Jehovah’s Witnesses: Parents of comatose woman win dispute
Aug. 17, 2006
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Thursday August 17, 2006
The parents of a comatose Clinton woman won a legal dispute against the woman’s husband who has refused to permit a blood transfusion for his wife because it is against their religious beliefs.
Johnson County District Court Judge Marsha M. Beckelman appointed Richard Thomas Reid as “limited guardian” of his daughter, Tawnya Brooke Nissen. Court documents show Nissen, 27, is in the intensive care unit at University Hospitals in a medically induced coma.
Doctors there said Nissen could need an emergency blood transfusion should her condition worsen. Tawnya Nissen is in a coma because of a reaction to appetite suppressants, court records show.
Nissen’s husband, Chris Nissen, 31, has told physicians that he and his wife are Jehovah’s Witnesses and would not consent to a blood transfusion because the faith forbids it, court documents show. During a court hearing Monday, Chris Nissen testified that he is certain his wife would not want a blood transfusion based on statements she has made to him.
However, Beckelman sided with Tawnya Nissen’s family.
“It is impossible … for the court to definitively conclude that Ms. Nissen would either accept or decline blood transfusions should it become necessary to save her life,” Beckelman wrote in her four-page ruling. “The court agrees … that it would be in the best interests of Ms. Nissen to allow the guardianship in order to protect her life, pending her ability to make her own medical decisions.”
Beckelman also ruled that Tawnya Nissen’s family are allowed to visit her in the hospital but only Reid and Chris Nissen would be allowed at meetings to discuss Tawnya Nissen’s medical condition and treatment.
Chris Nissen’s lawyer, Frank Santiago of Iowa City, said he has yet to discuss a possible appeal with his client.
“We’re unhappy about it,” Santiago said of Beckelman’s ruling. “Of course our main concern is the interest of Tawnya, and we believe that the husband is in a better position to make sure that Tawnya received all the medical attention that she herself would want.”
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