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Jehovah's Witnesses incapable of free, informed refusal of blood, former adherent says

Jack Ryan

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Screen Shot 2016-10-31 at 8.57.02 PM.png

Lawrence Hughes went to court to have blood transfusions given to his daughter, 16, after she refused

Lawrence Hughes brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Watchtower Society of Canada after the death of his teenage daughter, but the suit was dismissed in 2008.
Lawrence Hughes brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the Watchtower Society of Canada after the death of his teenage daughter, but the suit was dismissed in 2008. (Lawrence Hughes)
Jehovah's Witnesses facing the decision of whether to receive a blood transfusion are in no position to make a free and informed refusal of the procedure, alleges former Witness Lawrence Hughes.

Hughes's 16-year-old daughter Bethany was the focus of a high-profile court battle in 2002 in Calgary, Alta., over her refusal to accept blood transfusions after being diagnosed with leukemia.

Blood transfusions are forbidden under Jehovah's Witness doctrine, which holds that the Old and New Testaments command them to abstain from blood.

"Years of intense indoctrination, attending five or more meetings a week, coupled with undue influence, pressure and coercion, rob a Jehovah's Witness of free choice," Hughes alleges.

It's a situation that applies equally to Jehovah's Witness adults, said Hughes, who was introduced to the faith at the age of 30.

That view is supported by other former Witnesses who have also contacted CBC.

Consent

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In late October, Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said that Éloise Dupuis, a 27-year-old Jehovah's Witness who died after refusing a transfusion, was "perfectly informed" about the risks of refusing a blood transfusion.

"She was informed. She signed documents many times. She knew, and she made it clear, that if something was to happen, because of her religion she didn't want any transfusion," Barrette told CBC Montreal.

Barrette expanded on that position Monday.

"It's their right to believe in what they want to believe in....  How they're educated, trained and so on, I'm not in a position to judge that. I'm just in a position to ensure that in that specific situation, there has been an instance where it was possible for the patient to have an informed consent," he said.

"Who am I to enter into this debate within their community? They have to resolve this issue themselves," he said.

Jehovah's Witness who died after giving birth understood risk of refusing blood, Quebec health minister says
Eloise Dupuis
Quebec coroner Luc Malouin is investigating the circumstances around the death of Éloïse Dupuis.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, the faith group's legal entity, was contacted by CBC but declined to be interviewed.

Under Quebec's Civil Code, a competent adult aged 18 or older can refuse treatment as long as their refusal is considered "free" and "informed."

To be considered "free," it must be proven that the patient was not coerced into accepting or refusing treatment.

"Informed" means the adult patient understands the various treatment options and their possible risks and results.

A Quebec coroner is now investigating Dupuis's death and that of another Jehovah's Witness, 46-year-old Mirlande Cadet, to determine the circumstances involved, including whether blood transfusions were refused and, if so, whether the refusals met the standards of free and informed consent.

Both women suffered hemorrhages following caesarian sections that required emergency blood transfusions.

 

Quebec coroner investigating death of another Jehovah's Witness after childbirth
Death of Jehovah's Witness during childbirth prompts investigation
'Misinformation' and 'disfellowshipping'

Hughes alleges that the information in publications used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to educate their members is often false and hinders an informed refusal.

"They say if you get a blood transfusion, you could get AIDS or the soul of the person who donated the blood. If that person was crazy, you'll go crazy. If that person was homosexual, you'll be a homosexual," he said.

"When you're given all this misinformation, how can you make an informed decision?"

'Even wild animals protect their young.' - Former Jehovah's Witness Lawrence Hughes
Hughes also said he was made to sign a card declaring he would refuse blood transfusions in front of two church elders.

"If you don't sign that card, you're in big trouble," he said.

"The elders would have a meeting with you and try to adjust your thinking. They use those exact words — 'adjust your thinking'," Hughes said.

Members with too many questions about blood policy are "disfellowshipped," Hughes said, referring to the church's term for excommunication.

Hughes alleged that the combined result of this alleged "misinformation" and coercion is a form of "mind control" exerted over Jehovah's Witnesses.

"That's how a parent could sit there and watch their child bleed to death and do nothing about it. That totally goes against instinct. Even wild animals protect their young," Hughes said.

"So, for a parent to allow their child to die because they need medical treatment, that shows the power this religion has on people."

Mirlande Cadet
Mirlande Cadet's brother says he doesn't believe his big sister would have refused a blood transfusion. (Isaac Cadet)

Undue influence alleged

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Hughes pointed to the alleged presence of a Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committee (HLC) outside Dupuis's room to question how free her decision was.

"Just having those people in the next room, to me, is enough undue influence," he said.

The committees are composed of respected Witness elders and are dispatched to hospitals to advise medical staff on alternative bloodless treatments.

Another former Witness told CBC that HLCs are "intimidating" and serve to enforce blood policy.

Hughes said the HLC member in his daughter's case was "not helpful."

"All he did was create friction and make things more difficult," Hughes said.

In his daughter's case, Hughes said the pressure on her to refuse blood came from many sources, including hundreds of cards and letters from Witnesses all around the world "encouraging her to be faithful and die for Jehovah."

"Jehovah's Witnesses were visiting her constantly. She had HLC members and two lawyers from [Jehovah's Witness] headquarters with her. They were all encouraging her to be loyal to Jehovah," he said.

"She was given a lot of misinformation, almost on a daily basis," he said. "It made me sick to my stomach."

Hughes broke with Jehovah's Witness blood policy when his daughter became ill, saying he could find nothing in scriptures promoted by church elders that prohibited blood.

"I thought of the scriptures that weren't used in the Jehovah's Witness Bible that talked about how life was a gift from God, and we should respect that gift," Hughes said.

Intimidating or helpful? Jehovah's Witness hospital visits under scrutiny
JEHOVAHS FUNERAL-HUGHES
Pallbearers carry the casket of Bethany Hughes, followed by her mother Arliss, after the teenager's funeral in Calgary on September 12, 2002. Hughes, a Jehovah's Witness who died of leukemia at age 17, was involved in a highly publicized fight against blood transfusions. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

'Like a ghost'

Hughes approved blood transfusions for Bethany and said he found himself immediately ostracized by his wife and three daughters along with his friends and others in the Jehovah's Witness community.

"I knew I was going to lose my family, but I wanted my daughter to have a chance to live so I did everything I could to have her receive proper treatments. And I hired a large law firm to represent me," he said.

A court eventually ordered that Bethany receive the transfusions, but she died from the aggressive form of leukemia a short time later.

Hughes later sued the Watchtower Society of Canada, the legal entity of the Jehovah's Witnesses, along with its lawyers, religious leaders and doctors, accusing them of deliberately misinforming his daughter about her medical treatment in 2002 and counselling her to refuse transfusions for leukemia.

The case was dismissed in 2008.

"My two daughters shunned me.  My wife at that time, Bethany's mother, she shunned me.  All the Jehovah's Witnesses shunned me, I was like a ghost.  Nobody would talk to me they pretended like I wasn't there," Hughes said of his stand against the church's blood policy.

"That's what happens a lot of time with Jehovah's Witnesses that go up against the church. They've lost everybody and they're all alone, and I was all alone."  

"I've been told by strangers that my daughters are married and have children."

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/jehovah-s-witnesses-incapable-of-free-informed-refusal-of-blood-former-adherent-says-1.3829778



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I feel sorry for the father. As a mother I understand how distraught it must have been for him to see your child dying and believe that it could have be prevented.

" Hughes's 16-year-old daughter Bethany was the focus of a high-profile court battle in 2002 in Calgary, Alta., over her refusal to accept blood transfusions after being diagnosed with leukemia.

I don't have much knowledge about leukemia, but it seems like blood transfusions are no longer used to treat it. It seems that chemotherapy and stem cell transplants are the treatment preferences now, no doubt because they are more effective than blood transfusions.

http://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/leukemia-treatment-overview#1

"A court eventually ordered that Bethany receive the transfusions, but she died from the aggressive form of leukemia a short time later".

This indicates that the blood transfusion was the last resort and was no guarantee even if she would have received it earlier. Aggressive types of Leukemia are not treatable and there is a 50% mortality rate for teenagers, as the above article mentioned.

The trouble with an article like this is that it's based on peoples opinions and assumptions and not on facts. For example this statement is ludicrous:

"They say if you get a blood transfusion, you could get AIDS or the soul of the person who donated the blood. If that person was crazy, you'll go crazy. If that person was homosexual, you'll be a homosexual," he said.

The only correct part is you could get AIDS.

"Hughes also said he was made to sign a card declaring he would refuse blood transfusions in front of two church elders. "If you don't sign that card, you're in big trouble," he said.

Outright lie - Nobody is made to sign anything. Having a "no blood" card is completely up to the person.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Anna said:

I don't have much knowledge about leukemia, but it seems like blood transfusions are no longer used to treat it.

The treatment varies because leukemia is not just one disease. It's a "family" of clinical entities and based on the type of cells involved the ailment name and treatment can vary.

There are cases that a blood transfusion is an absolute must and please bare in mind that not all hospitals and health centers are equiped to offer bloodless treatments and not every brother can afford the ones that do offer such treatments.

You are very correct though, the OP is full of lies and delibarate distortions of what we truly believe about the use of blood in medicine just to evoke a sentimental reaction.

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On 11/6/2016 at 5:19 AM, ThePraeceptor said:

The treatment varies because leukemia is not just one disease. It's a "family" of clinical entities and based on the type of cells involved the ailment name and treatment can vary.

There are cases that a blood transfusion is an absolute must and please bare in mind that not all hospitals and health centers are equiped to offer bloodless treatments and not every brother can afford the ones that do offer such treatments.

You are very correct though, the OP is full of lies and delibarate distortions of what we truly believe about the use of blood in medicine just to evoke a sentimental reaction.

I understood that Leukemia is not just one disease. The link in the article mentioned quite a few, and none of the treatments involved a blood transfusion. However, in this link: here  a blood transfusion is mentioned as part of palliative care, that is why I thought this might have been the case for Bethany. This article here mentions that: "People with leukemia often come to think of transfusions as a lifeline, because it’s the only thing that stands in the way of death. It’s often difficult for people and their families to let go of that lifeline as death approaches. Yet there comes a time when the lifeline no longer works. With good palliative care, the symptoms that may develop at the end of life can be well controlled to keep the person comfortable".  So again blood transfusions linked to palliative care and NOT treatment. 

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Found this, one of the original articles from 2002 which sheds more light on the story: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/teen-who-fought-transfusions-dies/article1026060/

Notice: " Despite his daughter's dwindling chances of survival -- when her illness was diagnosed, those chances were put at 65 per cent and by the July court date her doctors had downgraded them to 10 per cent -- Mr. Hughes's mantra remained the same".

It seems evident that Bethany was dying and she would have died regardless of blood transfusions. She had adult acute myeloid leukemia and died 7 months after diagnosis.

This article says she had 38 blood transfusions! http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/judge-rejects-father-s-lawsuit-in-death-of-jehovah-s-witness-teen-1.768405

 

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4 hours ago, Anna said:

So again blood transfusions linked to palliative care and NOT treatment

Ok. Let me explain better.

A blood transfusion can be a very effective treatment for some kinds of leukemia. Since you linked from the cancer.org website I'm including 2 more links form there. Acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.

Why? In these treatments the recipient's red bone marrow (the tissue that "makes" blood) is destroyed by radiation or chemotherapeutic preparations. This is done in order to replace the "diseased" marrow that creates the cancerous blood cells via a bone marrow transplant. After this initial step the patient must be in an extremely controlled environment (because his/hers immune system is totaly destroyed) and receive blood transfusions (because not capable of producing his/hers own blood). After the transplant has succeded and a new healthy bone marrow has grown there is no need for additional transfusions. The patient produces his own blood and  immune cells.

(to be acurate, the blood is not his "own" because it comes from the donor's marrow and that is the main reason for the adverse effect of the graft-versus-host disease)

Of course, as you have pointed out, transfusions can be used only for palliative purposes and may very well be the case of this sister. It can also be a treatment and a cure in other cases.

Not having read the actual clinical files I can't be certain of the clinical situation of sister Bethany and of what was or wasn't possible to do. A diagnosis is just a label given to a condition so as to frame what one can expect or do in a situation, it doesn't give the details of the clinical picture a patient presents in every moment. The only information we have is mainly from her father that tried/(tries?) to blame all of JWs for his daughter's death and has not hesitated (as you also pointed out) to lie about our beliefs in regards of blood transfusions.

 

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11 hours ago, ThePraeceptor said:

Not having read the actual clinical files I can't be certain of the clinical situation of sister Bethany and of what was or wasn't possible to do. A diagnosis is just a label given to a condition so as to frame what one can expect or do in a situation, it doesn't give the details of the clinical picture a patient presents in every moment. The only information we have is mainly from her father that tried/(tries?) to blame all of JWs for his daughter's death and has not hesitated (as you also pointed out) to lie about our beliefs in regards of blood transfusions.

Thank you for explaining further. With your explanation and some more reading on the subject I am beginning to get a clearer understanding. I understand that certain drugs for example require another drug to counteract the effects of the drug used to treat the illness. For example anti diuretics may deplete potassium levels in the blood so you have to take potassium supplements. So I understand the need for blood transfusions to counteract the effects of curative treatments such as chemotherapy and stem cell therapy etc.

As you say, without actually reading the clinical files, all we can do is speculate, as we have no actual facts. However, from reading the news articles from 2002 it strongly indicates that her cancer was incurable and that her father kept insisting on blood transfusions despite doctors saying that they were no longer needed (because she was dying). In other words the curative treatment (chemotherapy etc.) was not working and even if she had received the blood transfusions earlier in her treatment it would have made no difference. They made no difference after she started receiving them and surely they would have helped immediately if the chemotherapy was working. Notice that she was diagnosed in February, started receiving blood transfusions in July* and died September 5th. She received 38 transfusions within about 2 months (cannot be sure as no precise dates were made available for July, so she could have started with the transfusions any time between the beginning to the end of July) which means that she received about a transfusion every other day for about two months or if she started receiving them later on in July, she may have had a transfusion every day. As I read, normally, as part of the therapeutic/curative process a transfusion is administered once or twice a week for the reasons that you mentioned. However, once it becomes necessary to administer a transfusion more frequently, it is indicative that the curative treatment (chemotherapy etc.) is NOT working and is counted as a milestone in the treatment as this article says: "As leukemia progresses, the frequency of transfusions may increase to two or three times a week. Requiring transfusions more frequently is usually considered a milestone. More frequent transfusions usually are not helpful and the patient is likely to live only a few more days, or a very few weeks at most. When transfusions are needed several times a week, the disease has progressed to the point where other symptoms may diminish quality of life"

This very situation seems to be indicated in the 2002 article: "Despite his daughter's dwindling chances of survival -- when her illness was diagnosed, those chances were put at 65 per cent and by the July court date her doctors had downgraded them to 10 per cent" . It doesn't not seem that these dwindling chances were because she did not receive a blood transfusion right at the start of her treatment but because her cancer was particularly aggressive and was not responding to chemotherapy, not because her immune system was compromised or because of anemia or any other blood related problems (besides the leukemia).

So it was the cancer (side effects thereof) that killed her and not lack of blood transfusions. However, this is the impression most people will be under, that she died because she refused blood (although she did receive blood). This is probably why in 2008 the courts dismissed the fathers case of wrongful death (and they will have had access to all the medical files) because Bethany's illness proved untreatable and blood transfusions would not have saved her.

It seems like the father was desperate to the point of becoming mentally unstable and unreasonable. As the 2002 article indicates: "Despite his daughter's dwindling chances of survival......... Mr. Hughes's mantra remained the same".

Why I keep going on about this is that most people will not bother to familiarize themselves with at least the information that IS available, and will jump to the same conclusions as they do in cases like this, and that is: one of Jehovah's Witnesses died again because of refusing blood. Whereas the reality might be quite different. 

What about the case of the sister, Eloise Dupois, that died after the Cesarean? Was this due to mistakes by the medical staff? It says her uterus was ruptured. How did her uterus rupture? Surely the baby did not rupture the uterus? The fact that they had to perform a hysterectomy was indicative that something went very wrong that should not have gone wrong. I am not blaming the surgeons, they did their best no doubt, but since they are imperfect like everyone else, they make mistakes. She died 6 days later, apparently because of infection. But as you say, without access to medical records, there is no way of knowing the facts. But what will remain is people being under the impression that the refusal of blood transfusion was the cause of death....

P.S. I think you mentioned in one of the threads you are a doctor?

 

* On further reading, it seems that she received some blood transfusions prior to July "In July, during his daughter's most recent court date, he pleaded with the provincial court judge to extend provincial guardianship to ensure further transfusions".

 

 

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@Anna We are in absolute agreement. Most people will stay at the surface and will blame the refusal of blood transfusion for nearly every nosocomial death of a JW. That is the main reason opposers and apostates are spreading "information" about similar cases.

10 hours ago, Anna said:

It says her uterus was ruptured. How did her uterus rupture?

During a cesarean section the uterus is cut open to deliver the baby inside. In this particular case it may be indicative of a continued bleeding after the operation or to extensive damage to the uterus during the procedure. In both cases the hysterectomy (total removal of the uterus) performed afterwards would be resolutive but unfortunately the complication of the infection killed the sister. No blood transfusion related death there either...

 

10 hours ago, Anna said:

P.S. I think you mentioned in one of the threads you are a doctor?

Yes, I am.

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That is so cool you are a doctor. I have two very good friends who are doctors. One is an elder, and an ENT specialist. The other one is a young sister who has just finished her internship and is set to be a Family doctor/GP. If you don't mind me asking, what do you specialize in?

Oh and I nearly forgot, I also have a friend in another congregation who is a trauma nurse.

 

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