Treating Acute Anaemia in a Jehovah's Witness in Israel: An Innovative Approach to a Medical and Legal Challenge
Gaitini, Luis A.
Medicine and Law 2002; 21(3): 485-493
A person's right to control his or her own body, expressed through the concept of informed consent to medical treatment, has gained worldwide acceptance. Nevertheless, this right may conflict with the state's interest in preserving life in cases where patients refuse treatment in medical emergencies. This paper examines the management of treating acute anaemia in a Jehovah's Witness in Israel who refused blood transfusion on religious grounds. The medical and legal ramifications are discussed in light of the Israeli Patients' Rights Law of 1996. This law established statutory ethics committees which may, under defined conditions of emergency or threat to life, approve treatment against the patient's will. This power, previously vested in the courts, should be used only in extreme circumstances while, in general, patients' wishes and beliefs must be respected. Sensitivity to the legal and ethical aspects involved deserves greater emphasis in medical school curricula.
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