Some hospitals OK blood for kids over parents' objections

The Japan Times/September 25, 2006

Three out of four hospitals that have guidelines on Jehovah's Witness patients have said they would give young children blood transfusions even if their parents opposed such procedures on account of their faith, according to a survey released Sunday.

The survey was conducted in March by Tetsuro Kagawa, an anesthesiologist at Hyogo Prefectural Kobe Children's Hospital, on 64 hospitals nationwide. Forty said they have guidelines.

Of those with guidelines, 30 said they would conduct blood transfusions, while three said they would not. The others said their guidelines have no specific provisions for children.

The survey showed that doctors at 12 hospitals performed a total of 23 operations on patients aged up to 18 related to Jehovah's Witness followers in 2005. Kagawa did not ask whether any of these hospitals complied with parental requests against blood transfusions.

Some hospitals have drawn up guidelines following a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that accommodated a rejection of a blood transfusion by a Jehovah's Witness as a matter subject to an individual's right to decide.

Many hospitals are believed to have no guidelines regarding Jehovah's Witnesses, who are estimated to number around 220,000 in Japan. Seeing the results of the survey, some experts expressed concerns about whether children's rights to medical treatment are properly protected.

The survey posed the hypothetical question of whether a hospital would go ahead with a blood transfusion for a 2-year-old patient if his Jehovah's Witness parents had refused a transfusion but there was no other way to save his life.

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