UK Healthcare Policy: Impacts on Jehovah's Witnesses

Taylorian, Brandon Reece orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2632-5642 (2019) UK Healthcare Policy: Impacts on Jehovah's Witnesses. Astronist Institution.

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The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a non-trinitarian Christian denomination with origins in the state of New York in the USA from the mid-to-late 19th century. The denomination claims approximately eight million members worldwide and some of its more unique beliefs have set it far apart from traditional forms of Christianity which have largely lead to its isolation from the wider Christian community. Amongst the group’s unique beliefs is their interpretation of a Bible passage as denouncing the transfusion of blood due to blood’s sacredness. Since the introduction of this belief as doctrine in 1945, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide have found themselves in legal battles against public healthcare providers in many countries with some notable cases occurring in the UK. This paper clarifies the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses with regards to blood transfusions and critically explores the contention between the ethical code of healthcare professionals to save lives in all circumstances and the deeply held religious beliefs of patients. Specifically, the UK government healthcare policy will be analysed to see how it has impacted on the Jehovah’s Witness community as well as the consequences of these effects on the pluralistic principles upheld in a culturally and religiously-diverse 21st-century United Kingdom. This paper will explore the impact of government healthcare policy on the religious freedoms of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with a particular focus placed on the community’s rejection of blood transfusions. Both adult and child cases of blood transfusion will be reviewed and an analysis will take place on the British government’s current laws regarding non-consensual transfusions despite being against the religious convictions of the person. A particularly difficult area to be discussed will be the role of healthcare professionals in the context of parents’ refusal to accept blood transfusions for their child in a fatal state. Incorporated into the discussion will be the international laws regarding religious freedoms and an overall understanding will be achieved as to whether the current UK law aligns with or opposes religious pluralism. This will inevitably lead to a wider analysis of the state of religious freedom in the UK and how catering to religious beliefs is a fundamental element of pluralism. Around this, a conclusion will be drawn to clarify the extent to which UK government healthcare policy has impacted the cultural and religious identity of the Jehovah’s Witness community.

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