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November 27, 1981

Jehovah's Witnesses: The Surgical/Ethical Challenge

Author Affiliations

From the Medical (Dr Dixon) and Research (Mr Smalley) Departments, World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, NY.

JAMA. 1981;246(21):2471-2472. doi:10.1001/jama.1981.03320210037021

Physicians face a special challenge in treating Jehovah's Witnesses. Members of this faith have deep religious convictions against accepting homologous or autologous whole blood, packed RBCs, WBCs, or platelets. Many will allow the use of (non-blood-prime) heart-lung, dialysis, or similar equipment if the extracorporeal circulation is uninterrupted. Medical personnel need not be concerned about liability, for Witnesses will take adequate legal steps to relieve liability as to their informed refusal of blood. They accept nonblood replacement fluids. Using these and other meticulous techniques, physicians are performing major surgery of all types on adult and minor Witness patients. A standard of practice for such patients has thus developed that accords with the tenet of treating the "whole person."

(JAMA 1981;246:2471-2472)