As promised, we will finally discuss a few of the cases surrounding the refusal of medical treatment on religious grounds....let us tie up a few loose ends surrounding our previous blog on related legislation first.
As the legislation (Health Care Consent Act) outlines, consent is a necessary pre-requisite to all medical interventions. If medical treatment is done without consent, it can amount to legal repercussions. Since no treatment can be done without consent, it follows that a competent adult (and in some cases child) is entitled to refuse medical treatment. The Act also states that legal penalties can apply even where the treatment will improve the patient’s medical condition and even where the patient would have died without the treatment. So regardless of the outcome, consent must be given before medical intervention is given. There are actual cases of this happening and whether or not it is right from a moral standpoint, it is from a legal standpoint. What a great thank you for a doctor doing his/her job. You potentially save a life, pat yourself on your back, and the patient turns around and slaps a lawsuit on you for not gaining their consent to save them. I don’t know about any of you, but I would be rather perturbed if I was the doctor and it might even hinder some of my work in the near future.
Alright...here are a few of the cases regarding Jehovah’s witnesses refusing blood transfusions due to their religious beliefs:
(1996, 2004)- British Columbia
A 35 year old woman by the name of Daphine Hobbs died of blood loss in a B.C. hospital after receiving a hysterectomy. Before the procedure, she signed a waiver (giving consent) stating that she did not want to receive a blood transfusion at any time during the procedure. The document also released the hospital from ‘any wrongdoing’ in case of her death. What makes this case interesting is that her family attempted to sue the hospital for compensation in 2004 stating ‘negligence’. The suit was rejected by the B.C. Supreme Court due to the fact that Mrs. Hobbs signed the waiver knowing the risks that were involved in her decision.
(2007)- England and UK
Emma Gough, 22, died of blood loss after giving birth to twins in the UK. She stated that she had to refuse the blood transfusion because of her religious beliefs. A month later, Rachel Underhill, 32, refused a blood transfusion during an emergency Caesarean section in England. Luckily Rachel Underhill survived the procedure and said that she received “a chill down her spine” when she heard about a Mrs. Gough dying a month earlier from a similar situation. Mrs. Underhill is no longer a Jehovah’s Witness and feels that something needs to be changed regarding patients’ wishes. She states that transfusions should not carry “fear of censure or legal action”.
Let us know how you feel about these cases. How would you feel if you were one of the patients? Family members? A doctor? More cases to come in our next entry.