Mary Stinemetz, 64, could get a liver transplant, one that would be paid for by Medicaid, at the University of Kansas Hospital.
But she also would have to compromise her Jehovah’s Witness principles, because she would receive a blood transfusion, something she believes violates God’s law.
Stinemetz, however, could undergo bloodless transplant surgery in Omaha, Neb., but Kansas is refusing to pay for the out-of-state procedure when a transplant is readily available in Kansas.
That puts Stinemetz at the center of a constitutional controversy that pits Kansas’ Medicaid rules against her right to exercise her freedom of religion €” with her life hanging in the balance. […]
Stinemetz is suing the Kansas Health Policy Authority, which administers the state’s Medicaid program. She contends that the state is violating her First Amendment rights to exercise her religion. She lost one round in her fight in December in Graham County District Court.
According to the paper the state contends that she didn’t provide any evidence that her rights were infringed upon because coverage was denied.
“There is no medical necessity for the beneficiary to have a bloodless transplant €” a regular liver transplant is available in Kansas and would be considered medically necessary,” the state said in denying coverage in early February 2010. “The beneficiary’s religious preference to have a bloodless liver transplant does not meet medical necessity.”
Wayne Wallace, a physician advising the state, also warned of the ethical issues a surgeon would face if a patient elected to have a bloodless transplant.
Although the surgical procedure between the two types of transplants is the same, the bloodless technique implies the surgeon would be willing to accept a patient’s death, even if a transfusion might save the patient, Wallace said at March 2010 hearing.
However, Stinemetz said Jehovah’s Witnesses follow biblical directives to abstain from blood, pointing to passages in the books of Acts, Genesis and Deuteronomy, according to court records.
Church doctrine leaves it to the discretion of members to accept certain blood fractions and donor organs.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York has filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Stinemetz’s behalf.
The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is the organization behind Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It has claimed that it alone is qualified to explain the Bible — of which the organization has published its own version in order to make the book supports the movement’s teachings instead of the other way around.
The claim that its followers are free to decided whether or not to accept blood transfusions is window dressing. Usually those who go against the organization’s teachings of ‘God’s only organization’ are dis-fellowshipped and shunned.
Naturally, while the organization claims a special relationship with God it has been very inconsistent about its teachings.
A diverse groups of anonymous Jehovah’s Witnesses are calling on their organization to reform its policies on blood.
Meanwhile the Kansas City Star reports in a follow-up item that
A Kansas appeals court poked and prodded Wednesday, but kept returning to the same question.
What compelling reason did Kansas have for refusing to pay for a woman’s request €” based on her religious faith €” to undergo a bloodless liver transplant that could be done only outside the state? […]
“Don’t you have some type of compelling state interest to deny this, and what is that compelling interest?” Judge Stephen D. Hill asked the state’s lawyer, Brian Vazquez.
Hill’s comments came during a nearly hourlong session of the Kansas Court of Appeals, which generally allots about 30 minutes to hearings. […]
Vazquez acknowledged there was little, if anything, in the court record to show a compelling state interest. However, he contended that a 1990 Supreme Court decision from Oregon eliminated the need to show a compelling interest.
In that case, the court ruled that government could adopt laws that might burden someone’s religion as long as the law was neutral and didn’t target a specific religious faith.
The court is expected to issue a ruling later.
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