Jehovah's Witnesses call for guidelines on blood products
DOCTORS, nurses and other medical professionals have been called on to develop a consistent policy on how to deal with Jehovah's Witnesses who refuse to take blood transfusions because of their religious beliefs.
Yesterday, a Jehovah's Witness said there was a constant anxiety among prospective mothers within the faith that doctors may react negatively to them when they seek treatment.
Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to take blood because of their belief that the Bible tells them to abstain. A number of high-profile cases involving women refusing treatment came before the courts in recent years.
Yesterday, Belinda Slator, a mother of three from Blanchardstown in Dublin, said on some occasions doctors would say, "You are not taking bloods, would you rather die?" or "You'd let your baby die?".
However, on other occasions, medical staff had been positive and she did not feel "looked down upon", Ms Slator said.
"If there was a consistent attitude from the medical profession, then you wouldn't have that anxiety when you are going in," she said.
Her comments came at a conference in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital aimed at coming up with national guidelines on how to deal with mothers who decline blood products.
Jehovah's Witnesses have refused blood transfusions since 1940, when the practice became widespread, as they believe God has forbidden them in the Bible.
Mark O' Malley, who co-ordinates hospital information services for the Jehovah's Witnesses in Ireland, said they believed they must abstain from blood, which they viewed as being sacred. A passage from Genesis, "Only flesh with its soul -- its blood -- you must not eat", is referenced by the religion as one reason for their belief.
"We believe the Bible says to abstain. If a doctor said to abstain from alcohol, you wouldn't hook up a bottle of Jameson," Mr O'Malley said.
Master of the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital Dr Chris Fitzpatrick said they respected the right of any competent adult to refuse medical treatment.