Antigua Sun (Antigua), Mar. 25, 2003
Acting Chief Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture Sereno Benjamin is in critical condition at Holberton Hospital. He needs a blood transfusion necessary to save his life, but his faith does not allow him to be transfused.
Chief Surgeon Dr. Joey John said Benjamin’s medical condition is such that he could die from a heart attack or a stroke, as his haemoglobin level is dangerously low.
“He has bled significantly, the haemoglobin, which causes oxygen to be carried to the tissues, is dangerously low, and he can run the risk of dying. One requires a blood transfusion, in this particular matter,” Dr. John said.
Benjamin is a Jehovah Witness and blood transfusion is not an option as it violates their religious beliefs. He has been quoted by relatives as saying, “If I die, I die in Jehovah and if I live, I live in Jehovah.”
The chief surgeon said he has to respect his patient’s wishes.
“I cannot transfuse a patient if he does not want to be transfused. The patient and his wife are Jehovah Witnesses and they have refused transfusion,” Dr. John said.
Benjamin’s family, on the other hand, are not Jehovah Witnesses and want him to get the transfusion.
Benjamin’s sister, Janet Proctor said they are hurting deeply and asked a visiting group from the church to encourage Benjamin to take the blood.
“If my brother’s condition should deteriorate, I hope God can help me to forgive you,” she told a church elder.
She said her brother is a young man who has a future ahead of him.
The elder told her he understood her hurt, but there was nothing he could do as it was her brother’s wish not to accept the blood and that no one had forced the decision on him.
The elder said they are governed by what the Bible says and the supporting scripture is found in Acts 15 verses 20, 28 and 29.
Dr. John said Benjamin has stopped bleeding and although his haemoglobin is dangerously low, he has been able to survive since Friday.
“That’s not to say that he will live, at any time he can have a heart attack or some other fatal event from this low blood count,” Dr. John said.
“I am going to continue to support him heavily in terms of other modalities; giving him oxygen and hoping that the bleeding does not continue. Hopefully we can get his blood count built up over the next two weeks,” he added.
The chief surgeon added that he understood the position of the other family wanting the transfusion.
“I have taken care of hundreds of Jehovah Witness patients over the last 20 years. There are many who did not refuse blood. However, I have had to watch others including children, die because of their religious beliefs,” he said.
Dr. John said that as difficult as it might be for some to accept the circumstances, he would advocate tolerance for the difference in people’s religious beliefs and the sensitivity surrounding their decisions.