Muddy Waters of Autonomy, Consent, and Faith

DependentsIn Australia, a judge has ordered that a pregnant teenage who is a Jehovah’s Witness receive a blood transfusion should she need one when being induced to deliver her baby.

Why? “The court heard from experts who said that while the teenager had been very clear and consistent in her wishes she was influenced by a willingness to please her family and the community she was dependent on.” One expert testified that, “the girl could have been trying to seek approval from those around her after committing the ‘transgression’ of falling pregnant out of wedlock.”

Refusing a transfusion, as a medical expert testified, risked only the mother’s health, not the baby’s. She said that to receive a blood transfusion would be as psychologically distressful as someone raping her or committing some other act of violence to her.

Refusing treatment is an established right.  What if she refused a treatment for a reason other than her religious belief? No judge would be involved.

If she wanted to kill the child through abortion, no judge would be involved. How many abortions are done to hide a “dumb mistake?” With Oprah and the rest of the culture “shouting” their abortions, how many teens are looking to please those who think she would be stupid not to have an abortion? And then there are the ubiquitous boyfriends and parents demanding teens dependent on them get abortions.

How about assisted suicide? One Australian state, Victoria, has legalized PAS and others are debating it.  As we have seen since the Netherlands first legalized the practice, a growing segment of the medical community–from policy makers to insurers to clinicians–are becoming more insistent that patients “choose” that option.

Patients with serious illness become increasingly dependent on their medical teams and families as caretakers, far more so than the pregnant teenager the court decided was incapable of making an informed decision.  But opposing “aid in dying” is viewed as a faith-based principle by those who advocate for it, and that has been the case since the movement began 100 years ago.

Refuse a transfusion for religious reasons, your doctor will take you to court; refuse palliative care because you want control, your doctor will gladly help you commit suicide.