Caring for the Female Jehovah's Witness: Balancing Medicine, Ethics, and the First Amendment

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Blood transfusion has been doctrinally forbidden for Jehovah's Witnesses since 1945.Despite serious theologic consequences for its violation, this proscription may not be observed universally by members of the denomination. When a patient declines a lifesaving transfusion, a conflict is generated between the physician's autonomy-based and beneficence-based obligations to the patient. This conflict is intensified when the patient is a woman who has minor dependent children, either in utero or already born. A spectrum of opinion exists regarding the resolution of this conflict. As one of society's repositories of moral and legal values, the court is the most appropriate forum in which religious, medical, and ethical viewpoints may receive a fair and impartial hearing. (AM J OBSTET GYNECOL 1994;170:452-5.)

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