Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse transfusion based on strong religious beliefs. Despite this, blood bankers must be prepared to assist in their care.

Jed Gorlin, MD

Dr. Jed Gorlin

There’s a pretty good chance that most of you are not overly familiar with such texts as Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10, Deuteronomy 12:23, or Acts 15:28, 29 (don’t worry, this episode is not a theological discussion!). To Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, those four texts form the core of their belief that blood transfusion is forbidden (for more detail, see the Witnesses web site for several discussions on blood transfusion).

How Does This Impact Blood Bankers?

When a patient shows up at a medical facility and says, “I am a Jehovah’s Witness and I do not want any transfusion whatsoever,” clinical providers may find themselves unsure of how to proceed. Since there are over 8.5 million Witnesses worldwide, it is almost inevitable that most facilities will face this issue at some point. Somewhat ironically, Transfusion Medicine professionals are often asked for their “expert” opinions on what to do with patients who actually refuse most of the blood products we provide!

Why Discuss This Here?

In these often-challenging situations, I believe it is essential that those of us who work in Transfusion Medicine be aware of the issues our clinical colleagues face with patients who refuse transfusion. Blood bankers can often help ensure that Witnesses receive compassionate, respectful, and excellent care, and there is much we can learn from them. There are also nuances to the transfusion prohibition (such as a general acceptance of “derivatives” which may include coagulation factors and even cryoprecipitate), and we would be wise to understand the general principles. I asked Jed Gorlin, Medical Director at Innovative Blood Resources, to share his expertise in these settings with you.

About My Guest:

Dr. Jed Gorlin received his BS from Stanford and his MD from Yale. He is board-certified in Pediatrics and Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine. He is Medical Director and Vice President, Quality and Regulatory Affairs at Innovative Blood Resources. Jed’s duties include Memorial Blood Centers in Minnesota, Nebraska Community Blood Bank, the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City in Kansas City, MO. He has served in various leadership roles with AABB through his more than 20 years in Transfusion Medicine, including Chair of the Standards Committee for the 20th and 21st editions of AABB Standards, and as an AABB board member. He is a chapter contributor to 21 published books and anthologies, and author or co-author of over 120 published papers and abstracts.

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DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed on this episode are those of my guest and I alone. Statements made on this podcast are not official opinions of the organizations with which either of us is affiliated. Neither Dr. Gorlin nor I have any relevant financial disclosures.

Music Credit

Music for this episode includes “Cuando te invade el temor” and “Reflejo,” both by Mar Virtual via the Free Music Archive. Click the image below for permissions and license details.
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