He ‘Remembered His Creator in the Days of His Youth’
“ADRIAN always drew more than his share of parental attention,” his father said. “At age four he drove the family car into a tree, making everyone late for the congregation meeting. At five he collected dozens of frogs and brought them into the house. It took days to get rid of those things. We felt like a family of Egyptians during the Biblical plague of frogs.
“When he was 11, he found three young raccoons alongside the highway and took them to school in his book bag. When the teacher came in, the classroom was in a turmoil—children crowded around Adrian’s book bag, chattering excitedly. The teacher looked in, saw the raccoons, and drove him and his pets to a facility that took in animal orphans. Adrian was in tears at the thought of losing his babies, but after touring the facility and seeing baby foxes and other orphans well cared for, he left his raccoons there.”
His father continued: “Adrian wasn’t a bad boy. Just a very busy one. A lively imagination that kept life interesting.”
Adrian’s mother showed another side of him—family oriented, a homebody, a very loving boy. She relates: “The children at school described him as a person who would not hurt anyone. A girl in his class was limited mentally though not retarded. She rode the school bus with Adrian. Other children made fun of her, but her mother told us that Adrian always treated her daughter with respect and a special kindness. He had a serious side to him—a very thoughtful boy with deep feelings who didn’t express them often. But when he did, he surprised us with comments that cut to the heart of matters.”
She concluded her assessment of her son: “His sickness made him mature quickly and produced a deeper spirituality in him.”
He Was Adamant—No Blood!
His sickness? Yes. It started in March 1993, when Adrian was 14 years old. A fast-growing tumor was found in his stomach. The doctors wanted a biopsy but feared excessive bleeding and said that a blood transfusion might be necessary. Adrian said no. He was adamant. He said, with tears in his eyes: “I just could not live with myself if I am given blood.” He and his family were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who reject blood transfusions on the Biblical grounds recorded at Leviticus 17:10-12 and Acts 15:28, 29.
While in the Dr. Charles A. Janeway Child Health Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland, awaiting the biopsy—to be done without blood—Adrian was asked by oncologist Dr. Lawrence Jardine to express himself on the matter of blood.
“Look,” Adrian said, “it wouldn’t matter whether my parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses or not. I still wouldn’t take blood.”
Dr. Jardine asked, “Do you realize that you could die if you don’t take a blood transfusion?”
“And you’re willing to do that?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
His mother, also present, asked, “Why are you taking such a stand?”
Adrian replied: “Mom, it’s not a good trade. To disobey God and extend my life for a few years now and then because of my disobedience to God lose out on a resurrection and living forever in his paradise earth—that’s just not smart!”—Psalm 37:10, 11; Proverbs 2:21, 22.
The biopsy was performed on March 18. It showed that Adrian had a large lymphoma tumor. A subsequent bone marrow biopsy confirmed the fear that he had developed leukemia. Dr. Jardine now explained that a very aggressive chemotherapy program with blood transfusions was the only way Adrian could possibly live. Adrian, however, still refused blood transfusions. Chemotherapy was started, without the transfusions.
Now, however, with this critical stage of treatment underway, there was fear that the Child Welfare Department might intervene and get a court order for custody and the power to give blood transfusions. The law allowed for anyone 16 years old or over to make his own decision on treatment. The only way for anyone under 16 to have that right was to be classed as a mature minor.
In Newfoundland’s Supreme Court
So on Sunday morning, July 18, the acting director of Child Welfare did initiate court proceedings to obtain custody. Quickly, an outstanding and highly respected lawyer, David C. Day, Q.C., of St. John’s, Newfoundland, was retained to represent Adrian. That same afternoon, at 3:30, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland convened, Justice Robert Wells presiding.
During the afternoon session, Dr. Jardine made it very clear to the judge that he considered Adrian a mature minor who had a deep conviction against the use of blood and that he, Dr. Jardine, had promised Adrian that he would not include blood transfusion in any treatment. Justice Wells asked the doctor that if it came to a court-ordered transfusion, would he administer it? Dr. Jardine answered: “No, I personally would not do it.” He mentioned that Adrian felt that his Biblical hope of eternal life would be threatened. The sincere testimony of this outstanding doctor was both amazing and heartwarming and brought tears of joy to Adrian’s parents.
“Please Respect Me and My Wishes”
When the court reconvened on Monday, July 19, David Day presented copies of an affidavit that Adrian—too ill to appear in court—had prepared and signed stating his own wishes concerning the treatment of his cancer without blood or blood products. In it Adrian said:
“You think a lot about things when you are ill, and if you are ill from cancer, you know you could die and you think about that. . . . I won’t agree to blood or let it be used; no way. I know I could die if no blood is used. But that is my decision. No one talked me into that. I trust Dr. Jardine very much. I believe he is a man of his word. He says he’ll give me intense treatment with no blood ever being used. He told me the risks. I understand that. I know the worst. . . . The way I feel is that if I’m given any blood that will be like raping me, molesting my body. I don’t want my body if that happens. I can’t live with that. I don’t want any treatment if blood is going to be used, even a possibility of it. I’ll resist use of blood.” Adrian’s affidavit ended with this appeal: “Please respect me and my wishes.”
Throughout the hearing Adrian was confined to his hospital room, and Justice Wells very kindly came to see him there, with David Day present. In giving an account of that interview, Mr. Day spoke of Adrian’s riveting and compelling remarks to the judge on this one theme, in essence: “I know I’m very ill, and I know I could die. Some medical people say blood will help. I don’t think so, with all the dangers I read about it. Whether or not it helps, my faith is opposed to blood. Respect my faith and you’ll respect me. If you don’t respect my faith, I’ll feel violated. If you do respect my faith, I can face my sickness with dignity. Faith is about all I’ve got, and now it’s the most important thing I need to help me fight the disease.”
Mr. Day had some comments of his own about Adrian: “He was a client capable of handling his critical illness patiently, stoically, and bravely. There was resolve in his eyes; understated confidence in his voice; pluck in his manner. Above all, his verbal and body language communicated to me an abiding faith. His signature was faith. Uncompromising illness required him to build bridges between youthful dreams and adult reality. Faith assisted him to do so. . . . He was unhesitatingly candid and, to my mind, truthful. . . . I was alert to the consideration whether his parents [had imposed] upon him their opposition to blood use in the medical treatment of him. . . . I was satisfied [that] he exercised a mind of his own in expressing his wish for medical treatment absent blood.”
On another occasion Mr. Day remarked on Adrian’s beliefs that “were more dear to him than life itself” then added: “This steadfast young man, in the face of such problems, makes me feel that all the woes of my life are nothing. He will be etched in my memory forever. He is a mature minor of enormous courage, insight, and intelligence.”
The Decision—Adrian a Mature Minor
On Monday, July 19, the hearing concluded, and Justice Wells rendered his decision, which was later published in the Human Rights Law Journal, September 30, 1993. Excerpts follow:
“For the following reasons, the applications of the Director of Child Welfare are dismissed; the child is not in need of protection; the use of blood or blood products for the purposes of blood transfusion or injection have not been demonstrated to be essential, and in the particular circumstances of this case, could be harmful.
“Unless a change in circumstances necessitates a further order, the use of blood or blood products in his treatment is prohibited: and the boy is declared to be a mature minor whose wish to receive medical treatment without blood or blood products is to be respected. . . .
“There is no question that this ‘young person’ is very courageous. I think he has the support of a loving and caring family, and I think he is facing his affliction with a great deal of courage. Part of his religious belief is that it is wrong for him to use blood products by having them introduced into his body, for whatever purposes . . . I have had the advantage of reading an affidavit that was made by A. yesterday, and I have had the advantage of hearing his mother, who gave evidence, and have had the advantage of talking to A. himself.
“I am satisfied that he believes with all his heart that to take blood would be wrong and that to be forced to take blood in the circumstances about which we are speaking would be an invasion of his body, an invasion of his privacy, and an invasion of his whole being, to the extent that it would impact severely on his strength and ability to cope with the dreadful ordeal that he has to undergo, whatever the outcome.
“I agree that the doctor made eminent sense when he said that the patient must be in a cooperative and positive frame of mind about chemotherapy and other cancer treatments in order for there to be any hope, any real hope, of success, and that a patient on whom something is forced contrary to his most deeply held beliefs would be a patient whose suitability for the treatment would be drastically reduced. . . .
“I think that what has happened to A. has matured him to a degree that would be unthinkable for a 15-year-old who is not facing and living with what he is living with and has to face and is facing. I think that his experience is as bad an experience I can conceive of, and I suspect that their faith is one of the things that is sustaining him and his family. I think that what has happened has made A. mature beyond any normal expectation or maturity in a 15-year-old. I think the boy that I spoke to this morning is very different from a normal 15-year-old, because of this tragic experience.
“I think he is mature enough to express a cogent view, and he has expressed it to me . . . I am also satisfied that it is proper . . . for me to take into consideration his wishes, and I do so. His wishes are that blood products not be administered, and I am satisfied also that if these wishes are countermanded in some fashion by the Director under an order of this Court, that his best interests would be manifestly and in a very real sense adversely affected . . . Furthermore, if—and this is very possible—he should indeed succumb to this disease, he would do so in a state of mind that, taking into consideration his religious beliefs, would be very sad, very unfortunate, and not at all to be desired. I am taking all these things into consideration. . . .
“In all of the circumstances, I feel that it is proper for me to deny the request that blood products be used in A.’s treatment.”
Adrian’s Message to Justice Wells
It was a remarkably thoughtful message that this young boy, who knew he was dying, sent to Justice Robert Wells, which was passed along by Mr. David Day, as follows: “I think I would be remiss if I did not, on behalf of my client with whom I spoke but briefly after you left the hospital today, thank you from the bottom of his heart, which is a very big heart, for your having dealt with this matter with expedition and with sensitivity and with great fairness. He is ever so grateful to you, My Lord, and I wish the record to show that. Thank you.”
Adrian’s mother recounts the closing events of the story.
“After the trial Adrian asked Dr. Jardine, ‘How much longer do I have?’ The doctor’s answer: ‘One or two weeks.’ I saw my son shed one tear, squeezed out from between tightly closed lids. I went to put my arms around him, and he said: ‘Don’t, Mom. I’m praying.’ After a few moments, I asked, ‘How are you dealing with this, Adrian?’ ‘Mom, I’m going to live anyway, even if I die. And if I’ve only got two weeks to live, I want to enjoy them. So you’ve got to cheer up.’
“He wanted to visit the Watch Tower’s branch in Georgetown, Canada. He did that. He swam in the pool there with one of his buddies. He went to a game of the Blue Jays baseball team and had his picture taken with some of the players. Most important, in his heart he had dedicated himself to serve Jehovah God, and now he wanted to symbolize that by water immersion. By now his condition had worsened, and he was back in the hospital and could no longer leave it. So the nurses kindly arranged for him to use one of the stainless steel tanks in the physiotherapy room. He was baptized there September 12; he died the next day, September 13.
“His funeral was the largest that the funeral home had ever had—nurses, doctors, parents of patients, classmates, neighbors, and many of his spiritual brothers and sisters from his own and other congregations. As parents, we never realized all the wonderful qualities that became evident in our son as he endured his many trials or the kindness and thoughtfulness that were part of his developing Christian personality. The inspired psalmist said: ‘Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah.’ Certainly this one was, and we look forward to seeing him in Jehovah’s new world of righteousness, to be established soon now in a paradise earth.”—Psalm 127:3; James 1:2, 3.
May we anticipate fulfillment for Adrian of Jesus’ promise at John 5:28, 29: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”
By rejecting blood transfusions that could conceivably have extended his present life, Adrian Yeatts showed himself to be one of the many young people who put God first.
[Box on page 5]
‘The Life Is in the Blood’
Blood is incredibly complex, reaching every cell in the body. Within a single drop, 250,000,000 red blood cells carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide; 400,000 white cells seek out and destroy unwanted invaders; 15,000,000 platelets gather instantly where there is a cut and start clotting to seal off the break. All of these are suspended in clear, ivory-colored plasma, which is itself made up of hundreds of ingredients playing vital roles in the blood’s long list of duties. Scientists don’t understand all that blood does.
[Box on page 7]
Bloodless Heart Transplant
Last October, three-year-old Chandra Sharp was admitted to a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A., with a heart that was not only enlarged but also failing. She was undernourished, her growth stunted, her weight only 19 pounds [9 kg], and she needed a heart transplant. She was given only a few weeks to live. Her parents agreed to the transplant but not to blood transfusion. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This was no issue with the surgeon, Dr. Charles Fraser. The Flint Journal of Michigan reported on December 1, 1993: “Fraser said the Cleveland Clinic and other medical centers are becoming adept at performing many surgeries—including transplants—without the infusion into the patient of other people’s blood. ‘We have learned more about how to conserve blood, and how to prime the heart-lung machine with solutions other than blood,’ said Fraser.” He then added: “Some specialty hospitals have for decades been doing major cardiovascular operations without blood transfusions. . . . We always try to do surgery without (transfused) blood.”
On October 29, he performed the heart transplant on Chandra without blood. A month later Chandra was reported doing well.