Critique of Transfusion-Free Medicine

(Free Videotape offered by Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles, CA)

by Marlene Mercado

In these days when increasing pressure is being put on hospitals to cut costs, with Medicare reductions putting the squeeze on, and hospitals all over the country digging in for the long haul in order to survive into the next millennium, it stands to reason that hospitals will develop new marketing strategies to attract various portions of the patient population. The video tape here referred to is designed to attract Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to accept certain blood fractions due to their religious beliefs. California is known to be the State with the most members of this sect (although Washington has the most per capita).

The tape shows interviews with happy JWs discussing how well they were treated by the staff of Good Samaritan Hospital, and how their beliefs were respected by this organization. Also, one sees state of the art technology put into practice to curtail blood loss, the check-in process is reviewed, and staff members of the hospital speak out in their very best public relations style. One even says, "The safest blood transfusion is the one which is not given!" Toward the end of the tape, the statement is made that not only do they want to attract JWs from the state of California, but the entire map of the United States is shown as the marketing area targeted in this public relations campaign to attract new business. One can hardly fault any organization for attracting all of the business they can, and this tape is very well done in this respect.

Being a hospital employee myself, and presently working on a surgical floor at a major medical center where all of the same high tech equipment is used in surgery, and where JWs are also operated on routinely, I had a few reservations about this presentation.

When the patient checked in at the admitting desk, they were given a form to sign, a refusal to allow the administration of blood products. This is exactly the same procedure followed in any hospital in the country. Why? It protects the hospital from liability, should something go wrong and an unforeseen loss of blood occurs. With this form signed, the hospital is protected no matter what, and so are the doctors and all members of the operating team.

I noticed there were no children shown as prospective surgical patients. What would this same hospital do when confronted with a serious heart surgery on a child? Would they refuse to do the surgery, or would they get a court order to administer blood if necessary, as other hospitals do? There are some religious groups that have denied insulin to a diabetic child, resulting in the child's death. Would any conscientious health care worker fail to intervene in such a case? I see the issue as the same.

In surgery, we are primarily concerned with the loss of red blood cells which contain the hemoglobin molecules that transport oxygen to the tissues. Before and after surgery the patient's hematocrit (normal 34-45) and hemoglobin (normal 12-16) are checked. This is called the H&H. Guidelines for a transfusion in our facility require an H&H of less than 27 and 9 respectively. By doing a quick math check, it's easy to see that more than a third of the patient's red blood cells would have to be lost before blood could be administered in our facility. We do not give transfusions lightly! We recognize that there is a risk! Nevertheless, blood transfusions save lives! No amount of saline solution or Ringer's lactate can replace red blood cells. These so-called blood substitutes merely keep the fluid volume up, which is important, but they will never save your life if your problem is not enough hemoglobin molecules!

None of the JWs interviewed on this tape were trauma victims. They all had surgeries which could be scheduled in advance. There were no liver lacerations, no ruptured spleens, no abdominal injuries with internal bleeding. The issue of trauma victims was completely avoided. But then, maybe this hospital is not a recognized trauma center as is the facility I work for.

Therefore, I feel that this public relations/marketing video tape will lull JWs who watch it into a false sense of security. Most lay people, including Jehovah's Witnesses, really have no idea why blood is given, and what the criteria are for transfusion. I hope this will clear up some of the issues involved.


RELATED ARTICLES:

Is Blood FORBIDDEN Among Jehovah's Witnesses?
Revisions on the Blood Issue
Blood and the Law of God
Critique of Transfusion-Free Medicine
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Rh Factor
Shunning:”A Part of the Faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Just Up the Hill A Ways by Gary Busselman

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