Community of Jehova Witnesses
Dear fellow caregivers,
You have a patient who is a member of the Jehovah’s Witness community.
Here is a list of useful information to know in the context of their medical care.
● Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions and prefer alternative medicine.
● Many Jehovah’s Witnesses do, however, allow the use of albumin as an alternative, a protein made by the liver and released into the bloodstream.
● Although there has been a historical ban on vaccines, Jehovah’s Witnesses now have a more neutral position. They do not condone but no longer prohibit the practice.
● Jehovah’s Witnesses must spread the word of God on a regular basis.
● The family is hierarchized in a patriarchal way and the father always makes the final decision.
● Jehovah’s Witnesses do not gamble. Entertainment and comfort, including sexuality, materialism, spiritism, or violence, are discouraged.
Beliefs, Practices & Rituals
● Jehovah’s Witnesses follow traditional Christian beliefs.
● Like many Christian communities, local congregations meet in places of worship.
● In addition to these gatherings, Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to read the Bible daily and study it at home with their families.
● They commemorate the death of Christ by eating the Lord’s Supper. The date varies each year.
● Jehovah’s Witnesses lead a healthy lifestyle, but there is no specific ban on food.
● They are not allowed to smoke.
● Alcohol is allowed but in moderation.
Pregnancy and motherhood
● For Jehovah’s Witnesses, life is sacred. In no case is termination of pregnancy allowed. Contraception is authorized or even recommended with the exception of abortion methods.
● There is no infant baptism.
● Medically assisted procreation (MAP) is accepted, without a donor external to the couple.
● During illness, Jehovah’s Witnesses may wish to organize a “congregational book study,” in which members meet in small groups to discuss spiritual matters.
● Jehovah’s Witnesses think that customs concerning death and ghosts are evil.
● Organ donation is allowed, it is the decision of the individual. However, all blood must be removed prior to transplantation.
● Except in case of emergency hospitalization, the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is aware of a case of illness and surrounds the hospitalized believer.
● Suffering is in no way seen as a punishment. Therefore, it is recommended to ask the patient’s agreement before using so-called “comfort” medication.
While riding a horse, a 37-year-old woman fell on a tree stump, causing serious internal injuries. At the hospital, doctors had to perform an operation and removed a kidney. The patient needed a blood transfusion to be saved. However, she had a medical alert card on her identifying her as a Jehovah’s Witness and stating that she should not receive blood under any circumstances. However, the doctor felt compelled by his oath to save lives. When the hospital could not locate her husband, the doctor decided to transfuse her. This action saved the patient’s life, but she was not grateful because the doctor did not respect her wishes. She sued her doctor for assault and battery and won $20,000.
A patient was losing large amounts of blood very quickly as a result of gastrointestinal bleeding. He was unresponsive and unable to make decisions about his care. The situation was particularly complicated because he was a Jehovah’s Witness and desperately needed blood. His wife, who was also a Jehovah’s Witness, understood how critical his condition was, but would not allow the health care staff to administer a blood transfusion. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, allow the use of albumin, a protein made by the liver and released into the bloodstream, as an alternative. Doctors who spoke to the patient’s wife stressed the importance of giving albumin to her husband, but she still refused. A nurse decided to take a slightly different approach with this woman. She began the conversation by telling her that she respected and understood her beliefs, and then went on to explain why it might be beneficial to treat her husband with albumin. This time his wife agreed to the procedure.
Cleveland Clinic – Diversity Toolkit
Geri-Ann Galanti – Caring for patients from different cultures, 5ème édition
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Direction des soins – Témoins de Jéhovah