December 8, 2022

Teen Jehovah’s Witness refuses transfusion and dies

Bioethicists ask if he were mature enough for decision

A 14-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in Seattle has died after refusing a blood
transfusion. Dennis Lindberg was receiving chemotherapy for leukaemia, which
normally means that a patient will need a blood transfusion. However, Judge John
Meyer ruled that Lindberg, who was only in Year 8, was old enough to know that
his decision was effectively a "death sentence" and that he had a right to do
so.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that blood is sacred and should not be reused.
Dennis’s case was complicated by a difficult family situation. His aunt, also a
Jehovah’s Witness, was his legal guardian. His parents disagreed, but apparently
had no say in the matter.

However, the interest of bioethicists in the case revolved around the age of
the youth, not his religion. Was a 14-year-old mature enough? In recent years,
judges have respected decisions made by teenagers, although in the 1980s and
1990s they tended to order treatment. Dr Benjamin Wilfond, a bioethicist at the
hospital where Dennis died, said that it was a difficult case. "You’re trying to
respect their wishes, their evolving autonomy, balanced against wanting to
protect them. Often, it’s difficult to achieve both under all circumstances." ~
Seattle Times, Nov
29
, Nov
30