As we were about to comment on a few of the cases regarding patients refusing medical treatment on religious grounds it just dawned on us...we haven’t actually talked about what specific religions actually pertain to this topic. There are way too many religions to know exactly how many carry stipulations regarding medical procedures and frankly...we don’t have the time to research all of them, so we will only touch on a few. There is a lot of variation in terms of what religions deem to be acceptable medical intervention and there is also a lot of variation in terms of the consequences that will apply afterwards. Some religions outright ban certain medical procedures and expulsion from the religious group can happen if a follower decides to ‘go against their religion’. Other religions do not take such an extreme approach and although they may discourage a certain medical procedure, they leave it up to the individual to decide.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination, are known for more than just their door-to-door preaching tactics. They are also known for their refusal of blood transfusions on religious grounds and there have been many documented cases of Jehovah’s Witnesses doing so. They believe that the Bible prohibits blood transfusions and this belief is based upon how they interpret certain passages from the bible. The specific passage that Jehovah’s Witnesses belief tells them to ‘abstain from blood’ is Acts 15: 28, 29. In the passage it states:
28 For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, 29 to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not feel that the threat of death is enough to abandon their beliefs and they take blood transfusions very seriously. In fact, in 1961, accepting a blood transfusion became grounds for expulsion from the religion.
Two other religions that apply to this topic, although they do not have as strong beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses, are Christian Science and Roman Catholics. Christian Science (and NO it’s not Scientology) has a very spiritual base and the religion was established in the 19th century by Mary Baker Eddy. The religion does not have any specific rules against any particular medical procedures and the use of medicine is not forbidden. However, they choose to rely on prayer and the work of God to heal them. Roman Catholics do not feel obligated to use extraordinary means to prolong life and have actually taken extra steps to distinguish the refusal of extensive medical procedures from euthanasia. In 1980, the ‘Declaration on Euthanasia’ was issued on behalf of Pope John Paul II and to avoid a huge history lesson...the document basically states that the refusal of medical treatment does not constitute euthanasia.
If others reading this blog know of any other religions that have similar beliefs regarding medical procedures, please feel free to comment. Specific cases of people refusing medical procedures on religious grounds are coming in the future from this section of the blog...we promise :)
-All info. regarding the various religions was taken from each religion's respective website