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Editor's Correspondence
May 25, 1998

Medical Ethics in the Treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses

Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(10):1155-1156. doi:

I read with great interest the recent article by Kerridge et al1 on the first documented case of the use of peripheral blood stem cell autografting in a Jehovah's Witness. This case has a profound bearing on the medical ethics of treating Jehovah's Witnesses. As new technologies evolve around blood-based treatments, whether such treatments are acceptable to Jehovah's Witnesses has become a complex issue. One of the most difficult aspects of caring for Jehovah's Witnesses in recent years is that such decisions are often arbitrarily made by local church officials on hospital liaison committees or high officials at the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn, NY. Although guidelines are published by the Watch Tower Society, officials often rule on the acceptability of uncommon treatments on an individual basis. As a result, medical articles sometimes report inconsistent practices. For example, despite the frequently used guidelines2 that clearly state that Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept predeposited blood, reports show that some are willing to accept treatments involving predeposited autologous blood or blood components.

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