I just received this article, regarding blood transfusions of Jehovah's Witnesses with sickle cell anemia. This is a partial reprint of it::
BioEdge: Jehovah Witness who refused transfusion allowed to die in UK
Jehovah Witness who refused transfusion allowed to die in UK
by Michael Cook | 16 Jun 2012 | 4 comments
tags: informed consent, Jehovah's Witness
Two cases involving Jehovah Witnesses who refused blood transfusions are in the news: a 22-year-old with sickle cell anaemia who died in the UK and a 4-year-old girl in Australia who lived after a court-ordered transfusion.
In Britain, a 22-year-old man refused a blood transfusion. After consulting lawyers, his doctors decided to respect his decision and he passed away after about three weeks in hospital. There were concerns that the man's mother, who was with him when he died, and an elder from his church were exerting an undue influence. However, a doctor assessed him and declared that he was fully aware of what he was doing.
At the moment there are no substitutes for blood transfusions that can be offered to Jehovah’s Witnesses although researchers predict that a product will be available in 5 to 10 years.
(see link above for the rest of the article)
my non-professional comments:
We can be saddened by the news that a brother died after refusing a blood transfusion, and also empathetic about parents who had the control of their child's care taken from them.
But my concern was that the article reported that there were no treatments that can be offered to Jehovah's Witnesses for sickle cell anemia. I had previously thought that there were, so I started a bit of personal research to find out what they were.
One thing that I found out is that there are two cures for sickle cell disease. The cited article below shows that a bone marrow transplant, replacing a quarter of the total bone marrow in the body, has been shown to cure a high percentage of sickle cell patients.
Bone marrow transplant 'gets rid of' sickle cell anemia - Los Angeles Times
The only problem with this is that it is difficult, almost impossible, to find compatible bone marrow for these patients, especially patients of African descent, which most who suffer from this disease are.
Also, the other cure is stem cell therapy. It is brand new, and it is controversial because you can get stem cells from the harvesting of abortion tissue (there are very recently some possibly more acceptable sources), and it is currently extremely expensive.
And here is the WT article, which does not recommend or forbid the treatment on a scriptural basis:
g02 11/22 p. 3 Medical Marvel, Ethical Minefield
The expense of these cures is a really sad thing, since sickle cell disease is running rampant among the poor in Africa, and blacks in this country often have a lower income than average.
There are two articles from the WT literature that bear on the subject of bone marrow and other tissue transplants, as to Christian propriety, and they are w80 3/15 p. 31 Questions From Readers
- Should congregation action be taken if a baptized Christian accepts a human organ transplant, such as of a cornea or a kidney?
w84 5/15 p. 31 Questions From Readers
- Could a Christian accept a bone-marrow transplant, since blood is made in the marrow?
These basically say that taking a bone marrow transplant, with some care to prevent blood transfer, is a matter of conscience.
Also, regarding blood transfusions as a treatment, not a cure, for sickle cell, aside from the very important scriptural issues involved, this medical article also states that blood transfusions can overload the patient's system with excess iron. So this is not the risk-free treatment that is implied in the above article.
CDC - Sickle Cell Disease, Complications and Treatments - NCBDDD
Very interestingly, this article, which discusses treatments, mentioned one effective treatment that just about anyone can use when the SCD patient has a "pain crisis" - drinking lots of clean water (3-4 quarts per day), and taking an NSAID pain reliever such as acetamenophen (Tylenol). The WT article below mentions the exact same treatment:
g96 10/8 p. 22 Sickle-Cell Anemia—Knowledge Is the Best Defense
Another effective treatment which is not blood involves the use of medicine called hydroxyurea to reduce the number of pain crises. This wikipedia article (not exactly peer reviewed, but it is quite detailed) describes this medicine, which is also called hydroxycarbamide:
Hydroxycarbamide - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Finally, here is another general Frequently Asked Questions page about the disease:
FAQ - Sickle Cell Disease - Sickle Cell Information Center
And here is a WT article on another possible treatment which is still being researched with good results - perflorochemical artifical blood (there are articles online about it):
g80 2/22 p. 22 “Artificial Blood” Makes Its Debut
Summarizing, there are things that sickle cell disease patients who don't want blood can do to help themselves without breaking the bank:
Educate themselves - the internet is a great resource
Avoid infections by taking prescribed precautions
Look into new and established treatments with the help of sympathetic medical professionals
Keep drinking lots of water and appropriate pain medication during pain crises
There are undoubtedly Jehovah's Witnesses all over Africa and the US and other places that are managing their sickle cell symptoms, and those doctors who said that they didn't have anything to help that brother may not be aware of these points...?