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N C Med J. 2007 Sep-Oct;68(5):312-6.

Urgent medical decision making regarding a Jehovah's Witness minor: a case report and discussion.

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Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Internal Medicine, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, USA.



Physicians strive to respect the autonomy of patients. The emergent care of Jehovah's Witnesses, however, leaves health care providers struggling with ethical and legal questions. These are further compounded when the patient in question is a minor.


A girl aged 15 years presented with anemia, a large ovarian mass, massive hemoperitoneum, and parents who were devout Jehovah's Witnesses who refused administration of blood products. Following discussion of the patient's condition and treatment options with the patient, her family, members of the treatment team, and consultants, the patient was transferred to a hospital that offered a blood conservation program for surgical patients. The patient received surgical management without the need for blood transfusion. Her surgeons, however, reserved the legal right to give blood if an emergent need arose despite the lack of parental consent.


Society grants considerable legal latitude in dealing with Jehovah's Witness minors, and physicians must be aware of the legal and ethical parameters surrounding the care of such patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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