MINOR CHILDREN MATURE MINORS UNBORN CHILDREN PARENTAL OBLIGATIONS
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.
DEBORAH BELUS ET AL v. SOUTHSIDE HOSPITAL & MULTIPLE DOCTORS is/was an ongoing 2007-2015 New York MEDICAL MALPRACTICE lawsuit filed by the Jehovah's Witness Mother of a 22 year-old MENTALLY RETARDED daughter whom DIED after surgery due to excessive blood loss ... ... DRUMROLL ... ... after REFUSING LIFE-SAVING BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS. Lawsuit was still alive in September 2015. Outcome unknown.
The Belus Family live on Long Island, in Bayshore, New York. They are Jehovah's Witnesses. Deborah Belus is a Licensed Practical Nurse. Betsy Belus had a history of mental retardation and seizures. Betsy Belus, then age 15, was diagnosed with uterine fibroids, heavy bleeding, and pelvic pain, in 2000. In 2007, Belus' primary physician (ALSO BEING SUED) referred Betsy Belus to "bloodless surgeon", William Onyebeke, whom referred to himself as "the guy" for Jehovah's Witnesses living on Long Island whom wanted bloodless surgery. (Like other "the guys" bloodless doctors and surgeons across the United States, it was only a matter of time before this one also got sued by one of his WatchTower Cult sycophants.)
On August 7, 2007, Betsy Belus was admitted to Southside Hospital by Dr. Onyebeke for "bloodless surgery" consisting of myomectomies with possible hysterectomy. Pre-operatively, Procrit was administered by injection to raise her hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. Postoperatively, the decedent experienced some bleeding, and was discharged on August 9, 2007. On August 11, 2007, the decedent returned to the emergency room at Southside Hospital with abdominal pain and vomiting, and was admitted by Dr. Maan Shikara, at the request of Dr. Murphy who was covering for Dr. Onyebeke. Dr. Wodicka, the chief of surgery, assumed decedent's care on August 12, 2007, and Dr. Onyebeke resumed decedent's care on August 13, 2007. Subsequent surgery was performed by Dr. Wodicka on August 17, 2007, and despite antibiotic therapy, the plaintiff developed progressive ARDS, bronchopneumonia, renal failure, leukocytosis, and sepsis. Betsy Belus died on September 19, 2007.
On August 24, 2007, the diagnosis of sepsis had been made. Powerful antibiotics were administered. ARDS was worsening due to sepsis and blood loss. Renal function was deteriorating. Metabolic acidosis developed. Despite the fact that this worsening condition would have likely resolved with a blood transfusion, the Belus Family as well as the Elders from the Church steadfastly refused transfusions because of their religious beliefs.
On September 4, 2007, Dr. Onyebeke discussed with the decedent's family the need for a blood transfusion, which was denied.
On September 10, 2007, Dr. Onyebeke again asked the Belus Family about transfusing Betsy, but Betsy's mother and twin sister refused, even to the point of her death.
Betsy Belus' MENTAL RETARDATION played an interesting role in this scenario. First, the defendants testified that they did not seek judicial intervention during Betsy Belus' somewhat lengthy dying process because she was an "adult". WHY NOT? She was mentally retarded. There was a legitimate question of "competency"?
Second, despite Betsy Belus' MENTAL RETARDATION, it appears that both the hospital and her doctors excepted her signature on all the pertinent legal documents, including the medical release which supposedly "held harmless" the defendants if Belus died due to her refusal of blood transfusions. (Interestingly, at trial, the Jehovah's Witnesses' "expert" witness asserted that such releases were invalid as a matter of public policy.)
As far as this Editor is concerned, most of the defendants are getting exactly what someone with half their intelligence, education, and experience would have easily anticipated. For some reason, the old adages about wrestling with a pig and handling a "dirty" stick both come to mind.
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 Christmas.
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 facility'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.
"... 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."
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.
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.
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 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.
"... 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 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."
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 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 life.
"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.
Blood Transfusions: A History and Evaluation of the Religious, Biblical, and Medical Objections (Jehovah's Witnesses perspective)
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