for the unconscious young adult.
APPLICATION OF CINCINNATI GENERAL HOSPITAL was a 1976 Ohio court decision. In January 1976, Cincinnati General Hospital sought and was granted court-ordered authorization to administer a needed life-saving blood transfusion to a 19 year-old Jehovah's Witness named Robin Broach after both Broach and her JW Mother refused to give consent. Apparently, Robin Broach was quite ill, and the judge reasoned that due to her illness that she was not legally competent to make a decision that would mean certain death.
IN RE PARSONS was a 1969 Wyoming court decision. In March 1969, Roger Parsons, 26, of Casper, Wyoming, was found unconscious due to a blood clot in his brain. Parsons' wife of two years, named Starla Parsons, who was a Jehovah's Witness, refused to consent to brain surgery, because doctors also required permission to administer blood transfusions, if such became necessary.
Parson's father, Samuel C. Parsons, sought and obtained legal custody of his son, so that he could consent to the needed surgery. Due to such, surgery was delayed for two days. No transfusions were necessary. However, Parsons died five weeks later -- leaving an infant son, Ronald Duane Parsons.
IN RE ETHEL TURNER was a 1960 Maryland court decision. Although Ethel Turner was a 46 year-old Jehovah's Witness, when she needed a blood transfusion during surgery to correct internal bleeding from a ruptured artery, her Jehovah's Witness husband and Ethel's mother worked together to get done what needed to be done. Ethel's elderly mother signed the legal paperwork asking a judge to order the needed transfusion, while John Turner replied, "Your Honor, you have got it right," when the Judge asked whether he would "feel your hands are clean" if the court assumed responsibility for authorizing the transfusions.
IN THE MATTER OF SAMUEL DAVID HOGAN was a 1960 Georgia court decision. Sam Hogan, a Jehovah's Witness, a hemophiliac, and a carpenter, was injured in an Atlanta construction accident. Neither Hogan nor his JW wife would consent to blood transfusions required to save his life. Mrs. Hogan made it clear to reporters that WatchTower rules would not permit either she or her husband to grant "consent", but that if a Judge were to rule otherwise, then that would be his decision.
Thankfully, Mrs Hogan's father hired an attorney to petition a local Judge to declare her husband "mentally incompetent" due to his injuries, and to appoint the father-in-law Sam's guardian. In no time flat, Hogan received a transfusion, and WatchTower requirements had been met, and everyone was happy.
In December 1957, 19-year-old John Black Jr. and a friend were playing with a .22 calibur gun, when it accidentally discharged with the bullet striking Black in the neck. Black still lived with his father and mother at their Kansas City home. The African-American Black family were Jehovah's Witnesses, and at the insistence of the elder Black, the son refused to consent to accept a blood transfusion. Even though doctors told him his son was going to die due to blood loss, unless a transfusion was administered, the father also refused. John Black Jr. died the next day.
In March 1953, in San Antonio, Texas, Leon Burnal Jr, 25, was stabbed in the chest by a person he had given a ride to after midnight. When Burnal's Jehovah's Witness parents arrived at Green Hospital, they attempted to stop an ongoing blood transfusion made necessary for massive blood loss (9 pints). Since Burnal's parents admitted he was not a JW, they were ignored.
IN RE DARREL VANOVER was a 1952 California case. In October 1952, Darrel Vanover, age 20, of Lomita Park, was admitted to San Mateo Community Hospital, under unknown circumstances, but in need of surgery to save his right leg. Blood transfusions were necessary even to attempt the surgery, but Grace Vanover, the Jehovah's Witness Mother, refused to grant permission. Darrel's sister and brother hired an attorney who sought and obtained judicial intervention. Outcome unknown.
BURTON v. CHATWANI was a 2006 Pennsylvania trial court decision. This medical malpractice action was filed by Sharon Jacobs Burton following a total hysterectomy performed upon her by Ashwin Chatwani, M.D. at defendant Temple University Hospital on December 12, 2000.
Evidence presented at trial indicated that Burton first came under the care of Dr. Chatwani, a Board-certified OB/GYN and surgeon, in 1996, after she developed fibroids of the uterus. Burton, who was overweight, was suffering from cardiomyopathy, and was anemic, was a practicing Jehovah's Witness, whose religious beliefs ruled out blood transfusions. As a consequence of this, Dr. Chatwani began a course of treatment that did not involve surgery. It, however, was unsuccessful. There was evidence presented indicating that Plaintiff did not fully comply with the recommended course of treatment.
In May 2005, the jury rendered its verdict in favor of Dr. Chatwani and Temple Hospital. Following the entry of the verdict, Burton filed post-verdict motions, which were denied. Burton thereafter filed a Notice of Appeal; contending in part that the trial court committed an abuse of discretion when it "permitted evidence to be admitted to the effect that Plaintiff is a Jehovah's Witness."
The court responded: "This claim should be rejected because the testimony was properly admitted into evidence. This is the case because the testimony was relevant to show the reason why Dr. Chatwani decided upon the course of treatment he followed and how Plaintiff's religious beliefs affected the decision-making process. Such testimony was not introduced to stigmatize the Plaintiff or undermine her credibility or competency. ... Moreover, there is no evidence indicating that the jury found against the Plaintiff because of her religious beliefs. As such, the testimony was properly admitted. ... ."
This case is included as an example of more and more lawsuits involving Jehovah's Witnesses who, after losing lawsuits, are alleging on appeal that trial evidence regarding their religious beliefs was reversible error. See WOODS v. BURLINGTON (2002), in which a Montana trial court ruled: "With regard to religion, the Court concludes that while discussion of the importance of Plaintiff's practice of religion might be relevant, the specific denomination is not; therefore Defendant may not solicit the information that Plaintiffs are Jehovah's Witnesses."
The COLLEGE OF HUMAN MEDICINE at MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY has posted on its' website a letter from a Doctor who graduated from MSU's medical school informing them that he was being sued by the family of a Jehovah's Witness whom he allowed to die rather than violate the JW's refusal of a blood transfusion. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
"The case I wanted to tell you about was a consult I received for an ICU patient. The woman was 65 years old and had pneumonia with hypoxia, oxygen sats only 85% on CPAP with 100% oxygen. When I went to see the patient, I found a woman in profound sepsis with hypotension, hemoglobin 6.8, and likely in DIC. I explained to the family the grave situation, recommended intubation, ventilation, and blood transfusion. The family insisted I do absolutely everything possible to save their mother's Iife.
"As I was placing the central line in the patient, she awoke and seemed fairly coherent. I explained to her that I had discussed her situation with her family and they said it was okay for a tube in the throat, a breathing machine, and a blood transfusion to save her life. The patient shook her head, 'no'. When I looked at the daughter, she said, 'Well mom did say she never wanted to be on a ventilator, no matter what.' I said, okay, no ventilator.
"When the blood came to the ICU, the nurse and I were confirming the identity of the blood, the type, etc, and we were actually attaching the tubing when the patient ripped off her CPAP mask and said, 'No blood.' I said, 'This is the blood we've been waiting for, you need this to help you.' The woman actually sat up in bed and said, 'No blood.' She was gasping for air and whispered, 'I'm a Witness.'
"I looked at the nurse, who didn't know the patient was a Jehovah's Witness. She went to check the chart. I looked at the daughter and son who were both standing at the bedside and said, 'Your mother is a Jehovah's Witness?' And the daughter burst into tears and said, 'Oh I think it's stupid. Give her the blood if she needs it.' The son said, 'Give her the blood.' The nurse returned with the chart and, sure enough, the advanced directives were clearly on the chart for no blood or blood products. I told the family I could not give the blood. We would use synthetic volume expanders instead (like Hetastartch).
"At this very moment I was thinking to myself, 'You've GOT to be kidding. This is one of those ethics cases you hear about as a medical student and say, '"that would never happen' the situation is so ridiculous."' And there I was living it.
"Needless to say, the woman died. She only lived about eight more hours. The family was sad and crying, but at the time, they seemed to understand my ethical obligation to my patient. Apparently they forgot about that, because I received my notice that I was being sued for withholding life saving measures. I have no idea how the case will turn out. I am hopeful that I responded to the wishes of my patient and that should be enough. Her death may not have been prevented even with intubation, ventilation, and blood transfusion; she was profoundly ill. However, the family is extremely angry with me. They have all transferred their charts from my office to different doctors' offices.
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