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Am J Hematol. 2017 Dec;92(12):1370-1381. doi: 10.1002/ajh.24889. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Treatment of individuals who cannot receive blood products for religious or other reasons.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon.
Patient Blood Management Program, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon.
Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Oregon Health and Science University, Knight Cancer Institute, Portland, Oregon.
School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon.


By virtue of their religious principles, Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) generally object to receiving blood products, raising numerous ethical, legal, and medical challenges for providers who care for these patients, especially in the emergent setting. In this review, we discuss several areas relevant to the care of JWs, including the current literature on "bloodless" medical care in the setting of perioperative and intraoperative management, acute blood loss, trauma, pregnancy, and malignancy. We have found that medical and administrative efforts in the form of bloodless medicine and surgery programs can be instrumental in helping to reduce risks of morbidity and mortality in these patients. Planning prior to an anticipated event associated with blood loss or anemia (such as elective surgery, pregnancy, and chemotherapy) is critical. Specifically, bloodless medicine programs should prioritize vigilant early screening and management of anemias, early establishment of patient wishes regarding transfusion, and the incorporation of those wishes into multidisciplinary medical and surgical care. Although there are now a variety of human-based and nonhuman-based products available as transfusion alternatives, the degree and quality of evidence to support their use varies significantly between products and is also largely dependent on the clinical setting.

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