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Obstetrics & Gynecology:
Current Commentary

Ethical and Medicolegal Considerations in the Obstetric Care of a Jehovah's Witness

Gyamfi, Cynthia MD; Gyamfi, Mavis M. JD; Berkowitz, Richard L. MD

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Abstract

Jehovah's Witnesses comprise a unique obstetric population. Their refusal of blood stems from an interpretation of a literal translation of the Bible, and it is this belief that puts them at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality if hemorrhage occurs. Many Jehovah's Witnesses feel that accepting a blood transfusion will lead them to eternal damnation. A patient's self-determination, or autonomy, allows her to make decisions regarding her care. The decision to refuse blood or blood products has been upheld in court. This brings a new twist to the physician's obligation to “do no harm.” When one undertakes the care of one of these patients, it is important to understand the ethical and medicolegal ramifications. The decision to be the primary caregivers can only be made once the physicians have decided they can let the patient die when all other options have been exhausted. This commentary discusses the ethical concerns and reviews the alternatives available to a Jehovah's Witness.

© 2003 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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