Jehovah’s Witness dies in Ghana from refusing blood transfusion

Hospital in Africa takes the path that it is unethical to go against patients’ stated religious beliefs. The consequence here was death.

Woman dies for refusing blood transfusion.

A 21-year-old woman (name withheld) who had severe anaemia has died at the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital following her refusal to have blood transfusion because of her religious beliefs.

The deceased, a member of the Jehovah’s Witness Sect, was brought to the Hospital by her parents and twin sister after falling unconscious and died on January 3.

According to the JW practices, they are not allowed to “ingest” blood which also means receiving it through transfusions when needed to sustain life. Life/blood is from God. There is no negotiation unless the person is a minor. The hospital honored her refusal.

And so it goes.

  19 comments for “Jehovah’s Witness dies in Ghana from refusing blood transfusion

  1. Chris Howard
    January 8, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    That’s the crux of deontolically based ethics. What happens when ones duties are, potentially, at odds?

    If she was a single-mother she would have had a duty to her child, but her religion also requires duty from her, so…

    Most countries recognize that children aren’t ethical agents, and so the agency is transferred to a guardian. But what if the guardians ethics are at odds with the society that they live in? (My thought is parents who deny medical treatment for their children, due to their beliefs)

    Rights, religious freedoms in this case, aren’t absolute. So where do we draw the line, as a society?

    The variables are mind boggling. We don’t live in a vacuum, and as such our actions effect others. So to say that we should be free to do whatever we want, as long as it doesn’t hurt others is easier said than done, and is usually used as a rational for mindless behavior.

  2. ZombyWoof
    January 8, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    Religion sure can be deadly.

  3. Lagaya1
    January 8, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    No transfusions, but eating meat is okay? I don’ get that biblical interpretation at all.

  4. Chris Howard
    January 8, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    It can’t be raw meat. The blood has to be “cooked” out of it. It’s an OT law, but I don’t think anyone follows it, anymore?

  5. RayG
    January 8, 2014 at 2:53 PM

    Why is this on here? A hospital honored a persons request based on religious beliefs. She harmed no one, and obviously felt that her religion is important to her. Whether it’s in Ghana or anywhere else, this shouldn’t “really” be a news story. There must be many more incidents like this here in the US all the time. A Doctor would/should know a persons beliefs and honor them. You can personally (most religions allow it) object to having your organs donated and yet they don’t sue you to force you to give them up.

  6. Lagaya1
    January 8, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Some people’s beliefs are just silly, that’s fine. Some beliefs are deadly, that’s still their choice. But informing others of another person’s poor choices in regards to belief is important so others don’t do the same. That’s one good reason why the story should be here. Critical thinking is important and can be life-saving.

  7. RayG
    January 8, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    In my opinion, she didn’t make a ‘poor” choice. She made a choice that was correct- IN HER CIRCUMSTANCE. Other JW’s would read that and applaud her for making the “RIGHT” choice. Other people with strict religious lifestyles would applaud it as well- for sticking to her beliefs. They might not deny a transfusion since it is allowed in theirs, but appreciate her effort. THEN they would try and convert them away from it.

  8. January 8, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    I don’t think there is all that many in the U.S. I didn’t have a chance to look. But it qualifies as subject for this blog, when belief overwhelms reason and science.

  9. Chris Howard
    January 8, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    It’s a complex issue, to be sure.

    Personally I feel that sticking to ones beliefs is only a virtue if said belief is worthy of a commitment.

    There are a lot of really bad (harmful) beliefs out there that should not be commended.

  10. JimmyMack
    January 8, 2014 at 8:41 PM

    Not so. JWs will also refuse blood sausage and blood when cooked. There is nothing stopping JWs from having their steaks extra rare as meat is bled once slaughtered, so the adherent is still being respectful to the mandate.

  11. January 8, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    The problem is that when adults make these choices for themselves and they normalize that action for that community, they create a situation where they make the same choices for children under their care who are too young to decide for themselves. <- for example. – worth a read as well.

  12. Lagaya1
    January 9, 2014 at 2:41 AM

    There are commendable acts in the world. Refusing to compromise on a moral issue is one of them, but sticking to a belief isn’t.

  13. Chris Howard
    January 9, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    Oh. Thanks for the correction. 🙂

  14. Chris Howard
    January 9, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Refusing to yield on a belief when it has shown, repeatedly, to be flawed, just plain wrong, or unethical is not a virtue. It’s stubbornness.

    It goes to behavior, and habit. When people are allowed to make poor decisions, based on bad beliefs (factually or morally questionable) that go unchallenged they tend to feel vindicated in their bad beliefs.

    That type of behavior becomes habitual when left unchecked, and it tends to bleed over into different aspects of ones life.

    So one may start out believing in the supernatural, and because they really want to believe they don’t hold it to the same evidentiary standards that they would other things in their life. (which, admittedly, is what we all do to a degree)

    But then that same process of sloppy thinking starts to effect the other aspects of our lives. It’s basic psychology that rewards reinforce behavior, so if we go unchallenged for thinking errors, and are rewarded for being a sloppy, uncritical, feel good thinker then, again, basic psychology, we will apply it to other areas.

    So the question isn’t a relativistic one of “Is this the right decision for her?” The question is “Was this decision an ethical one, based on the consideration of others, society at large, personal welfare, objective reality, and a commitment to the truth, and best evidence regardless of personal desire and a perceived subjective reality?”

  15. John Nowak
    January 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    I agree that she made a decision she had every right to make, but I think there is a virtue in pointing out the consequences of that decision.

  16. January 10, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    What is moral or immoral is subjective. To criticize her on the immorality of that decision is baseless. She saw the decision as a moral imperative based on her beliefs. No one has the right to take away or dictate beliefs regardless of how foolish they may seem – which also subjective.

    If we want to apply critical thinking skills let’s do so introspectively. We can laugh about the geocentric model of the universe today and scientists 100 years from now will probably have a few laughs over what we believed to be scientific fact in 2013. There is always a level of doubt in any knowledge and trying to apply a standard of rationality to judge a person’s decision-making is problematic due to this doubt and potential for error. Saying something is rational or irrational does not change the fact that it is a subjective term.

    We can acknowledge it is foolish but respect her right to act in a way she believes is appropriate. People are responsible for making their own decisions. We can present arguments to persuade but ultimately that decision is theirs to make. Out of respect for the ideals of freedom, we should respect that decision. But note that respect does not imply agreement.

  17. Chris Howard
    January 13, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I would say that moral relativism is a functional impossiblity, but further, it can’t logically exist.

    If we say that everyone has different beliefs, that statement is true. If we say, further, that they are all equally valid, then that statement is logically impossible.

    That argument falls on itself, because if we state that “Everyone has a valid opinion.” (each persons ethics are equally valid) then all I have to say is “Not all (ethical) opinions are valid.” And by nature of the statement “All opinions are equally valid.” my opinion must be considered valid, ergo the argument that all opinions are equally valid is logically impossible.

    Here is an excellent description:

    More importantly, societies couldn’t function if people really believed that moral/ethical relativism were true (I don’t really think people believe it, deep down) if everything were relative it would negate responsibility for ones actions.

    As to rights, they are not absolute. Behavior, predicated upon a belief (right as a belief) doesn’t negate ones responsibility for exercising their right(s).
    Ones ethical right to practice ones religion ends when they try to sacrifice another for a religious ritual.

    In other words, because my actions, which stem from my beliefs, effect others, I don’t have the “right” to do whatever I want.

    That is the underlying principle of most moral and ethical systems. How to get on with one another in an honest, just, and fair way. Ethical Relativism declares otherwise. It declares that everything is morally, and ethically equal.

    The problem is this: If everything is equally valid, then nothing is equally valid.

  18. January 15, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    It’s an interesting argument but it ignores the impossibility of declaring any one set of ethical or moral beliefs as valid. These relativistic terms exist precisely because philosophers have never been able to form a logically derived universal set of ethics and morals. While I agree in a perfect world there is only one ideal set of morals and ethics that is not the condition we face today. For that to happen we need to meet two conditions:

    1. We have to have 100% Certainty; logical truth to base the universal ethics and morals off of.
    2. We have to establish a completely unbiased mechanism that can apply these truths to moral and ethical standards. The human being is far from this. Even a community like the scientific community can suffer from collection bias and perspective bias.

    Collection bias being how current knowledge is influenced by how much effort is put into research among competing scientific fields of study. Example: Remove Einstein as a scientific influencers and our knowledge of physics would be very different today.

    Perspective bias is how we attempt to complete the picture off of possibly incomplete information. In many cases, we don’t even know what we don’t know. This ignorance can and often does lead us to put together a puzzle when in fact we are missing 3/4’s of the pieces and only assume 1/4 of the pieces are missing.

    Until we reach the this point of universal truth and a bias free mechanism, we should recognize that it is impossible to evaluate which moral and ethical beliefs are valid and which are invalid. With that knowledge moral and ethical relativism is the best we can do, because no one person or group of people is in a position to objectively judge another. Sure there are many times where we accept what is generally considered moral or ethical to adopt law and regulation, and in other cases to, but from a logical standpoint there is no purely objective way to evaluate whether these are valid or invalid.

    In other areas (like scientific study) a certain degree of uncertainty is acceptable, but trying to apply these valid and invalid rulings without meeting the criterion I listed above can affect our freedoms far more than any single scientific experiment would. More to the point the impact of judging a logically valid moral and ethical judgement invalid could potentially be far more damaging than an invalid result in science (to stick with the example). In the tradition of freedom I think we should acknowledge the logical impossibility of determining what morals and ethics are valid, but also acknowledge that we will have to attempt to do so in some cases. Because of the potential for us to be wrong it is better to allow greater freedom than to apply more, possibly invalid, moral and ethical standards. Ultimately it is all opinion and impossible to be anything but subjective.

  19. Chris Howard
    January 17, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    100% certainty on, nearly, everything is an impossible criteria.

    For a working system of ethics to function (those adhering to objective reality, rather than unknowable, and arbitrary criteria) that system has to be practical, and doable. Otherwise it is, by definition, an ideal rather than a tenable ethical system.

    We don’t know everything about physics, biology, psychology, and many other fields of inquiry, but it would be silly to say that because we are biased, and don’t know 100% about everything that we should not take action.

    Further, if experts disagree on certain aspects of, say, evolution does that negate the theory of evolution? Obviously not. So to say that there are differences of opinion over certain criteria in morals and ethics isn’t and indicators that there are none.

    I think the confusion comes in misinterpreting foreign cultural perceptions (and subsequent practices) as being the expression of different core values.

    A high king, back in the day, ruled over a diverse, multi-cultural kingdom. One evening, during a feast, he began discussing ethics with his lower kings and advisors.

    The high king claimed that there was no core (absolute) ethical system, to which an adviser rebutted that it is impossible to have relativistic ethics, and a functioning kingdom.

    The king countered by asking each of his lower kings how their people honored their dead. One lower king said that his people cremated their people, another buried theirs, one King said his people ate their dead, and still another said they mummified their people.

    The high king smiled, and declared victory. The advisor reminded the king that while different people honor their dead in different ways they all believed it ethical to honor their dead.

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