Blood is for atonement of sin, not surgery!
Every so often, you read a story about someone in desperate need of a blood transfusion refusing the life giving procedure because of their religious beliefs. The latest story comes from Smethwick, England where a 15 year old boy died after succumbing to his injuries following a tragic car crash in a store (yeah, you heard right). Joshua McAuley is dead now because his beliefs (or more accurately, the beliefs his parents indoctrinated him with).
It seems hospital officials are on the defensive, tripping over themselves claiming the issue of overriding the wishes of parents and minors in similar cases has to be handled delicately on an individual basis (as in, there’s no official policy). No one seems to quite know what to do about situations like this; the Friendly Atheist seems a little confused about what the right move is, and Unreasonable Faith just asks his sizable audience to discuss the matter.
I have a solution I think would work out quite nicely: if a minor wants to forgo receiving a blood transfusion due to his religious convictions, he should be able to explain exactly WHY he believes such a thing is wrong (try to avoid pointing out the flaws with the idea of a person with severe blood loss trying to explain anything at all and just humor me, alright?). You see, the real problem is kids like Joshua may think they have acquired their beliefs through their own personal research and introspection, but like every other religious convert, he was conditioned into believing things that were quite obviously untrue. The reason Witnesses refuse blood is because their interpretation of the Bible specifies blood is only to be used in the atonement of sin, and that’s it. The fact it actually does something much more useful in your body (oh, like carrying oxygen to your cells for instance) is just an inconvenient detail they can’t be bothered to learn. Because Joshua was too ignorant of reality to see the benefit in actually bothering to learn real facts about the natural world, he thought his eternal soul would be in jeopardy if he tried to save his own life with the blood of others. Now he’s just another sad statistic about the dangers of faith.
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