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Jehovah's Witness claims blood transfusion is medical malpractice

Many parents have strong values regarding childbirth, from not wanting anesthesia to foregoing potentially harmful vaccinations. Patients have a right to dictate their medical care in this regard. To that effect, they should make their wishes known in writing well before the potential delivery. If a doctor acts against the wishes of a patient, then the patient may have a claim for medical malpractice.

Even though expectant parents may have preconceived ideas about how they would like their birth to transpire, things do not always go as hoped. Sometimes, doctors and medical staff make decisions with which the patients do not agree. Many health professionals will heavily pressure the patient to go along with what they feel is acceptable medical practice.

In one recent case, a mother complained that her doctor had committed medical malpractice when he gave her blood transfusions after the delivery of her baby. The reason? The mother is a Jehovah's Witness whose faith prohibits the injection of another person's blood into her body.

The case arose in 2004 when the mother gave birth to a healthy baby boy. After the delivery, the mother continued to bleed and lost an excessive amount of blood. She was told that she needed a blood transfusion but she was too weak to sign a consent form. Her husband signed the consent form on her behalf.

She brought a lawsuit against the doctor and the hospital claiming that the blood transfusion conflicted with her religious beliefs. The lawsuit further claimed that if the doctor had performed a C-section, then the extreme bleeding would have been prevented. However, the doctor responded that the vaginal birth was appropriate and a C-section was not necessary. He also said that the hemorrhaging after the birth could not have been foreseen.

The court found that the accepted standards of medical care were provided and that the mother was not harmed by receiving someone else's blood. The court opined that if she did not receive the blood transfusion, she would have died. As a result, the court found that neither the doctor nor the hospital committed medical malpractice in saving this mother's life. The judge noted that this case could be considered a "wrongful life" case in some states.

This case is important for Ohio parents who are expecting. Expectant parents should make their wishes clear in writing before the birth. If they maintain a consistent message during labor, delivery and afterwards, then they may have a right of action against the doctor or hospital if their written directives are not followed.

Source:, "Judge dismisses Jehovah's witness' 'wrongful life' lawsuit vs. Staten Island doctor and University Hospital," Frank Donnelly, 8 Aug 2011

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