Doctor under fire after saving woman's life

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17:47 CET+01:00
A doctor at Sørlandet hospital in southern Norway has come in for heavy criticism after giving a woman a blood transfusion despite her written request not to receive the treatment under any circumstances.

The 30-year-old woman, a Jehovah’s Witness, was given blood by the doctor after complications arose as she gave birth to her second child in the summer of 2010, newspaper Fædrelandsvennen reports.  

Local patient rights official Eli Gotteberg has now called on the Norwegian Board of Health Supervision to launch an inquiry into whether the doctor violated the patient’s rights.

Although the doctor’s action may have saved her life, the woman reserved the right to refuse treatment if she wished, Gotteberg said. She added that physicians could decline in advance to treat Jehovah’s Witnesses if they felt this created the kind of ethical dilemmas they would rather avoid.

“Wherever the Bible is clear, we aim to adhere strictly to it,” said Jehovah’s Witness spokesman Tom Frisvold.

“And the Bible is very clear that people should refrain from blood, through food or injection.”

Frisvold added that it was customary for Norwegian hospitals to respect patients' requests not to be given blood.

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Sørlandet hospital informed the doctor that he had acted improperly when he failed to take swift action to halt the woman’s bleeding. Had he heeded requests by the woman and her husband to have her taken immediately to an operating theatre, she would likely not have lost so much blood that the situation became life-threatening. The doctor no longer employed at the hospital.

The woman and her child both survived and are in good health, Gotteberg said.

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