CME Module 4: Blood Tranfusions and the Jehovah's Witnesses Patient Next >




There are about six million Jehovah’s Witnesses world-wide, with approximately one million in the USA and about 148,000 in Canada. Traditionally, orthodox Jehovah’s Witnesses will not accept homologous or autologous whole blood, packed red blood cells, plasma, platelets and white blood cells, even when "clinically necessary" [1-4]. This can result in a challenging dilemma for physicians because a routine, safe, and potentially life-saving medical intervention is unacceptable to the patient [5-11]. Anesthesiologists are particularly affected because they are almost always responsible for intraoperative transfusion management. This sometimes puts anesthesiologists and other clinicians in highly unusual clinical situations [12-15]. For example, the treatment of cancer with chemotherapy often requires the transfusion of blood components. The availability of platelet and leukocyte concentrates starting in the late 1960s dramatically improved the care of oncology patients by permitting higher doses of chemotherapeutic agents to be used. This, in turn, presented special challenges in the management of cancer patients who were practicing Jehovah's Witnesses.


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