Jehovah's Witnesses have complex beliefs when it comes to medical issues. Many Jehovah's Witnesses accept most modern medical practices if they are lifesaving, but many will not accept blood transfusions, dialysis or organ transplant. According to Leviticus 17:11, 12, it is stated "For the life of the flesh is in the blood... No soul of you shall eat blood." To many Jevoah's Witnesses, this means it is unacceptable to accept blood or organs from another person.
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If a child has lost a lot of blood due to an illness or an injury, a blood transfusion may be required in to save his life. However, this puts the nurses and doctors in an ethical dilemma, as the child is not yet old enough to make a choice whether or not he would like to have or to refuse the transfusion. Because of his parents' beliefs, he may be refused a lifesaving transfusion, when one could have quickly, and easily, reversed his condition.
Organ transplants become necessary when an organ fails due to illness or injury. However, many Jehovah's Witnesses find this to be unacceptable. Just with the blood transfusion scenario, a child is not yet old enough to decide whether or not he would like to accept the organ. In some cases, an organ transplant will allow the child to continue to grow up and live a relatively normal life. However, this goes against the beliefs of many Jehovah's Witnesses, which may result in a diminished quality of life, or even death, for the child.
Like with organ transplants and blood transfusions, dialysis can be a matter of life and death. Dialysis can help keep the kidneys working after a major illness that has compromised their function. A dialysis machine "cleans" the blood of the patient, and sometimes uses a blood transfusion in order to keep things running smoothly. Again, this can result in dramatic consequences for the child, if dialysis is not performed. However, as an alternative, dialysis can be performed if only the child's blood is used.
Sometimes there are simply no alternatives to blood transfusions, making the ethical dilemma considerably harsher. The life or death of the child may hang simply on the parents' beliefs, making it even more difficult for a nurse or doctor who does not share those beliefs to honour them. Dialysis may be performed using the patients' own blood and giving the patient clear liquid instead of blood can sometimes do the same thing a blood transfusion would by expanding the volume of the blood. Heart and lung machines can also keep the body going during extreme blood loss. However, sometimes, there are no other alternatives to transplants, making it an extremely moral and ethical grey area.
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