Youths Who Have “Power Beyond What Is Normal”
YOU are young. Only 12. You have a family you love. You have school friends you enjoy. You have outings at the beach and in the mountains. You feel awe when gazing at a night sky packed with stars. You have your whole life ahead of you.
And now you have cancer. Such news is a blow when you’re 60. It’s total devastation when you’re 12.
So it seemed for 12-year-old Lenae Martinez. Her hope was to live forever on a paradise earth. This hope was bolstered by the Bible training she had received from her parents, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Had not she herself read in the Bible that the earth would continue forever, that it was created to be inhabited forever, and that the meek would inherit it forever?—Ecclesiastes 1:4; Isaiah 45:18; Matthew 5:5.
Now she was in the Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, California, U.S.A. She had been admitted there for what appeared to be a kidney infection. Tests revealed, however, that she had leukemia. The doctors treating Lenae determined that packed red blood cells and platelets should be transfused and chemotherapy started immediately.
Lenae said that she wanted no blood or blood products, that she had been taught that God forbids that, as shown in the Bible books of Leviticus and Acts. “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.” (Acts 15:28, 29) Her parents supported her in this stand, but Lenae stressed that it was her decision and it was very important to her.
The doctors talked several times with Lenae and her parents. Even so, they came again one afternoon. Lenae said concerning this visit: “I was feeling very weak from all the pain and had been vomiting a lot of blood. They asked me the same questions, only in a different way. I told them again: ‘I don’t want any blood or blood products. I would rather accept death, if necessary, than to break my promise to Jehovah God to do his will.’”
Lenae continued: “They were back the next morning. The platelets were dropping, and my fever was still high. I could tell the doctor listened to me more this time. Even though they didn’t like my stand, they did say I was a very mature 12-year-old. Later my pediatrician came in and told me he was sorry but nothing would help me but the chemotherapy and transfusions. He left and said he would be back later.
“When he left, I started to cry very hard because he had taken care of me all my life, and now I felt like he was betraying me. When he came in later, I told him how he had made me feel—that he didn’t care about me anymore. This surprised him, and he said he was sorry. He did not mean to hurt me. He looked at me and said: ‘Well, Lenae, if that is the way it has to be, then I will see you in heaven.’ He took his glasses off and, with big tears in his eyes, said he loved me and gave me a big hug. I thanked him and said: ‘Thank you. I love you too, Dr. Gillespie, but I hope to live on a paradise earth in the resurrection.’”
Then two doctors and a lawyer came, told Lenae’s parents that they wanted to talk to her alone, and asked the parents to leave, which they did. Through all this discussion, the doctors had been very considerate and kind and were impressed with Lenae’s articulate way of speaking and her deep conviction.
When alone with her, they told her that she was dying of leukemia and said: “But blood transfusions will prolong your life. If you refuse blood, you will die in a few days.”
“If I take blood,” Lenae asked, “how long will that prolong my life?”
“About three to six months,” they answered.
“What can I do in six months?” she asked.
“You will get strong. You can do many things. You can visit Disney World. You can see many other places.”
Lenae thought a bit, then answered: “I have served Jehovah all my life, 12 years. He has promised me everlasting life in Paradise if I obey him. I will not turn away from him now for six months of life. I want to be faithful until I die. Then I know in his due time he will resurrect me from death and give me everlasting life. Then I will have plenty of time for everything I want to do.”
The doctors and the lawyer were visibly impressed. They commended her and went out and told her parents that she thinks and talks like an adult and is able to make her own decisions. They recommended to the ethics committee of the Valley Children’s Hospital that Lenae be viewed as a mature minor. This committee, made up of doctors and other health-care professionals, along with a professor of ethics from Fresno State University, made the decision to allow Lenae to make her own decisions with regard to her medical treatment. They considered Lenae a mature minor. No court order was sought.
After a long, difficult night, at 6:30 a.m., September 22, 1993, Lenae fell asleep in death in the arms of her mother. The dignity and calmness of that night are etched in the minds of those present. There were 482 who attended the memorial service, including doctors, nurses, and teachers, who had been impressed by Lenae’s faith and integrity.
The parents and friends of Lenae were deeply grateful that the doctors and nurses and administrators of the Valley Children’s Hospital were so perceptive in discerning the maturity of this minor and that no court case was necessary to make that decision.
Such consideration was not accorded 17-year-old Crystal Moore when she was admitted to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. She was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. Upon her admission to the hospital, Crystal, along with her parents, emphasized repeatedly her refusal to accept blood. She did not want to die; rather, she wanted medical treatment consistent with the Bible’s command to abstain from blood.—Acts 15:28, 29.
The medical team caring for Crystal was certain that her condition required a blood transfusion. One doctor bluntly stated: “If Crystal does not have a blood transfusion by Thursday, June 15, then on Friday, June 16, she will be dead!” On June 16, Crystal was not dead, and the hospital applied to the Supreme Court of the State of New York for authority to force transfusions.
At the hearing, which was hurriedly convened at the hospital that morning, one of the physicians testified that Crystal needed two units of blood immediately and might need at least an additional ten units. He further stated that if Crystal tried to resist the transfusions, he would tie her to the bed with wrist and leg restraints to accomplish the procedure. Crystal told the doctors that she would “scream and holler” if they attempted to transfuse her and that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she viewed any forcible administration of blood to be as repulsive as rape.
Despite her attorney’s repeated requests at the hearing, Crystal was denied the opportunity to speak for herself before the court to demonstrate her decision-making ability. Although Crystal had just received an award in the Super Youth Program in recognition of her academic excellence and leadership at her high school, the trial judge refused to allow her to testify on record about her refusal of blood. This amounted to a denial of Crystal’s rights of due process of law, bodily self-determination, personal privacy, and religious freedom.
Although the trial court would not allow Crystal to testify on the record, the court did visit with Crystal alone in her room for about 20 minutes. After the visit the trial judge said that Crystal was “obviously very intelligent” and “very articulate” and explained that Crystal “certainly was sound in mind” and “capable of expressing herself fully.” Despite these observations, the trial court adamantly refused to allow Crystal the opportunity to decide on her own medical care.
On Sunday morning, June 18, Crystal needed emergency surgery, which she consented to, but continued to reject blood. Only three ounces [50-100 cc] of blood was lost during the procedure. Yet, the physicians claimed that a postoperative blood transfusion might be required. Another doctor testified that no transfusion was needed. He had routinely treated similar cases without blood for the past 13 years, and no follow-up transfusions were ever needed.
On June 22, 1989, the trial court gave temporary custody of Crystal to the hospital for purposes of blood transfusion to be given only if “necessary to protect and save her life.” This guardianship terminated when Crystal was discharged from the hospital. Crystal never needed blood, and none was ever transfused, but it is shocking to see how the court treated Crystal.
Since being discharged from the hospital, Crystal graduated from high school with honors. Shortly afterward, she became a full-time minister as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She became a tour guide at the Jersey City Assembly Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and volunteered as a member of a crew that builds and remodels Kingdom Halls.
Yet, the doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center said that if she didn’t get transfused on June 15, she would be dead on June 16 and that if she resisted the transfusion, she would be tied down with wrist and leg restraints. When doctors wanting court orders to give blood declare blatantly that if the judge doesn’t comply immediately, the patient will die, let them remember the case of Crystal Moore.
Lisa’s first night in Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children was worse than a nightmare. She checked in at four in the afternoon and was immediately given a series of tests. She didn’t get to her room until a quarter past eleven that evening. At midnight—well, let Lisa tell what happened. “At midnight a nurse came in and said: ‘I have to give you some blood.’ I cried out: ‘I can’t take blood because I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses! I hope you know that! I hope you know that!’ ‘Well, yes, I do,’ she said, and immediately pulled out my IV and shoved in the blood. I was crying and becoming hysterical.”
What callous and cruel treatment to inflict on a sick and frightened 12-year-old girl in the middle of the night in strange surroundings! Lisa’s parents had taken her to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children hoping to find kind and cooperative doctors. Instead, their daughter was subjected to the harrowing midnight transfusion, in spite of both Lisa and her parents’ position that blood or blood products are a violation of God’s law and are not to be used.—Acts 15:28, 29.
The next morning the hospital sought a court order to give transfusions. The trial lasted five days, presided over by Judge David R. Main. It was held in a room at the hospital, Lisa in attendance all five days. Lisa had acute myeloid leukemia, a condition usually fatal, although the doctors testified that the rate of cure was 30 percent. They prescribed multiple blood transfusions and intensive chemotherapy—a treatment involving extreme pain and debilitating side effects.
On the fourth day of the trial, Lisa gave testimony. One of the questions put to her was how the forced midnight transfusion made her feel. She explained that it made her feel like a dog being used for an experiment, that she felt she was being raped, and that being a minor made some people think they could do anything to her. She hated seeing someone else’s blood going into her, wondering if she would get AIDS or hepatitis or some other infectious disease from it. And chiefly, she was concerned about what Jehovah would think of her breaking his law against taking someone else’s blood into her body. She said if it ever happened again, she “would fight and kick the IV pole down and rip out the IV no matter how much it would hurt, and poke holes in the blood.”
Her attorney asked, “How does it make you feel, the Children’s Aid Society asking that custody be taken from your parents and given to them?”
“Well, it makes me feel very, very angry; it makes me feel that they are cruel because my parents have never beaten me, they have loved me and I love them, and whenever I was sick with strep throats or colds or anything, they took care of me. Their whole life was centered around me, and now just to have somebody, just because they disagree, to come and just remove me from them I think is very, very mean, and it upsets me a lot.”
“Do you want to die?”
“No, I don’t think anybody wants to die, but if I do die I’m not going to be scared, because I know that I have the hope of everlasting life in a paradise on earth.”
There were few dry eyes as Lisa courageously discussed her impending death, her faith in Jehovah, and her determination to remain obedient to his law on the sanctity of blood.
“Lisa,” her attorney continued, “would it make any difference to you to know that the court orders you to take transfusions?”
“No, because I’m still going to remain faithful to my God and listen to his commands, because God is a lot more superior than any court or any man.”
“Lisa, what would you like the judge to decide in this case?”
“Well, what I would like the judge to decide in this case is to have me just sent back to my parents and to have them to have custody again with me so I can be happy, and so I can go home and be in happy surroundings.”
And that is what Judge Main did decide. Excerpts from his decision follow.
“L. has told this court clearly and in a matter-of-fact way that, if an attempt is made to transfuse her with blood, she will fight that transfusion with all of the strength that she can muster. She has said, and I believe her, that she will scream and struggle and that she will pull the injecting device out of her arm and will attempt to destroy the blood in the bag over her bed. I refuse to make any order which would put this child through that ordeal.”
Concerning the forced midnight transfusion, he said:
“I must find that she has been discriminated against on the basis of her religion and her age pursuant to s. 15(1). In these circumstances, upon being given a blood transfusion, her right to the security of her person pursuant to s. 7 was infringed.”
His impression of Lisa herself is interesting:
“L. is a beautiful, extremely intelligent, articulate, courteous, sensitive and, most importantly, a courageous person. She has wisdom and maturity well beyond her years and I think it would be safe to say that she has all of the positive attributes that any parent would want in a child. She has a well thought out, firm and clear religious belief. In my view, no amount of counselling from whatever source or pressure from her parents or anyone else, including an order of this court, would shake or alter her religious beliefs. I believe that L. K. should be given the opportunity to fight this disease with dignity and peace of mind.”
Lisa and her family left the hospital that day. Lisa did, indeed, fight her disease with dignity and peace of mind. She died peacefully at home, in the loving arms of her mother and father. In so doing she joined the ranks of many other youthful Witnesses of Jehovah who put God first. As a result, she will, with them, enjoy the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “He that loses his life for my sake will find it.”—Matthew 10:39, footnote.
At 17 years of age, Ernestine was diagnosed as suffering from leukemia. Upon being hospitalized, she refused to consent to the use of blood products to support the chemotherapy the doctors wanted to administer. Because of Ernestine’s refusal and her mother’s support of her choice of nonblood treatment, the hospital reported the matter to the welfare officials in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A., who in turn sought a court order to use blood. A hearing was arranged, at which the trial court heard testimony from Ernestine, a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, and an attorney, as well as from other people involved.
Ernestine told her doctor she did not want blood. That it was her own personal decision based on her reading of the Bible. That an involuntary transfusion administered under court order still disrespects God’s law and is wrong in her eyes, regardless of court authority. That she was not opposed to medical treatment and did not want to die. That her decision was not a death wish, not suicidal; however, she did not fear death.
Stanley Yachnin, M.D., testified that he was “impressed with Ernestine’s maturity, her sense of herself,” and the sincerity of her religious beliefs. He also said Ernestine understood the nature and consequences of her illness. Because of her comprehension, Dr. Yachnin saw no need to call in a psychiatrist or a psychologist.
Nevertheless, one was called, Ner Littner, M.D., a psychiatrist, who after talking with Ernestine was of the opinion that she had the maturity of someone between the ages of 18 and 21. He stated that Ernestine exhibited an understanding of the implications of accepting or refusing blood transfusions. He said she accepted this, not because she was under the control of another, but because she believed this herself. Dr. Littner said Ernestine should be allowed to make her own decision in this matter.
Jane McAtee, an attorney for the hospital, testified that after interviewing Ernestine, she believed that Ernestine understood the nature of her illness and that she “seemed fully capable of understanding her decision and accepting the consequences of it.”
The court too was very impressed with Ernestine’s testimony. The court found that Ernestine was a mature 17-year-old, able to make informed medical decisions; yet, amazingly, the court granted an order allowing blood transfusions. At the hospital two doctors were standing by, transfusion equipment set up, and as soon as the court’s decision came in, the transfusion was forcibly given to Ernestine in spite of her vigorous protests. The court’s order was promptly appealed but not in time to stop the hospital’s precipitate transfusion.
To stop any further transfusions, the trial court’s order was first appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court. In a two-to-one decision, the Appellate Court held that Ernestine could not be forced to submit to blood transfusions against her will. The court reasoned that Ernestine’s First Amendment right of religious free exercise along with her constitutional right of privacy protected her right as a mature minor to refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons.
The child-welfare officials then appealed the Appellate Court’s decision to the Illinois Supreme Court. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, ruling that even though Ernestine was a minor, she had the right to refuse medical treatment that was objectionable to her. This supreme court based its decision on the common law right of bodily self-determination and the mature-minor rule. The standard to be applied in mature-minor cases in Illinois was summarized by the Illinois Supreme Court in the following statement:
“If the evidence is clear and convincing that the minor is mature enough to appreciate the consequences of her actions, and that the minor is mature enough to exercise the judgment of an adult, then the mature minor doctrine affords her the common law right to consent to or refuse medical treatment.”
Ernestine had no further transfusions, and she did not die from her leukemia. Ernestine stood firm and put God first, like the other young people mentioned previously. Each one received “power beyond what is normal.”—2 Corinthians 4:7.
[Box on page 13]
Dangers of Blood Transfusion
The New England Journal of Medicine, issue of December 14, 1989, reported that a single unit of blood may carry enough AIDS virus to cause up to 1.75 million infections!
In 1987, after it became known that AIDS was being transmitted by the volunteer blood supply, the book Autologous and Directed Blood Programs lamented: “This was the most bitter of all medical ironies; that the precious life-giving gift of blood could turn out to be an instrument of death.”
Dr. Charles Huggins, director of blood transfusion services at a Massachusetts, U.S.A., hospital, said: “It is the most dangerous substance we use in medicine.”
The Surgery Annual concluded: “Clearly, the safest transfusion is the one not given.”
Because there is a much higher recurrence of cancer after surgery where blood transfusions have been used, Dr. John S. Spratt said in The American Journal of Surgery, issue of September 1986: “The cancer surgeon may need to become a bloodless surgeon.”
The journal Emergency Medicine said: “Our experience with Jehovah’s Witnesses might be interpreted to mean that we do not need to rely on blood transfusions, with all their potential complications, as much as we once thought.”
The journal Pathologist referred to the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses to take blood and said: “There is considerable evidence to support their contention, despite protestations from blood bankers to the contrary.”
Dr. Charles H. Baron, professor of law at Boston College Law School, said concerning Jehovah’s Witnesses’ refusal to take blood: “All of American society has benefited. Not only Jehovah’s Witnesses, but patients in general, are today less likely to be given unnecessary blood transfusions because of the work of the Witnesses’ Hospital Liaison Committees.”