Pregnant Jehovah’s Witness’ decision to refuse treatment ‘harrowing’ for hospital staff after mother and baby die

Apr 9, 2015

Source: National Blood Donors Month

By Amy Corderoy

A pregnant Jehovah’s Witness and her baby have died after the woman refused a blood transfusion in a Sydney hospital.

Doctors described the harrowing effect on staff at the Royal Hospital for Women and Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick of what some felt were two otherwise avoidable deaths, after the woman refused the transfusion when she developed complications nearly seven months into her pregnancy and was discovered to be suffering from leukaemia.

More than 80 per cent of pregnant women suffering from the cancer, called acute promyelocytic leukaemia, will go into remission with proper treatment, and the outlook for their babies is good.

But the 28-year old’s religion forbade her from accepting the blood transfusion she needed to save her life and that of her unborn baby.

Ethicists and doctors say they are facing increasingly difficult decisions as the number of potentially life-saving treatments that can be done in utero grows. At the same time, debate has raged over NSW MP Fred Nile’s push to introduce laws making it a crime to seriously harm or kill a fetus in utero.

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49 comments on “Pregnant Jehovah’s Witness’ decision to refuse treatment ‘harrowing’ for hospital staff after mother and baby die

  • Yet the Jehovah’s Witness condemn abortions. This is beyond any kind sanity. The church should be held accountable for both lives.

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  • Will there ever come a day where such ” decisions ” are considered the sign that the person making them is unbalanced and not in possession of all mental faculties?

    “Refusal of a lifesaving intervention by an informed patient is generally well respected, ”

    Really? Informed? In this case where the treatment was almost a slam dunk I would not think so. This was not a person that was terminally ill, just terminally delusional.

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  • 3
    System Marked Down says:

    I thought it was interesting that the article went back and forth between “baby” and fetus. Most in the pro-choice camp would consider this to be a death of a fetus, not a baby. “We don’t abort babies, we abort fetuses”; “We don’t abort a baby, we terminate a pregnancy”. At least, that is what I’ve heard people say.

    So the question is, did two lives die, or just one?

    (Personally, I think she is stupid for not taking the treatment.)

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  • I’ve recently been exposed to JW’s, much to my chagrin. Although fairly quiet, they are indeed just another death cult. A dear friend is an ex JW and his ex-wife (still a JW) is fighting for full custody of their 2 children. She absolutely would let either child die, before she would allow a blood transfusion. Why? Because of a few obscure lines in the bible that condemn eating blood.

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  • The mother may have the right to kill herself, but not the baby. If the mother were dashing the infant’s brains out against a wall, the distinction would be clearer. Religion is not a get-out-of-jail free card for murder.

    Further, in biblical times, there there were no blood transfusions, so the bible could not very well have condemned them.

    It seems odd only atheists champion the lives of children of fundamentalists. What happened to all this every sperm is sacred stuff?

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  • 8
    aroundtown says:

    If you needed another example of why religion is dangerous this post gets the job done. The religiously affected mind can be likened to an individual locked in a sound-proofed chamber, they cannot hear those who are trying to impart a message of reality that could literally save their lives, that the invisible friend they are relying on is fictional. The gatekeepers of the room are the selfsame folks who imparted the message of delusion and they reinforce it regularly with sermons of the supposed good news.

    This woman was sold the old religious bag of tricks and it has literally cost her the only life she had and additionally the life of her unborn child. The further insult is the same group of individuals that infected her mind are going to trudge into their kingdom hall and whimper and whine about the loss but suggest that she is in a better place. Complete utter hogwash but they will do it to appease their own minds as well against any doubts that they could be wrong.

    The scary part for me is I have an actual vested interest because my only daughter married into a family of these nutters and it scares the you know what out of me. They push out family members who are not in the fold and they could care less about the grief they cause.

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  • Perhaps the time has come for the delusionists to “put-up” or “shut-up”. Everybody (over the age of consent) – who believes that “Paradise” is waiting for them – should be given a syringe and a bottle of medical pure heroin – and let the lot of them – self-terminate painlessly. They can blissfully be sent into the oblivion of death (with their maker waiting for them obviously) and the rest of us can get on with making the place as close to a mythical heaven as is possible with human-kindness and application of the sciences!!!

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  • Telling paragraph from

    “…a person who refuses to have a blood transfusion because it is against their religious beliefs would not be thought to lack capacity. They still understand the reality of their situation and the consequences of their actions.” (my emphasis)

    I wonder whether I’d be deemed to lack capacity if I refused treatment because I believed it was what the FSM wanted and that by doing so I would be accepted into its embracing noodles of joy.

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  • As the article points out, situations like this are likely to increase as foetal-specific treatments develop. However, I admire the professionals involved for the respect they showed for the mother’s autonomy, even though they clearly found it challenging.

    Physicians are required to apply ethical principles rationally and to respect patients’ decisions irrespective of their own beliefs.

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  • Being "pro-choice" doesn't mean one doesn't "care" about the potential child. Certainly, this woman "wanted" her baby (this is choice) and at 7 1/2 months the "fetus" was viable outside the womb. Being "pro choice" does not mean one is "pro" abortion. The decision simply must be made by the woman and not YOU. It doesn't matter how you "count" the tragedy– the woman's belief in absurd religious dogma lead to her death and the death of her unborn child. It is sad and tragic, however, it was her choice. The real question is whether the government has a "compelling interest" in stepping in at some point in a pregnancy (perhaps the third trimester) to stop women from refusing standard medical care for the unborn child (or fetus if you prefer) who is viable outside the womb and is a potential citizen. The government can step in when parents refuse standard medical care for their children and the child's life is at stake. A similar argument could be made in a circumstance like this one. The question is, "should" government step in. It seems quite intrusive… again– where do the rights of a potential person begin and the right to privacy and/or the First Amendment rights of the mother end?

    [Slightly edited by moderator to bring within Terms of Use.]

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  • Normally, the purpose of a headline is to induce or entice you to read an article, but in this instance it prevented me from doing so.

    What I’d like to know is, what gets into us?

    Is it something principally emotional or intellectual? Is it in fact an entity of some sort? And if so, why do our susceptibilities to “it” vary so much? And if indeed it is something which exists in its own right, has there ever been an attempt to isolate and study it?

    And are these daft questions?


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  • Poor woman, mind-forged manacles. What can be done? You have a duty, I suppose, to prevent suicide, and, whatever the motivation, this was suicide. But then again, most people would support euthanasia, or the right to choose death in certain circumstances, and it would take a gang of moral philosophers their whole working lives to sort out the difference between this case and the more usually advocated examples of people in unbearable pain, facing lingering, undignified deaths etc.

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  • Ironically, if she had been in one of several states in the USA, she would have been arrested and jailed by Christians.

    I wonder if they realize how stupid they all look?

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  • I make this point again elsewhere but it is worth repeating it here:

    In several states in the USA, the Christians have made jail time mandatory when they feel a fetus is being endangered. Will we see Christians going ‘head to head’ with Jeahovas Witnesses or Christian Scientists?

    Who’s beliefs will triumph amongst the believers?

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  • She has the right to refuse a blood-transfusion – that was her choice – but since she was carrying a child which did not have a choice – she was quite simply a murderer! No if’s nor but’s, like I’ve said elsewhere – I’d gladly wave the lot of em off to the heaven of their choice, but they don’t have the right to make that choice for anybody else! Bon Voyage….

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  • you are confused. ither she has a choice or not. At this point or more especially at an earlier point in the pregnancy the two are indivisible so the choice is indivisible. You can’t have it both ways, you sound like a theist.

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  • How wonderful that we live in a free society! I am glad that no one was able to take this women’s CHOICE away from her…however it’s too bad that she was so brainwashed with stupidity and made her choice based on religion instead of reality.

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  • The conscious refusal of treatment for ANY reason, while knowing that decision will result in one’s death, is not indicative of mental incapacitation… it’s just a widely accepted opinion in our society that we should all want to do what we can to stay alive. IMO we all reserve the right to choose life or choose death regardless of our health status.

    the addition of a fetus into this lady’s scenario is complicated though, I agree there, but i can’t judge her. Im certainly pro-life once a baby is born but a fetus that died in utero will never know the difference. WE are the source of our outrage and/or sadness when it comes to a fetal death.

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  • I had this religion rammed down my throat for 15 years! The family divides it creates is not worth it. This is one religion today that I hope will diminish over time. Currently they are growing their numbers in Africa because they get more traction over their. It’s easier to spread “hope” in those parts of the world.
    I had a horrible child hood that prevented me from interacting with other people my age because “that wasn’t allowed”. I was bought up to believe everyone around me would be killed by god, and that god would bring back to life anyone who had died to give them a second chance if they had never been given the opportunity to learn “the truth”. They use this term “the truth” as part of their ongoing brain washing techniques using NLP to get their followers to do what they say. They are all mindless idiots who really don’t understand the world fully and live very sheltered lives. I would love the chance to go head to head with any Jehovah’s witness on TV so I can pull apart every one of their arguments which get pre-programmed into them. Fortunately at the age of 15 I left this horrible religion and have managed to get through life, learn how to make friendships. I no longer talk to my parents who I have established as being very “negative” influences in my life just in the way they talk. I have pleaded with my father to stop preaching to me and when I counter act his arguments then “I’m a trouble maker and no longer welcome”. Thanks to technology and science the “truth” is being spread and we can weed out these crazy religions that would allow a mother to kill her unborn child and herself!
    If you want to stop this religion then drop me a reply and I can show the world how.

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  • No confusion – A person of 18 years of over can do what the hell they like as long as it’s legal. and that includes deciding that they do not want a medical intervention of one kind or another. However if that would mean (as in this case) killing another human being, then the individual is culpable and should be prosecuted under the law! This would also apply to parents intervening in the medical treatment of children in their care. How can such a statement make me a theist? Eh? I have no belief in any man made constructs that aren’t backed up with empirical evidence.

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  • In some ways I truly believe these people to be true believers in their god’s power. What always amazes me is how many religious pray to their god without results yet they don’t stop praying. If one believes in a loving god who is powerful enough to make everything then surely that god will choose who lives and dies, no doctor needed for them. UNLESS there is no god….. which they can’t admit. If religious people actually followed what they say they believe they would disappear within a few generations and the rational scientific based citizens would be able to form the world of the future. let the myths and legends die.

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  • pray to their god without results yet they don’t stop praying

    Supporting God is a bit like supporting the English cricket team – you never get a positive result, but you continue to have faith. Go Aussie, Go! (Or even Ireland for that matter.) RIP Richie Benaud.

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  • Incorrect. Refusing treatment does not mean you aren’t treated in all cases. Doctors can (and in many cases do) declare patients to lack the capacity to make such a decision and enforce treatment. My point is that the delusion that dying will result in oneself (and one’s baby) ending up in a blissful afterlife is not one that will be taken as demonstrating a lack of capacity as long as the patient lays claim to one of the officially recognised delusions…I mean religions.

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  • 32
    aroundtown says:

    Interesting observations Stafford. I’m not trying to answer your question, just inputting some thoughts on the conditions with an obscure connection to the post. It seems fairly obvious that even with the removal of religion, mankind can still be a motley crew. We can accomplish so much, but we also have a penchant for tearing it all back down again.

    To keep it simple, I think a huge contributor, at its core, is control. Ever since someone figured out how to trick his fellow man, the game started to expand beyond the basic shell game into other disciplines i.e., religion, commerce, sexuality, pretty much anything one would consider desirable to acquire. But there does seem to be one constant above all others, profit. The old religious texts, Egyptian and otherwise, also had a lot to say about cash because that one penchant of man is ever present irrespective of pretty much anything else, having more of something than the next guy/gal for whatever reason.

    The one ever-present focus of profit, stirred by its close companion greed, seems rules the day. We wade through it all and feeling the weight on our shoulders, at times feeling like its an exercise in futility, but thankfully there are those who still ponder it all. Thanks for the nudge to look in the mirror. We all play our parts and have a roll, but a reminder is certainly helpful.

    These stories intended to jar and rattle are never easy to digest but there are things we can take away from it all. Keep looking for the hand behind the camera, curtain, and try to have a full understanding off the complete picture in play. That is our ability to look at it scientifically and seek answers regardless of how banal they may be in opposition to that which has real value to mankind.

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  • The world’s over-crowded if people of adult deciding age don’t believe in Medical Science and choose to believe in dysfunctional theories of civilizations of the past then that’s what they believe and it should be respected. That will stop a small portion of the idiots from breeding. If they want to be dumb; let them be dumb. No medical procedure can currently fix dumb. Only a desire to learn and explore.

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  • Daniel, sounds like the same problem with my wife’s catholic father. He won’t quit constantly insulting her. What a creep. The anger my wife has because of him is evident, yet he keeps it up. That fckkng rosary is more important to him than his own family. 80 yrs old, yet he still thinks there’s a ghost of a two thousand yr old dead guy in his brain who tells him to be a bigot, tells him to hate blacks, muslims, homeless, and mexicans. All those people who ruin his life. Pretty much anyone to the left of David Duke is a “liberal”. His life is so wonderful because of jesus, isn’t it.

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  • The Bible commands that we not ingest blood. So we should not accept whole blood or its primary components in any form, whether offered as food or as a transfusion.There are sound medical reasons to avoid blood transfusions. More important, though, God commands that we abstain from blood because what it represents is sacred to him.—Leviticus 17:11; Colossians 1:20. I personally would have done the very same thing.

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  • Leviticus 17:11; Colossians 1:20. I personally would have done the very same thing.

    Kendra. The texts you cite were written by men, not god. They’re obvious written by men because they have so many obvious mistakes and contradictions. And if you god did write them, then he’s a very poor C- student and doesn’t deserve to be followed.

    God’s got a universe to run. Do you think he would be so petty that he would kill his faithful servants, because it might offend his ego if we use blood.

    Stick around Kendra. You are about to experience a most uplifting and rewarding experience. If may even save your life in the future.

    Homo Irrationalalus.
    (I’ve checked. It’s not the 1st of April.)

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  • David R allen, which is why i attached bible verses if you had taken the time to go through them you would understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses dont take blood. And for added information Jehovah’s Witnesses go by what is in the bible and dont do what is not scripted in the bible and not what “Man” says.. I suggest you go through the verses and comment on what you have read.

    Muslims dont eat pork i dont see why government doesnt implement a law that with porks nutritional value it should be forced apon them to eat it. And in that sense it is exactly the same in our case it is OUR choice .

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  • Kendra
    Apr 12, 2015 at 5:00 am

    David R allen, which is why i attached bible verses if you had taken the time to go through them you would understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses dont take blood. And for added information Jehovah’s Witnesses go by what is in the bible and dont do what is not scripted in the bible and not what “Man” says.. I suggest you go through the verses and comment on what you have read.

    But then if you had studied the origins of the Old Testament folk tales, you would know which tribes and followers of ancient gods wrote the bits of it.

    Medicine has progressed a long way since the Bronze Age, and so has archaeology.

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  • which is why i attached bible verses…

    Is this the only reason you don’t take blood. Is this it. Is there no other reason you would care to proffer?

    If you are to live by Leviticus 17:11; Colossians 1:20, then I expect you to agree to do the following things.

    Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the
    priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death. Such
    evil must be purged from Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:12 NLT)

    You should now contract you local mafia hit man to kill me.

    You should not let a sorceress live. (Exodus 22:17 NAB)

    Off to your local earth fair and shoot all the coven witches. And your killing hasn’t stopped yet.

    “If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives.” (Leviticus 20:13 NAB)

    Kill all the gays. But don’t kill lesbians because god hasn’t said anything either way about them. Just men.

    What’s the name of your local newspaper. Identify who writes the horoscope and kill them. Kill them now.

    A man or a woman who acts as a medium or fortuneteller shall be put to death by stoning; they have no one but themselves to blame for their death. (Leviticus 20:27 NAB)

    You might need to look in the mirror for this one, or around your congregation. Keep that rope ready because you never know when you’re going to have to lynch someone.

    Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

    Now I could go on for a very long time, but unless you mind is totally closed, what you are actually doing is called “Cherry Picking” If you claim Leviticus 17:11; Colossians 1:20 authorize you to kill yourself and a perfectly viable late term baby, then you must also adhere to the above commands to kill. You can either adhere to them all, or you can adhere to none of them. It’s your choice Kendra. But what you can’t do is what you have put on display here today, is cherry pick. It doesn’t stand scrutiny.

    Your god, the author of your holy books, would fail an English assignment. He would fail, because he constantly makes errors, obvious errors that only the rational blind cannot see. If you dare, see if you can read through this list of bible errors and contradictions. This is only one taste, but there are thousands more errors in a bible, that was obviously hand made, man made, to reflect the views of an ancient nomadic tribe. That people can still act on this stuff, and behave as you claim, is a testament to the ability of Homo Sapiens to not live up to the Latin of its name.

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  • in our case it is OUR choice .

    Would that you kept to that. But you don’t.

    It is never your children’s choice, yet whenever you can get away with it you impose your deadly “values” upon them. They never asked to be JWs.

    I would be perfectly happy to see legilation to put every JW child on an “at risk” register at the parents’ cost to ensure that best medical practise is provided. JW’s fatalistic view of the health of young folk in their care is matched by several other groups, both religious and conventionally barmy. Quite a few more lives could be saved with proper legislation. Clean up your act.

    Adults are free to choose for themselves. Does Jesus need me now or later? Your choice to find out.

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  • 43
    Christina says:

    It is two deaths that could have been avoided but yet no one said that they called her pastor or preacher to give her the advice she needs in this situation. This should not have happened yes but we have the freedom of religion so with this being said unfortunately she murdered her own and self really to go to hell because she was going from a fictional beliefs but everyone has the right for them selves to make that decision but once that baby had a heart beat it was alive. So I believe that their should have been a certain procedures that the doctors could have taken to save the baby for instance a c-section because the mom has her own will to decide if she lives or dies and I feel she committed suicide and murder. That’s how I look at it also did she get a psychological evaluation because of hormone Levels

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  • Christina
    Apr 12, 2015 at 10:16 am

    It is two deaths that could have been avoided but yet no one said that they called her pastor or preacher to give her the advice she needs in this situation.

    It is of course the JW elders who indoctrinated her in this nonsense in the first place, so expecting to get some contrary advice from them, would be wish-thinking.

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  • David R. Allen… excellent and comprehensive post, which should launch Kendra on the road to broadening her horizons!

    Obviously the reason Kendra hasn’t posted back here is because she is busy reading your links, considering them, further educating herself on the history of the bible by reading books by (for example) Bart Ehrman, and wondering how to square the proverbial circle.

    Or maybe she was just a drive-by who shot from the hip and has nothing more to say that she hasn’t been scripted on.

    Leviticus says this:

    17:12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you
    shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among
    you eat blood.

    17:13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the
    strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast
    or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof,
    and cover it with dust. (17:14) “Ye shall eat the blood of no
    manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof.”

    17:14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life
    thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall
    eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

    At the time the bible was written, it probably had not occurred to anyone that blood might be safely and effectively transfused. The JWs interpretation of “eating” as the same as parenteral administration of blood is one of the most unfortunate (and, sorry… stupid) misappropriation of scripture.


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  • I agree with you Peter but I think Holts is operating from the perspective that– at some point in the pregnancy– the unborn has “the right” to be born independent from the mother. This is not, necessary, a religious perspective– however, it is complicated. We are again facing the problem of “does the woman have choice over her body” or “not”? “Is it limited” or “not” and for what “rationale” is the decision made? As a woman and a mother, although I have conflicting feelings– I have to come down on the position that the woman– and only the woman– must have this decision and choice. To say that even at some point in the pregnancy, she would lose that control over her body would create the slippery slope we are now facing as a nation. The problem doesn’t have to be of a theistic source…

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  • The law needs to protect the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses better. Children need protection from parents who are willing to let them die if they need a blood transfusion.

    We need to stop consoling ourselves with, “Those parents genuinely love their children”. That is not the point. The point is they love their beliefs far more! The children take second place.

    As for the woman who died, it was her choice but not an informed one. Where possible a JW who is at serious risk of dying over the blood transfusion ban should have the opportunity to avail of an elder in the religion and a counselor. That way they can hear both sides.

    The state is meant to be neutral and favor no religion or non-religion over another. It is a pity however that the state cannot find a way to gently discourage religion. To encourage religion leads to casualties such as the poor woman.

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