Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Suicide in the Name of God

Ok my first post is one that will likely ruffle a few feathers. Jehovahs Witnesses and elective surgical procedures. The following is not based on any patient I have known or ever heard of, the following is completely hypothetical and I accept no responsibility for any similarity between the following and any real patient.

A victim of a car crash or some other incident beyond their choosing is brought into A&E and requires a blood transfusion. This patient is a Jehovahs Witness, and as a result this patient refuses the vital transfusion in the name of their belief. I actually have no problem with this, infact on many levels I admire it, the level of faith required to choose death in this situation is incredible and certainly far beyond me.

My issue comes when a patient requires a total hip replacement, an entirely elective procedure which usually results in the need for a blood transfusion. This patient may be in pain but they have elected to undergo a surgery for a non-life threatening condition. The blood transfusion would be required to stabilise the patient after surgery as a certain amount of blood loss is expected. This patient is expecting the doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants and physiotherapists to work much harder. Unfortunately a consulting orthopaedic surgeon can not turn down this patient in pre-assessment based on their religion. This would be 'politically incorrect'.

What irritates me is there are certain wound drains available which drain the patients blood from the wound site during and after the operation and this blood can then be reinfused. It is the patients own blood so there is no risk of a transfusion reaction and In theory the blood has never left the circulation, it has just taken a detour. This is acceptable to some(few) Jehovahs Witnesses so I have no problem with such people. However an argument raised against it is that the blood has technically left the body.

Surely if they are willing to die to prove their beliefs they could take this one step further and live their lives in pain with decreased mobility.

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