Jehovah’s Witness demands a bloodless transplant and sues to get it

Now here is a news story that illustrates just how truly insanely stupid an irrational belief can make you. When faced with a choice between an irrational belief, or a life saving operation, I’m sure your previous experience with these Jehovah’s Witness kooks will allow you to guess the choice made.

Its all concerns a lady called Mary Stinemetz, 64, who needed a liver transplant, one that would be paid for by Medicaid, at the University of Kansas Hospital. The problem (for her) was that she would be forced to compromise her Jehovah’s Witness delusions, because she would also need to receive a blood transfusion as part of this operation, something she believes violates the fictional laws of  a mythological supernatural entity (to whom she has given a pet name of “God”)

The Kansas City Star says (in an article dated 19 Apr 2011) …

Stinemetz, however, could undergo bloodless transplant surgery in Omaha, Neb., but Kansas is refusing to pay for the out-of-state procedure when a transplant is readily available in Kansas.

That puts Stinemetz at the center of a constitutional controversy that pits Kansas’ Medicaid rules against her right to exercise her freedom of religion — with her life hanging in the balance. […]

Stinemetz is suing the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which administers the state’s Medicaid program. She contends that the state is violating her First Amendment rights to exercise her religion. She lost one round in her fight in December in Graham County District Court.

According to the paper the state contends that she didn’t provide any evidence that her rights were infringed upon because coverage was denied. (And since we are on the topic of evidence, she has also failed to provide any evidence that any of her supernatural beliefs are in any way credible).

“There is no medical necessity for the beneficiary to have a bloodless transplant — a regular liver transplant is available in Kansas and would be considered medically necessary,” the state said in denying coverage in early February 2010. “The beneficiary’s religious preference to have a bloodless liver transplant does not meet medical necessity.”

Wayne Wallace, a physician advising the state, also warned of the ethical issues a surgeon would face if a patient elected to have a bloodless transplant.

Although the surgical procedure between the two types of transplants is the same, the bloodless technique implies the surgeon would be willing to accept a patient’s death, even if a transfusion might save the patient, Wallace said at March 2010 hearing.

However, Stinemetz said Jehovah’s Witnesses follow biblical directives to abstain from blood, pointing to passages in the books of Acts, Genesis and Deuteronomy, according to court records.

Church doctrine leaves it to the discretion of members to accept certain blood fractions and donor organs.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Stinemetz’s behalf.

Now to be frank, to some degree I do have a bit of sympathy for this lady. The tragedy is that the JW cult that she is a member of maintains a very tight control over its followers, so if she did indeed opt for the life-saving operation she would end up becoming an outcast. They claim that its followers are free to decide whether or not to accept blood transfusions, but that’s just PR spin, the reality is that those who go against the organization’s teachings end up being  dis-fellowshipped and shunned. When you have a huge emotional investment in a belief, and also all your friends and perhaps family are also members, then the very idea of going against the belief system is unthinkable … even if it would save your life.

Now what also makes all this even more tragic is that the JW policy on blood transfusions is very inconsistent, they keep changing their minds …

  • 1940 Blood transfusions are acceptable
  • 1945 Blood transfusion are not acceptable
  • 1956 Blood serums should be treated as blood and are banned
  • 1958 Blood serums and fractions acceptable
  • 1959 Storage of own blood unacceptable
  • 1961 Blood fractions are not acceptable
  • 1964 Blood fractions are acceptable
  • 1974 Blood serums are personal choice
  • 1975 Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII & IX) are not acceptable
  • 1978 Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII & IX) are acceptable
  • 1982 Albumin is acceptable
  • 1983 Hemodilution is acceptable
  • 1990 Hemodilution is not acceptable (Blood Brochure)
  • 1995 Hemodilution is acceptable
  • Looks like God just can’t make his mind up.

    Meanwhile the Kansas City Star reports in a follow-up item (dated Wed 20th Apr 2011) that

    A Kansas appeals court poked and prodded Wednesday, but kept returning to the same question.

    What compelling reason did Kansas have for refusing to pay for a woman’s request — based on her religious faith — to undergo a bloodless liver transplant that could be done only outside the state? […]

    “Don’t you have some type of compelling state interest to deny this, and what is that compelling interest?” Judge Stephen D. Hill asked the state’s lawyer, Brian Vazquez.

    Hill’s comments came during a nearly hourlong session of the Kansas Court of Appeals, which generally allots about 30 minutes to hearings. […]

    Vazquez acknowledged there was little, if anything, in the court record to show a compelling state interest. However, he contended that a 1990 Supreme Court decision from Oregon eliminated the need to show a compelling interest.

    In that case, the court ruled that government could adopt laws that might burden someone’s religion as long as the law was neutral and didn’t target a specific religious faith.

    The court is expected to issue a ruling later.

    Lets hope they make the right choice. People should of course be free to believe whatever they like, but they don’t have the right to force any others, either individuals or the state, to conform to, or even acknowledge their insane beliefs.

    Finally, if the JW cult is truly that concerned about blood transfusions, then perhaps they should pay for her inter-state bloodless operation – and why not, since its them that has inflicted this insane belief upon this poor distressed lady.

    3 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witness demands a bloodless transplant and sues to get it”

    1. The Watchtower magazine has had several issues with images of children who died because they or their parents refused operations where a blood tranfussion was part of the surgery and medical need.

      These children are praised for their dedication – so there is great pressure in the JW community to refuse such life saving treatment.

      It is well beyond the time that religious ignornace of science and reality be coddled and permitted.

      If she doesn’t want the procedure, then it is her choice is to not have it. It is not in the taxpayer interests to incur a massive increase in cost to accomodate her unfounded beleifs.

      The extra expense should be paid by her, with the support of the JW church – funny that they don’t fund their own hospitals to provide “god approved” care.

      I imagine that the process by which one becomes a doctor makes you understand how wrong headed the medical beleifs are of the JW and other faiths.

      How can she or any other beleiver even go to a doctor and get medical treatment – which, after all – is nothing short of interfering with god’s plan for their body – illness and death.

    2. I don’t get this – how can it be OK to receive someone else’s liver, but not their blood?

      Would it not be possible for her own blood to be removed over time and stored and then transfused back into her?

      I know that I am ignoring the basically stupid position she is taking because of her ridiculous beliefs, but surely there could be a practical answer. Then again, I find it hard to care!


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