Shocking Assaults on Freedom in Puerto Rico
By “Awake!” correspondent in Puerto Rico
IT WAS just after midnight. Five armed men approached a tall building in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three of the men were police officers in uniform. The other two were undercover agents.
It was very quiet as they went to an upper floor of the building, where they were joined by three women. These eight persons then slowly approached the door of a small room.
Was a dangerous criminal lurking inside the room? Or perhaps a terrorist threatening the lives of people in the area? Judging by what happened next, it would have seemed so.
Leaving one of the policemen on guard outside, the other seven entered the room after the door was opened. They approached a bed on which a forty-five-year old woman appeared to be dying. Seeing what was about to happen to her, she screamed loudly and resisted. But it was of no use. She was seized by force and tied to the bed. Her protesting husband and three children were prevented from coming to her help.
A few hours later, against her will and against the will of her husband and children, the critically ill woman was taken to another room. There, a knife was put to her throat. It was cut open to expose her jugular vein!
The woman could not stand the strain of this vicious treatment and went into shock. She never recovered. Her death was bitterly mourned by her husband, children and friends.
Crime Against Humanity
In many lands, the way this woman was abused would be considered a shocking crime. It would be viewed much like kidnapping, with assault and battery added. Surely it was a crime against humanity, against the freedom of choice that people should have.
Why is this so? Because the victim, Mrs. Ana Paz de Rosario, was completely innocent of any wrongdoing. Indeed, she was respected as a peace-loving, law-abiding citizen. Then why was she treated in this brutal way?
She had been operated on for a serious illness. She was willing to undergo that surgery, and also made it clear that she was willing to receive various types of medication. But she had one request. Of the various types of treatment available, she said that she did not want a particular one. She objected to it, not only on medical grounds, but because it violated her conscience.
Her doctor agreed that she did not have to be given this treatment. In fact, he performed the operation without it. He stated that the treatment would not be of significant value in her case anyhow, due to the nature of her illness.
Yet, both before and after the surgery, without her knowledge, and without the knowledge of her husband or children, a relative (by marriage) got court orders to try to force the doctor to give her the treatment she had forbidden. In this case, it was a blood transfusion.
A chain of events quickly followed. Prosecuting attorneys, judges, policemen, nurses and others conspired to deny her the freedom to decide what was to be done to her body. Three different court orders were pushed through, all without consulting either the patient, her husband or their children, two of whom were of legal age. Two court orders were issued without even consulting the doctor in charge!
Need for Freedom to Choose
Would you like to be treated that way if you were an adult in control of your mental faculties? For example, if a doctor recommended a certain kind of food that he felt was good for you, but you did not want it, would you appreciate it if he tied you to a bed and forced the food into your stomach over your objections? Or, if he recommended a medicine that you disapproved, how would you feel if he injected it into your veins by force?
What, then, of a treatment that you objected to on several grounds? What if you objected because of conscience, as well as the fact that the treatment admittedly kills thousands of persons every year and injures other tens of thousands? Surely, as an adult, you would want to be free to make up your own mind about the kind of treatment you would accept for an illness.
In Mrs. Rosario’s case, she died after the brutal treatment. It is more than possible that her death was hastened, perhaps even caused, by the shock that this vicious handling caused to her system. It is also highly possible that the blood transfusion itself could not be handled by her body and worked against her. It is of interest that the doctor in this case already had operated on others without blood. He had not lost a single patient due to operating without the transfusion of blood.
More Surgery Without Blood
More and more doctors are performing surgery without blood. Why? Because of the complications associated with the use of blood.
World-famous open-heart surgeon Dr. Denton A. Cooley of the Texas Heart Institute in Houston said: “The fact is evident now that most major surgery can be done without transfusion. . . . Our goal is to see how little we can use.” Dr. Jerome H. Kay wrote the following to The Journal of the American Medical Association: “We have avoided blood transfusions. as much as possible. . . . We have now done approximately 6,000 open-heart operations at the Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Los Angeles. Since we have not been using blood for the majority of the patients, it is our impression that the patients do better.”
Medical World News reported: “Even if all donor blood is screened by the most sensitive tests now available . . . , many patients will still develop post-transfusion hepatitis.” And statistics show that at least 10 percent of such hepatitis victims die as a result. Famous open-heart surgeon Dr. Charles P. Bailey of New York city’s St. Barnabas Hospital stated: “Damages of incompatibility and kidney damage from transfusions, though much reduced, can never be abolished, no matter how carefully the blood is ‘matched.’”
In the magazine Let’s Live, a surgeon said: “In performing upwards of 20,000 surgical operations, I never gave a blood transfusion and never had a patient die from lack of it.” Also, the authoritative Davis-Christopher Textbook of Surgery notes that “only about 1 per cent are given as lifesaving procedures.”
Thus it can be seen that blood transfusion is a risky procedure. As noted, thousands die and tens of thousands are injured by it each year. In view of this, the patient certainly should have the right to accept it or reject it. That would be the same right that you surely would want in selecting your own food, medicine, vitamins, doctors or dentists. It is your body that is involved. As an adult of sound mind, you want the right to decide what will happen to it.
But to deny persons this right, and to overcome them by force, is something one would have expected in the “Dark Ages” or in some Nazi concentration camp. It is completely out of place in civilized society.
In addition, where there is a religious objection to a procedure, then the person’s conscience is at stake. His worship of Almighty God is involved. Freedom of choice here should be even more carefully guarded by the law and its enforcement agencies.
Mrs. Rosario objected to the blood transfusion, not merely on medical grounds, but principally on religious grounds. She followed the counsel of the Holy Bible, which she accepted as God’s inspired Word. She looked to it as a guide for those who want to worship God properly.
Mrs. Rosario knew that the Holy Scriptures prohibit the taking of blood into one’s body. Where does the Bible say that? In a number of places, both in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. As just one example, The Jerusalem Bible (a Roman Catholic version) says at Acts, chapter 15, verses 20 and 29, that Christians are “to abstain . . . from blood.” The Catholic Douay Version says “refrain . . . from blood” (Ac 15 verse 20), and “abstain . . . from blood” (Ac 15 verse 29). The prohibition is repeated elsewhere in the Bible.—Gen. 9:3, 4; Lev. 17:10-14.
Some may say that this is talking about drinking blood, taking it into the body through the mouth. But the prohibition is against taking blood into one’s system regardless of how it is done. For instance, if a doctor told you not to drink alcoholic beverages, would it be following his instructions if you put the alcohol into a hypodermic needle and injected the alcohol into your veins? Of course not.
True, many people ignore the Scriptural prohibition against blood. That is their business, and their responsibility. But Mrs. Rosario was one who did take it seriously. Thus, on the ground of religious conscience, as well as on medical grounds, and also on the basis of the human right to choose what may be done to one’s body, what happened to Mrs. Rosario was a shocking assault on her freedom. It is shameful that such barbaric acts could have been perpetrated against her. It was nothing short of assault and battery.
How the Case Developed
The case developed when Mrs. Rosario went to a neighborhood clinic with stomach pains. She was given a pain pill and sent home. But about a week later, she was admitted to Doctor’s Hospital in San Juan as an emergency case under a doctor’s care.
The doctor took many tests over a period of seven days. But he claimed that he could find nothing. However, he told Mrs. Rosario that if she had to have surgery, he would not operate without blood. Due to the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Rosario felt that she was not being well attended to, they decided to look for another doctor who would respect their view on blood.
Mrs. Rosario transferred out of Doctor’s Hospital. She was admitted to San Martín Hospital in San Juan. There a doctor who respected her view on blood agreed to take the case. In his investigations the doctor discovered that she had gangrene of the small intestine and would require surgery.
However, the day before, a relative of Mrs. Rosario, by marriage, took it upon himself to go to the prosecuting attorney of the district court in San Juan. He stated that Mrs. Rosario was in need of surgery and that the doctors wanted permission to use blood. Of course, this was not the case with the doctor in San Martín Hospital. It only reflected the view of the previous doctor at the other hospital.
Accepting this man’s word, and without consulting either Mr. or Mrs. Rosario or her present doctor, District Judge Carlos Delgado made out a court order. It gave the medical director of the first hospital, Doctor’s Hospital, permission to use blood. But, of course, Mrs. Rosario had already left that hospital.
The next day, in San Martín Hospital now, Mrs. Rosario underwent surgery. Her doctor removed nine feet (2.7 meters) of gangrenous small intestine. The operation was performed without blood, just as the patient and her husband had requested. Mrs. Rosario’s condition after the operation was serious, although it was stable, and she was conscious.
The following day, the court order of Judge Delgado reached the doctor at San Martín Hospital. It was late because it had been directed to the first hospital, Doctor’s Hospital. But since the operation already had been completed at San Martín Hospital without blood, the doctor saw no need now to administer it.
The matter should have ended there. But the interference continued. The day after the operation, the aforementioned relative took it upon himself to go back to the prosecuting attorney for the district court and made another sworn statement. He said exactly the same thing as in his previous statement. The court ignored the doctor in charge who had performed the operation. It did not consult with him, the patient, her husband, or her children.
Nevertheless, District Court Judge Alberto Toro Nazario then issued another court order. It copied word for word the order issued a few days earlier. Only this time it was addressed to the doctor at San Martín Hospital.
Afterward, the doctor asked Mrs. Rosario if she wanted a blood transfusion. Emphatically, she answered NO! She was a grown person. She knew her position on blood, and her husband agreed. The doctor then had the three nurses who were attending sign a statement to the effect that the patient was fully conscious and had refused to accept a blood transfusion.
An Order for Arrest
Because no blood had been given, the court issued an order for the arrest of the doctor! He was cited for contempt of court. Served with a summons, he was made to appear the same day before District Court Judge Edgardo Márquez Lizardi. The patient, husband and children were not invited to the hearing. They were not even consulted. In fact, they had no knowledge of this hearing or of the order for the arrest of their doctor.
The judge questioned the doctor at length. The doctor said that he was not in contempt of court because the previous order of Judge Toro Nazario did not specifically state that he had to give blood forcibly, against the patient’s will. He also testified that because of the progressive nature of the disease, he could not guarantee that the patient would survive even if blood were administered.
Judge Márquez Lizardi then made out another order, dated the same day as the hearing. But this time it was more detailed. It specifically instructed that blood should be administered in spite of the patient’s wishes. It prohibited anyone from interfering with the forced transfusion. The judge stated that the police of Puerto Rico should see to it that the order was carried out.
Despite all the appeals that were made to him, the judge would not cancel his order. It was to be carried out the next day.
Patient Goes into Shock
At 1:30 the next morning, the armed men—the three policemen and two undercover agents—joined the three nurses at the hospital. They entered the semi-private room and told everyone else to leave. The husband insisted on being permitted to stay, and was allowed. But he was prevented from doing anything to stop the procedure.
As Mrs. Rosario resisted, she screamed, “Don’t do this to me! I’m not a delinquent!” She tried to stop the nurses. But she was quickly subdued. Her hands and feet were tied to the bed. In this way she could not resist as the transfusion was about to be forced upon her. At this point, Mrs. Rosario went into shock.
But the doctors were unable to administer the blood through her arm. So they arranged to perform an operation for the sole purpose of cutting open her neck to reach the jugular vein so that blood could be administered at that point. She was then taken into the operating room, the jugular vein was exposed, and the blood was. forced into her.
Mrs. Rosario remained in a state of semicoma for a few days, never being able to talk with anyone again, and then went into convulsions. The nurses immediately put her on a kidney machine, a lung machine and another machine. A doctor administered more blood. Soon afterward, Mrs. Rosario died.
Consider the possible adverse effects of any blood transfusion. Add to that the shock of forcing it upon an unwilling patient, even tying her hands and feet. Yes, it is quite possible that all of this was responsible for, or at least contributed to, her early death. The blood of this woman can be on the heads of those who were responsible for the entire disgraceful and appalling affair.—Ex. 20:13; Acts 20:26.
“Where Am I?”
Mr. and Mrs. Rosario had asked the assistance of their friends, and also of several ministers of their religion. But even they were unable to stop the events from taking place. All their appeals to the authorities were in vain.
One of these ministers was outside the room when the foul deed was being committed. He heard the moans and screams of Mrs. Rosario. But with the policeman on guard right outside the door, there was nothing he could do.
At one point, the door flew open and the husband, Mr. Rosario, came out. “Look what they are doing to my wife!” he cried. But someone from within the room pulled him back as the policeman in front turned toward him. The door was shut again.
The minister could stand no more. He went downstairs, sick at heart, and literally sick to his stomach. What had happened was absolutely revolting to him. He describes the feeling he had in these words, saying to himself: “Where am I? Is this Puerto Rico? Is it here in this country that a helpless and critically ill woman is being attacked in a hospital? It just seems impossible that such a terrible thing could happen in Puerto Rico! But it did!”
Her own doctor, to his credit, cooperated with the Rosarios as much as he could. But just as his patient’s hands were tied literally, his hands were tied in a figurative way. He could do no more to help. But as the San Juan newspaper El Vocero later reported, the doctor did tell the court that “in her condition blood transfusions give no certainty that the patient will survive because of the progressive condition of this disease in most cases.”
The newspaper also noted the comment of a well-known constitutional lawyer in Puerto Rico. This lawyer declared that the forced imposition of a practice contrary to a religious belief, whenever that belief is not contrary to law, “is a violation of civil rights.”
This shocking assault on freedom is not an isolated case. This is not the only time that this has happened in Puerto Rico. In recent years, there has been a number of similar cases. Both adults and children have had blood transfusions forced upon them by court orders.
For example, recently a thirty-six-year-old man objected to the use of blood in regard to his illness. He signed a statement relieving the hospital and doctors of any responsibility that might come from not taking blood. His wife agreed completely with his view. But doctors insisted on a blood transfusion. A terrible ordeal was experienced by the patient and his wife. He was given drugs to make him sleep, and while he was unconscious the blood was given to him, against his will.
As with Mrs. Rosario, this man respected the law of the land. He was a conscientious citizen. But just like Mrs. Rosario, he believed that when there is a conflict between what humans want and what God wants, the right thing to do is to “obey God as ruler rather than men,” as God’s own Word says.—Acts 5:29.
True, others may not feel as conscientiously about this matter. And that is their privilege. However, those who have conscientious feelings should be allowed their God-given right to choose the kind of medical treatment they want. To force an unwanted medical treatment on a patient is medical arrogance. It is an insult to the freedoms people have fought so hard to gain over the centuries. It is an insult to human dignity. Most important, it is an insult to God. And someday, as the Bible says at Romans 14:12, “each of us will render an account for himself to God.” And that includes those who try to prevent sincere worshipers of God from obeying His laws.
[Picture on page 18]
Thousands die and tens of thousands are injured by blood transfusions each year. Dr. Charles P. Bailey says: “Damages of incompatibility and kidney damage from transfusions, though much reduced, can never be abolished, no matter how carefully the blood is ‘matched.’”
[Picture on page 19]
Mr. Rosario regularly studies the Bible with his family. His wife was also a Bible student, learning about God’s law on blood from the Holy Scriptures
[Picture on page 21]
The San Martín hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here is where Mrs. Rosario was held against her will and forcibly operated on without the consent of herself, her husband or her daughters