“No-Blood” Open Heart Surgery For Jehovah’s Witnesses… For Cindi’s Mom
By Adam Pick on August 9, 2008
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!
Michelle Danley says on August 10th, 2008 at 7:54 pm
I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and had a bloodless aortic heart valve replacement July 31, 2008. I was released from the hospital August 4 and am doing quite well. There are many steps and procdures that can be taken before, during and after surgery to prevent excessive blood loss and when your mother finds a surgeon who will respect her belief , they will work it wout together.
My prayers and thoughts are with your family and your mother.
Danny Little says on August 20th, 2008 at 11:03 am
My Name is Danny Little, my dad needs to have a valve replacement and we are jehovah’s Witnesses and we are having a little bit of a problem with the blood issue, i was wondering if anyone could give some advice my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Hall says on August 20th, 2017 at 4:37 pm
Hello Adam, and everyone here…
I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. While admitted to hospital for a different problem, my severe aortic stenosis was diagnosed after a cath lab study of both sides of my heart. I have been following up with the cardiologists of Oklahoma Heart Institute at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa OK, and most likely because I am “young”- 58 years old, I will undergo open heart aortic valve replacement with MAZE.
Prior to discussion of the surgical approach to my problem and after being told my diagnosis, I told the cardiologists visiting me in hospital that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that receiving blood was something I would not do, and I asked if this would make for problems with either TAVR or open heart. To my surprise, the lead cardiologist and several others agreed the blood issue would not be problematic to my surgical treatment. Their response to my request put me at peace, and while I am still somewhat nervous over the prospect of open heart surgery, I am very happy for the compassionate, understanding cardiologists of Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. They were familiar with the Hospital Liasion Committee and had visited with the brothers of that committee before with different surgery issues that Witnesses faced.
I have started my journal here, and welcome all who wish to follow it to do so. If there are any others who would like to ask about the Witnesses stand on receiving blood, I will help any way I can, and I will chronicle my experience of heart valve replacement and recovery from the perspective of a Witness, here in my journal.