A Jehovah’s Witness Adolescent in the Labor and Delivery Unit: Should Patient and Parental Refusals of Blood Transfusions for Adolescents Be Honored?
- Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2017
- pp. 97-106
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A 15-year-old was admitted to the labor and delivery unit for induction of a 41-week-gestation pregnancy. Her parents, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the patient, who had been studying the religion but had not yet been baptized, were adamant that no blood transfusions would be accepted even if a life-threatening hemorrhage were to occur. In our analysis, we examine the underlying ethical conflict and issues raised by this case. We considered two important ethical questions in analyzing the dilemma: first, whether adolescents are capable of providing autonomous and authentic refusals for lifesaving interventions; and second, whether parents can refuse such interventions for their adolescent children based on their religious beliefs. We provided justifications for not considering the adolescent’s refusal as autonomous and for overruling the parental refusal, concluding that there was ethical support for providing potentially lifesaving transfusions should they become clinically indicated. We also suggested strategies to avoid blood loss and the need for transfusions in order to respect the stated values and preferences of the patient and her family to the greatest degree possible. In order to protect the privacy of the patient and her family, details in this case have been changed and no identifiable information has been used.