The Jehovah’s Witness movement made headlines over the weekend after the parents of a 4-year-old girl suffering from leukaemia declined potentially life-saving blood transfusions due to their religious beliefs. The hospital, in South Australia, petitioned the Supreme Court which then ordered that the girl receive blood transfusions as part of her treatment. Doctors treating the girl said that blood transfusions would give her a 90 per cent chance of survival, but if she received no treatment, she would be likely to die within weeks.
This is obviously a heart wrenching story. It would be unfair to say that the girl’s parents don’t care for her. By all reports they are shattered by the situation. The father spoke on Friday and wept as he explained his love for his girl but explained that “We adhere to strict Bible principles and one of those is to abstain from blood”. This belief comes from the literal reading of two Bible passages.
The first is from Genesis 9:4 – “The one thing you must not eat is meat with blood still in it; I forbid this because the life is in the Blood”.
And the second is from the Acts of the Apostles 15:28-29 – “You are to abstain from food offered to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things”.
Obviously this is a very complicated and emotional issue. In previous blogs I have championed people’s ability to make their own decisions and not have others tell them what to do. But I have two main problems with this story. The first regards the interpretation of passages from the Bible. Apart from the fact that their relevance to blood transfusions is debatable, they were written a long time ago, long before medical treatments advanced enough to enable life-saving blood transfusions. The second problem I have regards the child’s age. At 4 years old, she is obviously too young to make such a sophisticated spiritual decision –– albeit a life threatening one.
I think it’s time the Jehovah’s Witnesses reviewed their stance on blood transfusions. It has already cost many lives, it shouldn’t cost another.
Do you agree with Ged? Or should they have the right to refuse medical treatment due to religious beliefs?