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.

Comments (11)

  • avatar


    It could be said ‘stupidity is the the only sin and nature collects the highest price for committing it.’ and so good riddance to an idiot. BUT…he is a minor and my personal opinion is that when a minor is admitted to hospital for emergency care then until his life is stabilized it doesn’t matter what his parents want or are. After the kid is over age (18?) then he can have HIS wished tattooed on his chest.
    Now 18 is an arbitrary point so in this case he stated NO BLOOD so again…bon voyage and I hope his destination is as he expects but he is most likely to have wasted his belief.!

  • avatar


    As an MD who has 30 yrs of accumulated stories, I can tell you what happens in Tx.

    Legally, a 15 yo has no control over his own healthcare. Only his parents can decide what gets done.

    If the MD believes that his parents are incapable of making the proper decisions, he/she can attempt to find a judge who is willing to take temporary control of the child’s healthcare.

    Needless to say, in life threatening situations, this is very difficult. Ethically, our brains tell us to treat and deal with the consequences later, but legally, giving a blood transfusion to a child without permission from the parents is assault.

    Don’t blame this one on the docs. I don’t know what the laws in England are, but I doubt they are too very different.

  • avatar


    Interesting. and sad… Nice to hear from a doctor on this issue, too.

    It’s absurd that people sworn to give emergency assistance find themselves caught up in legal wrangling during time-critical situations; To the extent that the core mission of health care is compromised.

    themother demonstrates this well. “assault?!!” Shouldn’t ethics trump the law? The Hipocratic oath is extremely straightforward. Do what you can to help, and if the parents don’t agree, they should face criminal charges for abuse/neglect. [in a perfect world]

    What about Good Samaritan law protection for the caregiver? The parents are delusional in the strictest sense, so consent is implied. Isn’t it criminal NOT to help when you can?

    Would “No Trespassing” signs prevent you from saving a child who was drowning in a pool? Of course not. What if the parents were yelling at you to get off their property, while watching their kid drown? PS, you’re a trained lifeguard.

    Fuck walking on eggshells and treading around beliefs when lives are at stake. If the courts can’t sort matters like these out, they’re doing more harm than good.

  • avatar


    As an ex-JW myself I’ve two points to make;

    Firstly, the law is in effect making things worse, as if the child’s condition is put first and the parent’s wishes are ignored, the child hopefully lives and the imaginary sky daddy can hardly hold his followers responsible. The parent’s could only protest. Because the law has given them the right to refuse the transfusion, they have to do so and put their child at risk. I wonder how many JW’s would secretly like this right to be removed.

    Secondly, I remember many sermons and talks about the importance of refusing blood during my days in the JW, mostly involving “true stories” of JW accident victims taking a stand. I always expected these tales to end with the faithfull servant dying from his injuries happy in the knowledge he pleased his maker, but without exception they always made a miraculous recovery. Even at the height of my faith, I was clear headed enough to find this extremely sinister.

  • avatar

    J. N. Hudson

    My feelings on this matter are mixed at best. If a person in need of a blood transfusion is fully aware of the consequences should they refuse and still wish to forego a transfusion for any reason, religious or otherwise, they should be free to do so. Also, no matter how distasteful I may find it, the parents do have the right to refuse a transfusion for their child. Where my contention lies is when a child in their teens who is aware of the consequences and wishes to recieve a transfusion anyway but is prevented from doing so by his or her parents.

    In my junior year of high school the younger brother (Age 13) of a friend of mine (Both brothers were homeschooled) was riding his bike when he was struck by a car. The accident damaged his liver and left him in need of a transplant which his parents refused for religious reasons (They were not JW but rather some IFB or AOG personality cult) because it would also require a blood transfusion. My friend’s brother disagreed with his parents (And their religious beliefs) and with the help of his grandmother, took his parents to court over the matter. Even though he testifed before the Judge that he did not share his parents beliefs, or even attend their church (Both brothers remained in the Prebyterian church with their grandmother) the judge ruled in favor of his parents and their rights to decide whether or not he would recieve treatment. The case was appealed and the verdict likely would have been overturned but my friends brother passed away before the appeal could be heard.

    To this day I believe that his death was in no small part due to his parents lawyer and the near endless string of motions, postponements, and continuences in both the original trial and especially on the appeals, in an attempt to “run out the clock” on their sons life. Their “pastor” (In quotes because the man did not and still doesn’t have any actual religious training.) hailed the parents “heroes” for having the willpower to stand up against the “satanically inspired doctors” and, though he did not say so outright, he strongly insinuated that their child was not even injured at all, but instead was possessed by a demon. My friend stopped speaking to his parents (except to vebally berate them at his brothers funeral) and moved out of their house at 12:01 on his 18th birthday, and to my knowledge hasn’t spoken to them since.

    Though 18 is the age of consent/adulthood I believe that a teenager wishes should be allowed to overrule their parents if the parents decision would result in needless loss of life or contrary to their childs well being. No child should be forced to die for their parents religious beliefs especially when they don’t share those beliefs.

  • avatar


    As J. N. Hudson’s story shows the parents should have NO input on medical procedures!! PERIOD!!! They are not trained!! They can get a 2nd opinion and use that but not some BS like ‘my religion says no’.

    As in ‘My region says I should beat my kids every Tuesday’. Can they?? No they can’t.
    What’s the difference?? In both cases the child is being harmed.

    Also theoretically religion is at best a personal thing. So in this case the KID said NO so good riddance. In J. N. Hudson story the kid said OPERATE so pluck the parents and their idiot religion.
    I believe in max personal freedom and responsibility.

  • avatar


    While LL Long and keeop make valid points, I would like to add some personal experience:

    A 15 yo doesn’t know as much as he will in a few years. Remember what you were like at 15. He is often brainwashed by his parents, his peers, his social group. He should not, and cannot, have the right to control his own medical care at this young and impressionable age.

    However, I will also point out that parents DO have some rights in this regard. Un-medically educated as they may be, they are the guardians of their children and have a right to make ethical decisions for them. This is tied up in abortion law (can parents abort a malformed fetus?), pregnancy (can the state incarcerate a woman for having a glass of wine?), and childhood (should a child with a terminal illness, with an extremely poor prognosis, be forced to spend the last months of his life enduring painful and uncomfortable therapy?).

    As an MD, I would like to tell everyone that doctors always make the ethical decisions. But medical history would prove me wrong regularly. Parents DO have a right to control their children’s care. But, yes, there needs to be override for those who are behaving, according to society’s view, unethically.

    Here’s the real crux of the problem–who decides? The legislature in the US is still tied up in Christian values, so it can’t be trusted. An individual judge? One never knows. These, added to end-of-life arguments and right-of-life arguments, make up the core of the new profession of medical ethics.

    I fear this will not all out until religion is gone. Sigh.

  • avatar


    It is only the mother of Josh who indoctrinated him in the ‘religion’ and with fear a of being excommunicated if he disobeyed. His father is not and never has been JW. What a pity he was not allowed the opportunity to try to save his son’s life. Josh was never given the chance to experience life outside this so called religion and now he never will. Had he done so he would have seen a very different and truer interpretation of the bible and what is said about the use of blood in healing than the one these bigots forced upon him.

  • avatar


    can i just say I have today just come back from joshua funeral…

    1st- it was josh who refused blood his mom and brother is a Jehovahs witness his dad isnt.

    2nd,- The doctors have said there was no guarantee with Joshua that even if he did have blood that would have saved his life.

    3rd – Josh was going by the bible who are we to question what god tells us to do? at least he lived his life in harmony with bible teachings not like the churches today who adapt the bible to their way of living.

    If the only bad word you lot can say against Jehovahs Witnesses is that we dont accept blood im happy with that.. maybe josh should have been part of a Gang and taking drugs stealing and then he might of been accepted in society. He is in gods memory and when the time comes for him to be resurrected on a paradise earth we will see who got it wrong…

  • avatar


    and Katie..get you facts right joshes dad George fully supported joshes decision if he didnt he could have let josh have blood as he they would go in favour of him more than the mom on this matter.

  • avatar


    Well said Naomi.

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