“No-Blood” Open Heart Surgery For Jehovah’s Witnesses… For Cindi’s Mom
It doesn’t matter what sex you are, what race you are, what country you are from or what religion you are… Heart valve disease has and will continue to impact most segments of the population.
Recently, I received a note from Cindy about her mother who needs heart valve replacement. Cindi’s mother is Jehovah Witness. As a result of her faith, Cindi’s mother requires a no-blood surgery. She writes to me, “Dear Adam – My mother was recently diagnosed with needing aortic valve replacement and a bypass. She is a Jehovah’s Witness and requires “no-blood” open heart surgery. Do you personally know of anyone ever having this done? My brothers and sisters and I are gravely concerned. We have our doubts about the no-blood heart surgery. I would love to hear from you. Cindi”
So you know, I’ll be the first to admit when I don’t know something. And, this question definitely positioned me in the land of “I don’t know.” That said, I was very intrigued to learn more about practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses as it relates to no-blood or bloodless surgery.
In doing some web research, I came across the following information specific to no-blood heart surgery for Jehovah Witnesses from The Watchtower:
For Bible-based reasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions. But they do accept—and vigorously pursue—medical alternatives to blood. “Jehovah’s Witnesses actively seek the best in medical treatment,” said Dr. Richard K. Spence, a director of surgery at a New York hospital. “As a group, they are the best educated consumers the surgeon will ever encounter.”
Specific to open heart surgery, doctors have perfected many bloodless surgery techniques on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Consider the experience of cardiovascular surgeon Denton Cooley. Over a period of 27 years, his team performed bloodless open-heart surgery on 663 of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The results clearly demonstrate that cardiac operations can be successfully performed without the use of blood.
To assist doctors in providing treatment without the use of blood, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have developed a helpful liaison service. Presently, more than 1,400 Hospital Liaison Committees worldwide are equipped to provide doctors and researchers with medical literature from a data base of over 3,000 articles related to bloodless medicine and surgery. “Not only Jehovah’s Witnesses, but patients in general, are today less likely to be given unnecessary blood transfusions because of the work of the Witnesses’ Hospital Liaison Committees,” notes Dr. Charles Baron, a professor at Boston College Law School.
To this point, I have previously blogged on the the use of blood banks. Two of the big questions related to blood banks prior to open heart surgery are, “Should I Donate My Own Blood Before Surgery?” and “Are Blood Transfusions Safe?”
I hope the information above helps Cindi and her mother get a little more comfortable about a no-blood operation for a Jehovah’s Witness. Do you have any thoughts for Cindi? If so, please leave a comment below.
Keep on tickin!
Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.