1.  Choose a newborn health challenge such as Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and palate, or absence of digits. 2.  An emergency room nurse is taking care of a 5-year-old boy who suffered trauma from a bike accident. His family identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The nurse explains that the boy may need a blood transfusion. The parents express concern because taking blood, including via blood transfusion, is discouraged by their religion, a stance with which they agree.


In the field of healthcare, medical professionals often encounter ethical dilemmas and challenges that require them to make decisions that balance the well-being of the patient with the patient’s cultural, religious, and personal beliefs. In this particular scenario, an emergency room nurse is faced with a situation where the medical treatment required for a 5-year-old boy, who belongs to a Jehovah’s Witnesses family, conflicts with their religious beliefs. The dilemma arises from the fact that the boy may need a blood transfusion, which is discouraged by the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith. This assignment will explore the ethical considerations and potential solutions in this situation, while also providing a deeper understanding of the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Background on Jehovah’s Witnesses Beliefs:

Jehovah’s Witnesses is a religious denomination with a unique set of beliefs and practices that significantly impact their medical decision-making. The faith places great emphasis on the biblical prohibition against consuming blood, as outlined in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible specifically prohibits ingesting blood, whether that is through eating, drinking, or receiving a blood transfusion.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stance on blood transfusion arises from their interpretation of several scriptural passages, including Genesis 9:3-4, Leviticus 17:10-14, Acts 15:28-29, and Acts 21:25. These passages are understood by Jehovah’s Witnesses to establish the sanctity of blood and the prohibition of its consumption, viewing it as an expression of obedience to God’s commandments.

Ethical Considerations:

In the case of the 5-year-old boy requiring a blood transfusion, the ethical considerations are complex and require a careful analysis of competing values and principles. The primary ethical principles at play in this scenario are the principles of autonomy, beneficence, and non-maleficence.

Autonomy refers to an individual’s right to make decisions about their own body and healthcare. In this case, the parents’ religious beliefs are an extension of their autonomy, and they have expressed their agreement with their faith’s stance against blood transfusion. Respecting the parents’ autonomy in medical decision-making is vital to maintaining trust and collaborative communication.

Beneficence involves the obligation to act in the best interest of the patient, promoting their well-being and health. From a medical perspective, the blood transfusion may be deemed necessary to save the child’s life or prevent severe harm. Balancing the parents’ religious beliefs with the potential benefits of the treatment requires careful consideration.

Non-maleficence, the obligation to do no harm, is also relevant in this situation. While the child’s life may be saved through a blood transfusion, forcing the treatment against the parents’ wishes could cause emotional harm, and potentially harm the parent-child relationship in the long term.

Potential Solutions:

In navigating this ethical dilemma, several potential solutions can be considered, each with its own benefits and challenges. Open and honest communication between the healthcare team, the parents, and the child (if age-appropriate) is crucial in exploring these options.

1. Seek alternatives: In some cases, medical professionals can explore alternative treatments that do not involve blood transfusions. This approach requires a careful evaluation of the specific medical condition and available alternatives. For example, in certain cases, medications, cell salvage techniques, or alternative surgical methods may be viable options.

2. Explore partial treatments: It may be possible to compromise and explore partial treatments that minimize blood transfusion while still addressing the immediate medical needs. This approach requires clear communication with the parents, explaining the potential risks and benefits of partial treatments.

3. Seek a legal resolution: In rare cases where the child’s life is at immediate risk, the medical team may need to seek legal intervention to override the parents’ religious objections. This option should only be pursued as a last resort when all other possibilities have been thoroughly explored and the child’s life is in imminent danger.


In the case of the 5-year-old boy who may require a blood transfusion, the nurse faces an ethical dilemma involving the intersection of medical treatment and religious beliefs. Resolving such dilemmas requires a comprehensive understanding of the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses and a careful analysis of the ethical principles at stake. By fostering open and collaborative communication with the parents, exploring alternative and partial treatments, and seeking legal intervention when necessary, healthcare professionals can navigate these challenging situations while balancing the best interest of the patient and respecting the autonomy of the family’s religious beliefs.

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