Phillip McKay



This conversation is closed.

A member of the Jehovah's Witness recently let his wife die as he would not permit the hospital to give a blood transfusion Right or wrong?

This happened recently and brought up all sorts of ethical and legal questions. How do you feel? Should this be allowed to happen? How could we justify a child dying because of religious beliefs?

  • thumb
    Nov 17 2011: The same thing could be said for thei doctor. Whoa are these people to "take away from him" everything he believes about health? Beliefs don't need to be respected. The whole basis of civil society is that we don't respect one another's beliefs, we respect their reasons. That's why we feel comfortable taking away the rights of the mentally ill and some kinds of prisoners. If yu believe yourself to BE a fire truck I'm under no obligation to respect that. Religious belief has enjoyed a special exception to that for a long time and we are thankfully coming out of that period. If for example the same family, acting on the grounds of religious belief, that their children should all be married off at age 14 we'd be sending people to jail.

    If they said that their religious tradition instructed them that "every third must walk in darkness" so they ritually blind every third child at birth, would you feel the same? In that case you only have a blind person. Here someone is dead and there's a doctor who may well spend the rest of his life considering himself an accomplice to murder. No my friend, ideas don't need protection. People need protection.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: This is directed at me and I will play ethics.

      The doctor is no stranger to death, any/every doctors who has been practicing enough will have made a mistake that has cost someone their lives. With this in mind I would think their is a relief when the decision is not in their hands.

      The trolley problem... To hit the switch that would save 5 and kill 1 would still make you partially evil, but to do nothing would be an acceptable way to have no responsibility and existentially more evil. Evil and good are just words, what matter are the ideas shared behind the thoughts conveyed by the words.

      The doctor's obligation is to respect the patients request, not to be the philosophy police. That is his civil duty. Yes, the case where a person is clinically lacking in cognitive functions, should have decisions made for them based on those dysfunctions , by their families. If no such family, psychologist, not lawyers and not police.

      Beliefs create emotional stability, to not respect them is to not respect the individual.

      Go ahead, be a neo-atheist, but that is far more short-sighted than it is to live and let live. Creating a ground where everyone can come to their own in unique ways will establish similarities among all the diverse thoughts. Bahá'ísm is a currently rising religious practice that which accepts all the varieties people practice under one common goal, humility.

      The reasoning behind beliefs generally are due to the positive emotions that follow them. And unless those emotional outtakes 1. hurt others and/or 2. destroy private properties there should be 0 policy on what they choose to do with their lives.

      Your overall theme of people need protection and not idea is flawed by the simply fact - people follow ideas wayyyy more often than they do other people. By protecting the ideas and beliefs you are illuminating them; their flaws and their benefits. By doing what you think is "protecting" is doing the complete opposite and segregating further.
      • thumb
        Nov 17 2011: I'll end my comments with this Nicholas because I don't think we're going to find common ground here. Your argument for the protection of ideas is currently being uses by any number of Theocracies to squash individual and especially religious freedom. It suffers from several logical inconsistencies and I suspect that if you further examine the broad assumptions that go into statements like "any practicing doctor will have made a mistake that will have cost someone their life" & "I think it would be a relief when the decision (to make a transfusion mind you) is not in their hands" you'll find them empty.
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: If that is the only problem with my statement, we will not find common ground. All we have are assumptions, unless you go and talk to this doctor and get his mindset, you do not know if it was easier to hand off responsibility than it was to try and take it.

          Again, consider the Trolley problem.

          Fuzzy logic is far more logically sound than that of logic.
      • thumb
        Nov 17 2011: Nicholas,

        You make a good argument but here is what I'm confused about.

        So its ok for this individual to refuse a blood transfusion on the basis of religion without a problem or criticism but its not ok if I wanted to get euthanized because I am terminally ill, have 2 weeks to live, constantly suffering and have been given all the facts and information necessary? (I state this because one of the main reasons for opposing euthanasia is because of religious reasons)

        So in other words God does not want you to end your own life unless it is in his name? If that is the case that is by far the worse and most disgusting thing I have ever heard.

        Call me crazy but the people who get euthanized have far better reasons for wanting to end their lives as opposed to someone in this situation.

        You mentioned beliefs and emotional stability. On an emotional level what can you say about those impacted by her decision to not save her life? does their well-being matter? What about her children, how will they feel? Also your statement about not respecting the individual if we do not respect their beliefs is untrue. I have many friends who are Christians and I do not respect their religious beliefs. They know I think its unreasonable but we get along perfectly fine. What is respect is their right to believe in what they believe in but this is different than respecting their beliefs.

        A doctors duty is to save the lives of their patients, otherwise there would be no need for them. If they were to respect the beliefs of everyone, there would be a lot more people dead.

        As I mentioned I understand where your coming from and your intentions, at least from what I read, is indeed good but despite what you say, I do not think you can vindicate such beliefs and their consequences.
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: Who said you cannot kill yourself?

          It's your body, it is your choice. If you are suffering from chronic depression and do not want to change that depression, move aside and allow the next person to take a chance at finding/achieving happiness.

          Do not confuse me with a fundamentally religious person, I practice religious naturalism, irreligion and/or ignosticism.

          I would assume, because that's all I have, that if this woman is this religion, she is loved by those who respect her religious beliefs and/or are equally religious. I would hope they are happier she was able to pick her own destiny than have outside officials dictate what is "right." To be upset over what others are doing is just as selfish as trying to change what they are doing.

          "Be the change you want to see in the world - dictating that change does nothing."

          Find the connections between religions and you will see they are only superficially different. But religious beliefs are only part of a person belief systems. Her acceptance of dying goes beyond what is written down on paper, it is logical to her.

          I doubt if doctors were able to respect patients choices a lot more would be dead, and if that is so by the same argument of intolerance of religion... you have one less religious person, is that not a good thing? One less person to internationalize the fundamental belief such as not accepting a blood transfusion.

          If someone so choices to die, and that will make them happy in their mind and living would make them depressed... those are consequences fair out weight than dictating some superior non-existent code of ethics.

          We can argue all day that we should be over-men, but the problem is, if everyone is not on the same par of awareness, enlightenment and/or wisdom. There will always be pursuits. By highlighting the ideas, like Phillip has here, we illuminate the flaws and benefits of such ideas and beliefs. Far more than you can by saying "a life is priceless."
      • thumb
        Nov 17 2011: This is perhaps why I sometimes dislike forums. You only have limited characters and cannot be precise on your points: so I'll try to be as clear as I can.

        Based off your comments I already knew you were not a fundamentalist, otherwise I would have just went about my day, plus your response was reasonable. I didn't state that you mentioned that euthanasia was wrong, I was just making a connection between two incidents that were somewhat similar to each other. I do not think depressed people should off themselves (I wasn't going that extreme) but then again I can't stop a person who wants to kill themselves.

        What I was pointing out is that in any other domain of discourse and in different circumstances, we would not hesitate to judge an individual and their convictions and actions. If I went to a conference about dark matter and then stated that dark matter does not exist because "the Book Gilgamesh does not mention anything about dark matter" I would be laughed out the room or be told to leave the conference or simply be ignored. But if you stated that Dark Matter does not exist because "God says nothing about it in the bible" then that is perfectly fine. I do not think your this unreasonable but you'd be surprised how many people have this line of thinking. This is the reason why I do not think you can defend such a position.

        Truth of the matter is, there was nothing logical about her death. If her decision was based off reason and logic, she would have realized that her family, friends and all she had to live for was just as important as serving god or that such a god would want her to sustain her life. I'm not saying she is insane but what I am saying is that she really took a huge leap of faith, one that cannot be intelligible.

        Due to lack of characters I'd say this: How many more Jehovah witnesses have to die in this way in order for us to realize that "certain" unreasonable beliefs and actions should not be tolerated.
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: Okay a new problem... relating circumstances with others... we are talking about this one woman in this one town. Any new scenario calls for new considerations. Comparing her personal choice to inflicting beliefs on others is foul.

          Logic is personal, as well as it is a subject manner, to say her choice was not logical is evidence that you do not know her and that is all. You do not know her trials and tribulations that led her to believing she can't take blood from another. It goes beyond the word religion, it goes beyond superficial comparisons. It's neurologically intoned to be a reality and to change reality takes a/the want to do so, not the outside influences of others. No matter how illogical it may appear to a vast majority.

          There is nothing intelligent about war, but it happens vigorously. Logically ignorant to have war when every human wants the same. But mimetic rivalry is far more common than a doctrine of peace.

          To answer the last statement, as many as it takes, because at least then it will be a memento mori and not an act of force.

          Also, I never direct the family argument of children. Had she lived, she would of been depressed which would of created a depressing environment for the kids, which is far worse than not having a mother in my opinion.

          By saying "this" isn't intelligent and "that" is, you create biases that ignore the individual which is not logical when the premise of debate is an individual's choice.

          It is far more difficult to be a cognitist than a realist when asking big question about personal choices.
      • thumb
        Nov 18 2011: Its foul to make logical points because the circumstances are different? This entire time I've been talking about this one women and how irrational such beliefs are. There is no logical difference between praying to Zeus and and Praying to Allah. The only difference is that Allah has been socially acceptable while Zeus lies in the grave of other ancient gods. How is that foul?

        You can use all the positive language you want and portray me as a bigot, I do not mind being viewed as intolerant but this is not a situation that goes beyond religion being, her "RELIGIOUS" views were the exact reason why she decided to refuse medical treatment. If this tread stated "a Jehovah Witness women refused medical treatment for reasons other than it was in the bible" then I would agree with you about it not being a religious issue, but that is not the case here. If you can prove to me that her reasons for refusing treatment had to do with her "trials and tribulations" that I am ignorant of then I would gladly change my mind but I assure you this is not the case, which is why the author of this thread mentioned "A member of the JEHOVAH WITNESS". If it had nothing to do with their religion he would not have mentioned it.

        You really do not seem to see the issue here. If she refused treatment because she feared that the cookie monster was after her, they would have stated that she was not fit to make decisions. there is no more evidence for existence of god as there is for the cookie monster in the closet.

        Your last couple of paragraphs is confusing. Your stating that she did not want to be married and have a family because she would of have been depressed, so she sought a justification through scripture so she wouldn't have these responsibilities? Then you target me for being judgmental but then your doing the same thing about her being depressed. How do you know?

        I'm not attacking her. I'm sure she was a great person but this issue is really bigger than her. Its about Religion.
        • thumb
          Nov 18 2011: But prayer was never a factor, what God she believes is not important but obvious. The dogmas are/were the concern. The dogma of taking blood.

          It has to do with her religion, but more her belief systems which is not just the religious ones.

          I believe you do not understand the mind of God, thus why you feel this woman so unintelligible. I hate to use the phrase religiosity, but that is what it concerns. The emotions created by a communal awareness and acceptance of beliefs; religion would not exist without the communal practices. She just doesn't believe this, many of her friends and family do too. The capacity to make choices outside of this community is tainted therefore it would be going outside of something bigger than her physically, not even just with God. To take the blood would be her denying all her friends and families beliefs, not just hers. This is the problem, not the belief or the religion itself.

          Religions are what they are due to a sense of community not because of a sense of knowing.

          What I meant to say is I know depression is contagious. Had that woman been forced to take blood, her kids would suffer along with her while being alive. They are better off having no mother than a mother that will bring them down to dysphoria.

          I don't understand how you got that from my statement, but I was considering the children for the first time.

          I understand, but to say that it was wrong for her to refuse the blood is the foul. It wasn't her choice, she gave up her choices when she became a servant of her religion. When she became apart of something bigger than her in her own mind. This affect of religion is good as it is awful but it should be understood as such and not as the actual religion as the problem. The individuals in the communities that internalize these beliefs are a problem, but again, through acceptance comes connections not through dictating superior ethics.

          Sorry if anything is coming off jerk-ish.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: B. Renyolds,

      That is very true what you say..What will give this topic much credence is the fact that she was a Jehovah Witness so some of us would automatically feel compelled to have to respect the beliefs of this individual and resort to relativist arguments and claim that "who are we to question her....".

      But I'm sure if it said that she was a practicing pagan who refused a blood transfusion because she talked to Zeus the day before or if she refused blood because she did not want the responsibility of taking care of her children we would have not hesitated to claim that she was delusional or irresponsible. In this sense we would have been very objective and have no problem stating that her actions were wrong or misguided.

      It really is a matter of what is accepted by the status quo
  • thumb
    Nov 16 2011: Elements of importance:
    1) Did the wife share this point of view?
    2) What would the estimated quality of life have been for them if they did the blood transfusion?

    To answer such questions, I do prefer a casuistic approach. As rules of thumb are insufficient for particular cases.
    Though it evokes question "right to rot"... In how far can we allow people to let them go through self-caused or self-chosen suffering? And how far can we oblige people to conduct in a way we think is strictly better?

    In this case:
    * if both the man and woman would see it both impossible to have a worthwhile life after such a transfusion and if we don't have the means or resolve to alleviate them of such traumatic experience, we should let her die.
    * If the woman would have wanted it, and he refused: that's a crime.
    * If we forced the transfusion and helped them from their faith (effectively "kicking" out the faith out of them, and helping them to become enlightened, probably un-brainwashing the whole local group of witnesses): that would have been the ideal situation. [Though that would evoke too much resistance; though there are limits to allowing certain practices, religious or not].
    * From a practical point of view: zero care: let them have what they want, enough more important problems in this world (or personal problems for that matter ;-) ).

    When it comes to children: that is another matter: society has more rights to interfere on behalf of the child, if the parents do immoral or unacceptable acts: Like refusing inoculation: very dangerous to do so, as it can cause the re-entry of certain pathogens in the whole population.
    • thumb
      Nov 16 2011: The original question goes to where the decision making authority should lie in cases where the patient is unable to decide on their own. Aren't there only three possible answers? 1) Medical workers. 2) Social workers. 3) Designated representative.
      Medical workers will comply to the Hippocratic Oath and hospital policy.
      Social workers will comply to established legal procedure.
      A Designated representative will comply to the express wishes of the patient.
      I think the decision making authority should go to: Designated representative first; Medical workers second; and Social workers third.
      • thumb
        Nov 16 2011: In such a case, those people should decide for themselves what they should do, given their own moral judgement...
        I cannot decide for them, only give my perspective.

        The specific laws they need to obey (according to oaths or local laws) is something that will weigh in their considerations, but can often be interpreted in different ways (rationalizing post hoc), hence that will never give a clear-cut answer.
        • thumb
          Nov 16 2011: Bear with me Christophe. By "those people" do you mean the medical and social workers and the designated representative? It seems too chaotic to allow professionals to decide for themselves without regard for employer or agency policy /or professional standards? Those who subscribe to the policies and procedures of their employers are not free to rationalize about the intent of those rules and act as they please. Why is it not true that the ideal person to make life or death decisions for an incapacitated patient is a loved one?
      • thumb
        Nov 16 2011: It might seem chaotic, but that's how it goes: you can either hide behind rules (and if you don't agree, you can separate it and rationalize that it was an "order"), or you can do what you think is right (and feel the discomfort of disobeying rules, and the responsibility it implies).

        As I indicated: rules of thumb and laws cannot (ever) make a clear cut distinction or decision rule of what to do and when (as it is always incomplete or too general for all cases for which it applies,... reason why we have judges in the first place)
        So whenever you brake a rule (and I think you only do it when you really have personal reasons to do so - making abstraction of the morality of them- ), you should try and consider the consequences.

        As for this particular case: I don't know Australian law or the ethical guidelines the social or medical workers (and representatives) they have to follow (I think a lot of those guidelines probably make sense).... Depending on the emphasis of freedom of treatment or non-treatment, that would make the difference in this case.

        I don't mean to imply that morality is relative, but I do feel strong that anybody who is placed in such a situation should take up his/her responsibility, given the case and given their own judgement.

        If you want to institutionalize more laws (making it harsher to disobey, as the punishment gets more severe for example), you could start a debate on the "right to rot" principle.

        As for the loved one: of course one makes different decisions for loved ones than for others (they are more precious). In this case, it depends on the amount of proof that there is that the woman did or did not want to receive a blood transfusion (probably depending on her faith in the jhwh sectarian rules). this takes me back to the principle of casuistic treatment of moral dilemma's...
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: It sounds like you advocate the ultimate autonomy of individuals over and against established protocol, rules and even law. I think that leads eventually to anarchy and chaos. I realize the holocaust was made possible by people blindly following orders, but that is, thankfully, a most extreme example. This issue is in a more decent, civilized time and place.
          If a person believes my camera will steal their spirit I believe I am obligated to honor their convictions and not photograph them. Blood transfusions, spirit stealing cameras, etc. no matter how much I disagree with their beliefs, I do not have the right to disregard them in favor of my own preference.
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: Following your conversation I'd like to know your opinion of the scenario Chris hinted at: the husband goes to get a coffee, the doctor performs a transfusion against the husband's express wishes and the wife lives and wakes up healthy. At this point the husband, wife and doctor have all fulfilled their obligations to their moral and ethical convictions. Can we agree that this is the best answer?
      • thumb
        Nov 17 2011: Edward:
        If you read correctly, you see that the laws have a purpose, but that they are never complete (and human made). Agreeing on laws is a sensible thing to do, so that tends to reduce chaos.
        The law will stop you if you go too far...

        As for disregarding others beliefs: well, you don't have to respect other's beliefs (as they can conflict), though being diplomatic about them is a good thing.
        If I believe that I have to take pictures so those people's souls are saved for example, or that it is highly valuable to document that tribe visually. If I would take the pictures (bringing in the chaos), then I need to take in mind that I might get lynched, so I'll either be very carefull, try to convince them, or forego my plans and feel miserable about it...

        Your answer holds if the truth does not come to light for the husband (and the wife)... My personal value of truth is quite high, so that seems problematic. But from pragmatic perspective, it might be one of the better (and cost efficient) answers
        • thumb
          Nov 17 2011: We seem to have evolved into a discussion of the appropriateness of countermanding the express wishes of another person. You say a person has the right to ignore or modify another person's expressed wish (no transfusion, no photograph, etc.),
          I say the wishes of a person are not to be disregarded unless they are found to be unlawful.
          B.Reynolds, above, asks if his scenario is win-win-win. If the husband believes his wife's soul has been drained from her, even though she is recovered physically, that is a loss for him and her. Thanks for the dialog Mr. Cop
  • thumb
    Nov 16 2011: In California, a poor man jumped off a bridge onto the flow of traffic of a heavy freeway. He broke both of his legs caused severe wrecks, and could never walk again. The state of California spent nearly a million tax dollars fixing him up, and putting him in six months of psychiatric care. They spent even more money designing these giant constructions that made it more difficult to jump off the bridges. The day he got out, he climbed on top of one of the constructions and successfully ended his life.

    Did the state of California torture this man, with my money? As well as waste a bunch of it? It sounds very tangential... but really it's a similar matter of should we be forced to save the stupid, the crazy, and the miserable. Is it societies fault that these people don't want to take blood transfusions? Or is it their own dumb choice of freedom of religion. Is it even moral to save someone this stupid in todays society? Aren't we slowing down the progress of evolution, by continuing to try and carry, fix, and force into competence, all of these people that basically want to die. What if, she survived and they had another kid... Does society win?

    In short my answer is that is was wrong for him to deny his wife a blood transfusion, but it was right, in my opinion for society to let him. People should be free to be stupid. As it relates to a child, I have to immediately sympathize with forcing the transfusion... but at the same time, the darkest part of my heart thinks "survival of the fittest, this kids going to grow up and raise another generation of idiots that refuse to believe in science, why should we force everyone to make him live?"
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: Nice David. I get your drift. You make me laugh. A colleague of mine is also in favor of improving the gene pool. I work with at risk youth who are always making poor decisions and i suspect it will continue down the line. I find myself compelled to interfere. To brake up the fight to intervene. A born rescuer. I like your story. Thanks.
      • thumb
        Nov 18 2011: There's nothing more noble than to interfere when you can help someone. With kids, I would suggest, there are times when their bad decisions, have instant negative consequences, that teach them lessons, without being too dangerous... American parents have had a lot of difficulty dealing with those situations lately, we're a little too coddling. Sometimes it's good to let them cross the line just a little, let the world smack them down a bit, instead of you for once, to reallign their principles. What a tightrope act though. Best of luck to ya.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: It's a good story David, and makes a fair point. Personally I'm in favor of letting people kill themselves.

      Still, there's really nothing different about a person the last day of being 17 and the first day of being 18, but I suspect that many of you feel the way I feel... that if a child one day shy of 18 shouldn't be able to override his parent's wish in the reverse situation where the child DIDN'T want the transfusion but the parent did. Somehow there's something about that carefully crafted illusion of "adultness" that allows us to be ok with an act that we all really wouldn't see as materially different if it had happened a day later. That feels like a coping mechanism we all agree to, so I have to question the idea's moral underpinnings.

      Second, as I said I'm all for letting people off themselves, but I suspect there's evidence that allowing this in cases of the young and (otherwise) healthy creates enough residual harm (i.e. additional suicides/deaths in the community) that it's worth keeping illegal despite my beliefs. As evidence of we can look to places like Japan, which has some extreme examples and good data.

      As an aside, can we all agree politely to not call this Darwinism? I think it does a disservice to Darwin who would have agreed that the belief systems these people are brought up with aren't dependent on their genetic base. I think it also hurts the cause of reason when we invoke Darwin at the death of some poor fool who was indoctrinated in a culture the vilifies reason.
      • thumb
        Nov 18 2011: That's a really fair point, I often forget... It is very difficult to call it Darwinian... I think some people would argue, that, in essence, stupidity is genetic, and smart people who grow up in cultures that villify reason, leave... I wouldn't typically fall into that camp though. So, I think you're right its more socially darwinian than genetically.

        Also I'll point out, that the point I was making, ultimately, is a joke... I mean, the reallistic alternative, is to just let the guy bleed to death in front of people the first time, and I'd never be okay with an ambulance doing that. Sometimes it bothers me though how much effort, or money gets spent on some of these people though... Just like Fuck, I won't make that in my life.

        In California I could totally see the Jehova's witness waking up and suing the hospital, the doctor, and the state, for saving her life and interfering with here path to the lord. Some people are just crazy : p
    • thumb
      Nov 18 2011: Great points David and I like the honesty.

      That is almost the same argument that I am making. I really think its time that religious views should not get such protection and prestige.

      If another women refuses medical treatment because of the tooth fairy and her husband backs her up for this, the state would not have hesitated to take their children away. I think it is time that some religious views get the same treatment being that there is no more evidence that Jehovah exist as opposed to the tooth fairy and Santa.

      I do not want to sound redundant so I'll get to my point:

      Why do we label people insane or depressed or misinformed if they want to kill themselves for reasons other than religion but if it is for religious reasons they become a tragic hero? Also it is thought to be sin that if we decide to take our own lives but if its in the name of god its ok? If that is the case, then this sort of god is grotesque.

      As hard as it for me to say it this, if people want to die, then religious reasons should not stop them but at the same time religious reasons should not be a justification for taking ones life as well.

      You guys are right as well. Its has nothing to do with evolution but all to do with social norms.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: As I get older, I realize that there are so many problems to address in this world that I think we need to prioritize them by the ones we can solve. I loved Bjorn Lomberg's talk which I have posted below which influenced me to think in terms of prioritizing my own efforts.
    ( )

    I have said this because I cannot see how we can solve this issue of religious dogmatism. We live on a crowded planet where thousands are yearning for the right to live one more day and some are willing to throw their lives away. I would save my fight in cases like this for the children of such groups. If an adult wishes to test their religious convictions 'unto death' so be it - as long as it is their own death. Presumably, this woman communicated her wishes and convictions to her husband and to medical professionals before she was in extremis.

    I try to live a compassionate life but I do know people who would dub these sorts of acts as a 'stupid tax' or point to them as examples of the sorts of events that are eligible for the 'Darwin awards'. I just see them as sad.
  • thumb
    Nov 27 2011: Hi Phillip. Controversial topic indeed as seen in the many replies below.

    Let me stir the pot even a little further.

    I may be as far from you in the religious spectrum as it can be, but I commend your motives. You seem to give life a high value and I can find common ground there.

    In the case of the jehova's witness, it is very likely that the wife's own decision was to be consistent with her beliefs. if she had stated otherwise i bet you it would have been immediately noted in the media.

    But I would ask you to keep that feeling of sadness and unfairness that this particular case has caused you, and turn your attention to Afghanistan, or Iraq. Think about a children that is killed over there as collateral damage in the war on terror. Now multiply that feeling a few hundred or a few thousand times. Why is it that we do not hear people mourning those deaths and feeling sad and enraged by that injustice? Why is it that even people in the military sees those casualties as inevitable and those kids as "disposable" individuals?

    Media coverage, i suspect, holds the key. Our brains remember what is repeated to them often. And something we can recall easier (once a memory has been formed) is considered more probable and relevant than something hear only sporadically. Should media give the same amount of air time (and pages) to each one of these kids as they gave to this particular jehova's witness?

    What does it say about us as a society when we accept this disproportionate coverage as normal?
    • thumb
      Nov 28 2011: I agree Andres,, perhaps thiis is a question you could ask more generally on the forum.
  • thumb
    Nov 22 2011: Hi Phillip

    I am a Bible Believing Christian. The JW's have no biblical authority for this practice. I thought it had been abandoned a couple of years ago, but perhaps not.

    I think that people should be given as much freedom of belief & practice as possible. So called Christian countries are historically very tolerant & this is good. I think the crux of the matter here is 'What did the wife think?'. Was she willing to die to fulfill her commitment ? If yes, then I would respect her wishes. Personally I would not go on the say so of the husband, or anyone else. Same with children. If they are young then they should be saved if possible, regardless of the parent's wishes. In short; I would need to be convinced of the wishes of the person at risk.

    As a Christian I can understand this practice to a degree. This life is short & eternity for me is a great place. If I had some painful disease & died, I certainly wouldn't want resuscitated; although I am happy to wait for my natural departure rather than be euthanized . Many Christians have, & continue to, die for their faith. There are biblical reasons why this is necessary, but blood transfusions isn't one of them.

    Just for information. Christians believe that Jesus is God; JW's believe Jesus is an angel. Any resemblance to Christianity is purely in the eye of the beholder.

    • thumb
      Nov 22 2011: Quote: "So called Christian countries are historically very tolerant."

      Peter who made you believe this?

      Quote: "Christians believe that Jesus is God."

      Christians believe in the trinity by which God is manifest as: The Father, The Sun and The Holy Ghost.

      A luckily fast dwindling groups of severe Christians in Holland prohibited any vaccination and blood transfusion. They trust in God and don't defy His Will.

      If you believe don't do it half way but all the way.
      • thumb
        Nov 23 2011: Hi Frans

        "Peter who made you believe this?"

        Europe & the US were founded on Christianity & are tolerant of most views. Nobody taught me that, I would have thought it was obvious.

        Yes; the father, Son, & Holy Ghost are each God. We are in agreement.

        I am glad they are fast-dwindling too.

        I go as far as I can; but there is no biblical sanction for withholding medical treatment that I know of.

        Why do you insist on judging Christians by the rare crazies ? The same accusations could be made against any belief system; it's a straw man.

        • thumb
          Nov 23 2011: There was little tolerance Peter in Christianity and in some places still isn't.
          Around the sixties this changed for the better.
          Even amongst different Christian churches there was total separation.
          Maybe you look into it.
      • thumb
        Nov 24 2011: Hi Frans

        I agree that the "Christian Church" is often ruled by those who do not act in a Christian manner. Jesus himself found them a bit awkward to deal with. Often they have killed Christians for not towing the line.

        However, in comparison with other faiths, I think we have done not too badly; but I am biased.

    • thumb
      Nov 27 2011: If Jesus was an ANGEL should he not embody the will of God?
  • thumb
    Nov 17 2011: I feel really bad for everyone impacted by this but

    It is quite obvious that this sort of behavior is wrong or should at least be put into question (if we are coming from an objective moral standpoint). It is correct in the context of her religion but sometimes I think morals and ethics are much more important than ones personal beliefs. I think that there are moral truths out there and that there are right and wrong ways to act within a given circumstance and I believe that it was indeed wrong due to the fact that the reasons for this were really unreasonable.

    Anyone can come up with all the relativist arguments that they want but in the end this really comes to show how beliefs have consequences.

    If I read the correct article on this topic (correct me if I'm wrong) the women signed a form stating that she would refuse getting a blood transfusion if it was ever needed. She did not think about her children, her husband or loved ones. Plus the reason for her actions were really unsupported by any sort of evidence. The fact that a blood transfusion would have saved her life comes to show that god must have been mistaken when it came to his views on blood transfusions.

    I understand that she has certain beliefs about the world. She is of course entitled to believe what she want to believe in but once they start to impact the lives of others and question the legitimacy of medicine, I think it should be put into question.

    This really comes to show how religious beliefs and actions really are given a certain status because if I said I refused a blood transfusion because Jupiter is in Retrograde, everyone would have thought I was an insane.
  • Nov 17 2011: This goes against basic instinct, the teaching of the other roughly 3000 plus religions in the world, all marriage vows I am aware of if interpreted literally and I suspect all atheists would object as well.. On the other hand if he is right he and she may be reunited in Heaven.....but the odds may not be in his favor given the number of religions most of whom profess to have the one true God.....and that assumes there is a God. Given church and state are separated if a doctor denied a patient he would be guilty of manslaughter at the least. What holds this him safe from prosecution? A paradox inside a puzzle in Pandora's box....which translates to where is law, man's humanity, etc.......
  • thumb
    Nov 16 2011: I think Chris only needed #1

    *If the woman would be unhappy living knowing she has committed a foul deed to herself, the death being allowed is just. Forcing a life to live that has achieved and is suffering from dysphoria, is arguably more immoral than ending their life "early."

    *If both the man and woman accept these beliefs as truths, reality and/or the "way," whom is to 1. deny their rights of belief 2. question their beliefs 3. take away their beliefs and/or 4. overall complicate their life choices/styles.

    Absolutely, if the wife was in agreement, there is nothing wrong with this death.

    Yes, we can all play ethics and say "it is wrong because a life has value, it has no price!" or "we should be over-people, godly-people, uber-people, strive to be more then the savage ape men we evolved from" or the classic "do not do to other what you do not want done to you"

    But, we are limited by being ONE perspective and to think our belief systems are superior to others is erroneous. No matter how much you read and comprehend Plato, Nietzsche, Descartes, Confucius, and so on... Ethics and philosophies need to adapt with cultures as much as cultures need to adapt with ethics and philosophies.

    Let's just hope in the future, religious people realize all the big questions, shouldn't be answered. The same joy of accepting God can come from accepting ignorance.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: Answering your question: whom is to question their beliefs take away their belief and complicate their lives?
      I am.
      Ideas and beliefs don't need protection, people do.
      • thumb
        Nov 17 2011: Good luck taking away their belief, in fact, by attempting to do so, you only make an enemy.

        That person puts their heart into those beliefs to defend, live and understand their lives; existentially that makes who they are their beliefs and taking away them, takes away who they are as a person. Ultimately they will/would suffer dysphoria due to the inability to live their life styles.. Which is in no way protecting the person.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: All that said - there being in existence some formal legal authorisation that recognises the person suffering has requested not to receive a particular life prolonging treatment (such as this blood transfusion) and the husband is requested to confirm (i.e. a final request because a next of kin can speak on behalf of and override the patient's decision who is not conscious) then the decision becomes subjective to a moral code. The conscious partner only has the right to decide in favour of life (usually) although sometimes with coma victims etc. it can go the other way when the patient is suffering or will not have sufficient quality of life. Really 'right to life' is the most fundamental of all human rights and others should not emotively assume to know the power to decide the fate of another without objective legal appraisal and/or ruling by authority. Religious grounds especially as this is not a physical suffering or impairment to quality of life. Some people move through religious practice and dominations without long term commitment - to others religious adherence is critical to survival. We cannot project our emotive opinions on such matters if there is to be a base of agreed fundamental rights asserted as entitlements to all humans. As soon as we individually start 'deciding' others rights ourselves - we are acting outside of compassionate objectivity that respects the greater good of human society. We then lose sight of having a law that was asserted for protection of all.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: One cannot justify anything because of religious beliefs in a democracy.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: .
    It is completely relative and based on one's perception.

    If we follow "My Guide for Doing What's Best for the Good Cause of Other People", then it's wrong, because u should never sit idle, watching "an innocent" die, when there's an action one can take to prevent loss of life. This however, is merely MY perception.

    I also believe that women should never unwillingly have their gentiles mutilated or be forced into sex, however, there are billions of muslems who would disagree and a smaller number that would wish to kill me, simply for harboring such thoughts.

    I also believe it is wrong to pin-down a young boy and mutilate his body, however, there are many tribes that live by way of viewing aid act as a right-of-passage into manhood.

    There can not be a correct one-size-fits-all answer for relative questions, however, My Guide outlines what IS right and what is wrong for all humanity and it's loosely constant with how the UN defines human rights.

    Your Guide and The Guide Of Others will have differing mileage !! :)
  • thumb
    Nov 23 2011: I have a question. How do we begin to have a conversation about moral or ethical issues if we cannot come to an objective understanding about what is right and what is wrong? Seems a little defeatist to me. Person A says this person B says that. What is the measuring scale here? I am finding it more difficult to participate in coversations like this. I would like to but don't know how.
    • thumb
      Nov 23 2011: Hi Jacob, good point. In times past the West went by broadly biblical standards. 10 commandments & all that. Today that is no longer the case; we seem to have kept the "Golden Rule"(Do unto others ....etc), but the rest is up for grabs. Often the loudest wins; dangerous situation.

  • thumb
    Nov 22 2011: I guess this debate has run its course though we could go on. I have appreciated and learned from each view. Each belief. What should I believe? And do i have choice in my beliefs. I like to believe i think freely. But I'm sure I am biased.
    Thankyou Nick, Orlando, B. Reynolds, David, Edward, Christoph and Vivienne for your thoughts. Alas I am left no wiser.
    I am left with feelings that i hope are pure and right. I am left with sadness. Sadness that a person may have lived and is now dead. Left with the grief of the family. The family are not rejoicing their beliefs now. I suspect they are questioning them. the religions i am aware of usually compromise free thinking. They partition the mind and stunt growth. And as in this case they leed to catastrophe. Though i believe in euthenasia as a humane course of action I think the deatails of this story do not fall into such a category. Perhaps my bias is being revealed but it is one i happily embrace - Life. Until is is intolerable, we should seize it. What questions will the children of this woman and man be asking? And what beliefs should force a child to ask such questions?
    • thumb
      Nov 22 2011: This is where public education should play a course and have world religions (perhaps world history) as a required course. Children will be able to compare and contrast for themselves all the religions of the world. In doing so will learn ancient philosophies and how they influence(d) the past and today.

      Religions came to be because masses (groups of patrons) accepted these philosophies as the end-all answers to the big life questions. The differences lay in the details. The major eastern religions do not accept certainties that do not involve human life (God question is still open). The major western/middle east religions are fundamental; they do not want change and have all the answers.

      So do not attack the religious beliefs of adults. Broaden the religious knowledge of the children.

      Perhaps these children will abandon their handed down faith and look else where for acceptance. OR it will strengthen their beliefs and influence more children under this faith.
  • thumb
    Nov 17 2011: Can we turn this argument around for a minute? What if, after receiving training as a doctor, a man refused to conduct a transfusion for two willing patients because of a religious conversion? Would he not be held a murderer in the eyes of the law? What's the difference?
  • thumb
    Nov 17 2011: Thanks Christophe. Apparently the wife did share the same point of view. and a full recovery might have been expected if she did receive the transfusion. However, tell me right there and then you will die if you dont have this blood transfusion, and i would change my mind. She didnt have that critical reality to weigh up. He did.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: He didn't change his mind and she was not conscious at that point I presume.
      I think legally he has the say in it (as husband)...

      I don't know if she would have changed her mind (if you really believe in something you are willing to die for, you'll die for it...maybe this was the case for her too). That's a missing part of the puzzle.

      I wonder how he thinks about it now (the husband). If he has piece of mind, all the better for him.
      If they had young children, it would make an impact on my evaluation. If they didn't and if they did not have other responsibilities (mainly in their community) to speak of... I would not start a case.

      As for right and wrong: there will stay arguments for both of them. In this particular case I wouldn't say what happened is wrong... a person died out of conviction, and others respected that.
      It's not right in a sense that those people held false beliefs that influenced their view on medical technology... and that's sad.

      As for measures: if you wish to prevent such things from happening, you will need a broad consensus on what people should learn or culturally incorporate and add it to an obligatory education program. But then you should do this for all equal or comparable things... which is quite difficult to achieve.
      I'm an advocate of such form of enlightenment, but I'm not willing to die for it if there is no broad consensus for it.
  • thumb
    Nov 16 2011: If there is a god and his belief in that god, told him it is not right to give his wife the transfusion then by all means he is right. However if there is no god, then it would follow that what he did was wrong. As the transfusion might have saved his wifes life and therefore he or the doctors were bound to do all they could otherwise it is wrongful death. Now the question is. Is there a god or not.
  • thumb
    Nov 16 2011: Is assisted suicide legal there?
    And no, it can not be justified for a child with no recourse to decide on his/her own.
    • thumb
      Nov 17 2011: No assisted suicide is not legal here. Not yet.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: Perhaps this is not a religion-based issue. It may be a matter of something quite different. Imagine a socio-political arrangement where all decisions having to do with a person's health were made solely by government employees. Loved ones, family members, friends, even the patient,would have no power to influence a decision, whether minor or life-and-death. Should health issues be excluded from our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? If circumstances precluded me from deciding for myself, I would prefer the next person in the chain-of-command be someone who loves me. I would trust them to do right by me. This issue may be about love, not about right or wrong.
    • thumb
      Nov 16 2011: Yes - that is precisely why it is by necessity a 'legal' issue. People seem to confuse human legal rights as a systemic hard coded 'right or wrong' where an uneducated politician who has a policy book and no human compassion makes a decision. The law of human rights - is based on love - on compassion - it is derived on natural law and it has been instilled to PROTECT yours and others right to life - not to make a dispassionate decision. The enforcement of human rights law only comes out of necessity when those rights have been breached and you suffer. A legal decision is an objective and trained consideration of your individual case and circumstances - any evidence presented by parties to confirm or deny the breach. If your wishes are to die - then this is considered legitimately. Human Rights law is there to protect you from callous government employees in the justice system.

      I can give you a direct example. I have suffered in my life what is described as a 'permanent degrading and debilitating illness'. In early episodes it was mis diagnosed. Now it has been labelled as Multiple Schlerosis-Neuro Physiological Condition. Every decade or so I have had a collapse - each more severe and crippling. After major life threatening collapse 3 years ago I started to remiss last year and attended a legal conference in India and Genocide research. On my return to Australia I had a one week stop in Bali to arrange Peace project matters for this year. In India I caught tropical virus and in Bali I collapsed. I was relying on my government to assist me. Instead I was attacked by that govt employee who told me to beg on the street rather than help me get to hospital. My familiy in a different country were out of contact. I was left to die. This was a breach of my human right to life by my govt. and has resulted in severe internal damage. But friends and family helped and I survived. The decision was overturned and I slowly recover. Intl law has protected me
      • thumb
        Nov 16 2011: All we need is love. Love is the answer. Your family and friends love you and helped rescue you from the grasp of heartless bureaucracy. Thanks Vivienne for sharing your fantastic story.
        Alfred Adler said this: "There is a law that man should love his neighbor as himself. In a few years it should be as natural to mankind as breathing or the upright gait; but if he does not learn it he must perish."
    • thumb
      Nov 16 2011: If you take 'the law' of Universal Human Rights away and let anyone make decisions about your life - imagine how vulnerable you are to attack and abuse.
      In my case - the government employees ganged up on me and instead of trying to find a support for me - started to muck rake and make behind the scenes aspersions about my character - because they knew they had made the mistake and the breach via a subjective policy decision was a criminal breach not a civil one - leaving them open for prosecution. So 'they' those involved lodged a campaign to say wasnt sick and all sorts of rubbish to justify themselves rather than to help me live. And those in society supported them because they were 'the government' and it was a first world democracy - who do not behave with xenophobic abuse and criminal intent against a citizen - vulnerable and in their care and jurisdictional protection for that duty to uphold human right to life. Had there been no 'law' I would not be alive. Many would not care - but there are others who love me - and I still have personal purpose to keep my mortal form longer - and assert an equal right to be here. Regardless - those people who ganged up on me caused me considerable damage to person and reputation.

      Imagine a situation where a wife or husband is degrading with cancer and the partner coerces them to 'sign' a document to say they refuse a treatment and want to die (because they want the insurance payout). The partner when the person is unconscious is then asked if they will approve the operation and they say 'no' it was not their spouse' wishes.
      You seem to think that people close to another will make a clear decision in their best interest - they don't. Consider the mother who killed her daughter who had cancer in the bath - justifying it by saying she was suffering (and she was). The woman fried her with a hairdryer in the bathtub - a cruel and painful death. Possibly she was emotionally distraught and fed up -but what a way to act
      • thumb
        Nov 16 2011: Mahatma Gandi said: "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave." Vivienne, yours is a story of courage born of love.
        The original question was about a man who made a courageous (arguably wrong) decision about his helpless wife's medical treatment. The assumption is that she died because of his decision. She might have died even with the transfusion, or she might have lived without it. Only God knows.
        I say let freedom ring!
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: This issue is akin to the right of individuals in terminal illness situations to have someone deliver them a quick release from mortality - without being charged for manslaughter or murder. First - to separate the matter of child. Universal human rights places the welfare of the child and those weak and vulnerable over any parental or other authority. In other words - parents cannot interfere with the child's individual right to life. The court can and often does decide on the right to life of a child (such as cases of separating Siamese twins).

    To the rest of your question I believe that this issue is more about legal rights than moral ethics. What I mean is if the member of the JW is the one who refuses the blood transfusion due to religious belief he/she does and should have the power to make such a decision (it is their right to refuse an operation for example, knowing the consequences) - unless not of sound mind or another reason that may have caused the person to make a decision that would normally be outside their usual behaviour (such as coercion from a partner or threat by another). This is why when a person leaves a note or statement of wishes is made prior to the event by the person concerned - it becomes a matter for the court to decide if that person was really acting in full clarity.

    But no person whether husband, wife, parent or other has the right to interfere with another person's right to life. The matter becomes complicated when the person in question is unable to speak for themselves. In this circumstance - if any decision is to be made at all - it is in the hands of the court and legal determination based on specific case, facts and any precedent, authority, rulings etc.

    Its around right to life - not right to kill. It becomes more complex because professionals (e.g. doctors) are in a strict liability category to act in the best interests of the patient's right to life. If a person leaves a note a doctor still maybe held liable.
  • thumb
    Nov 15 2011: Its not nice but if those were her final wishes then her husband was right to respect them