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Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of
Blood Components and/or Blood Products
November 2008
Page 1 of 23Page 1 of 23


Title: Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or
Blood Products

Reference Number:
Corp09/003

Implementation Date:
This policy will be implemented after being signed off by the
Chief Executive

Review date
: This policy will be reviewed one year after the effective date and
thereafter every two years

Responsible Officer
: The officer responsible for reviewing this policy is the
Haemovigilance Practitioner on behalf of the Hospital Transfusion Committee
This policy has been developed within the context of Equality and Human Rights
statutory obligations and requirements.
Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products


Table of Contents
4. Consent Issues regarding treatment without Blood Components and/or Blood Products 5. Clinical Management of patient who declines transfusion of Blood Component and/or Blood Products Acknowledgements 21 Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products


1. Introduction
Occasionally patients presenting for surgery, or other procedures, may request to have bloodless procedures on the basis of a deeply held religious belief (Jehovah's Witnesses) or personal conviction. The patient has every right not to expect to receive blood if they have made it clear in advance that they do not wish to do so. To administer blood to a competent adult who has refused to accept it either by an advance directive or by its exclusion in a consent form is unlawful, ethically unacceptable and may lead to criminal and civil proceedings. This does not mean that these patients have any wish to die prematurely and it is essential for the medical or surgical team involved to give this patient group the optimal care at all stages of their treatment. This will include a multidisciplinary approach at each of the stages of informed consent, pre-procedure optimisation, intra-operative management and post-operative care. 2. Alternatives to Blood Transfusion
According to the HSS Circular MD6/03 Better Blood Transfusion, Appropriate use of Blood (2003), patients at risk of transfusion should be informed of their choices which include information relating to alternatives to blood transfusion. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products


3. Jehovah's Witnesses view of Blood

Jehovah's Witnesses have strong beliefs based upon passages from the Bible that are
interpreted as prohibiting the ‘consumption' of blood. As a result of this belief, they do
not accept transfusion of whole blood or its primary component.
It is important to ascertain if the patient is a fully dedicated Jehovah's Witness – this
can be confirmed if the patient is carrying an Advance Decision to Refuse Specified
Medical Treatment Card (Appendix One) hereafter referred to as an Advance Directive
card. Many Jehovah's Witnesses have lodged a copy with their general practitioner, as
well as with associates and relatives (Royal College of Surgeons, 2002). If there is
doubt, and time permits, ADVICE may be sought from a family member, the patient's
General Practitioner, a member of the Jehovah Witness congregation or by contacting
the Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah Witnesses' (Appendix Two). Relatives and
associates CANNOT consent to or refuse treatment for a patient, other than in the case
of a minor.
Staff, on learning that a patient is a Jehovah's Witnesses, should enquire fully as to
which aspects of treatment are acceptable and which are not. It is also necessary to
identify how these beliefs will affect treatment, whether immediate or planned.
Acceptable Medical Treatment
• Most medical treatments, surgical & anaesthetic procedures, devices & techniques, as well as haemostatic & therapeutic agents that do not contain blood • Non-blood volume expanders (e.g. saline, dextran) • Non-blood management techniques such as Hypotensive Anaesthesia, Meticulous Haemostasis and Diathermy • Agents such as Erythropoietin, Aprotinin, Desmopressin, Vasoconstrictors and Recombinant Factor V11a Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Matters of Patient Choice Each Jehovah's Witness will decide whether he or she wishes to accept the following as a matter of personal choice. Hence it is essential to discuss whether or not these procedures are acceptable with each patient: - • Intra-operative and post-operative cell salvage (not available in Western Health & Social Care Trust) • Heart by-pass (pumps must be primed with non-blood fluids) (not available in Western Health & Social Care Trust) • Haemodialysis • Plasma derivatives or cellular components (e.g. albumin, immunoglobulins, anti- D, clotting factors, haemophilic preparations, vaccines) • Haemoglobin based oxygen carrying solutions, not yet licensed in the UK, may soon be available • Organ Transplants (not available in Western Health & Social Care Trust) Unacceptable Medical Treatment (All Jehovah's Witnesses) • Transfusion of whole blood, packed red cells, white cells, plasma (FFP) & • Preoperative autologous blood collection and storage for later reinfusion. Values of a Jehovah's Witnesses The decision of individual Jehovah's Witness to absolutely refuse blood and primary blood components is their own choice and should be free from any external influence. Jehovah's Witnesses accept full legal responsibility for their decision and release those treating them from any liability for any adverse consequences directly arising from their management options being curtailed by the exclusion of blood or primary blood components. It should be noted that it is highly significant for a baptised Jehovah Witness to wilfully and without regret accept blood transfusion since by doing so he/she rejects a previously held core value and thus indicates by his or her own actions that he/she no longer wishes to be a Jehovah Witness. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products 4. Consent Issues regarding treatment without Blood Components and/or
Blood Products
The basic rule applies that a patient, whatever his or her condition, may not be treated without their consent except where emergency treatment is required and/or the patient is unable to give consent and where no valid advance directive card has been received by the Trust. The Blood Components / Blood Products Advance Directive / Consent (Appendix Three) supplements the Department of Heath, Social Services & Public Safety (DHSSPS) Form ‘Consent for Examination, Treatment or Care' and it does not replace a current Jehovah's Witnesses Advance Directive card. It is not only the patient who needs to be involved in the consent process as other key members of the peri-operative team (e.g. anaesthetist) needs to be alerted well in advance to clarify that they have no personal objections to proceeding with the proposed bloodless procedures in the patient – especially when there may be a considerable risk of morbidity and/or mortality. An accurate record of all discussions about consent and treatment options should be made in the patient's hospital notes. 5. Clinical Management of Patient who declines transfusion of Blood
Components and/or Blood Products. (The Association of Anaesthetists of
Great Britain and Ireland, 2005). (Appendix Four & Five)
Personnel Recruitment • In an elective patient who declines transfusion of blood component or blood product, the anaesthetic department should be contacted as soon as possible to ensure that a consultant anaesthetist is prepared to manage the patient's care. Anaesthetists have the right to refuse to anaesthetise an individual in an elective situation but should attempt to refer the case to a suitable qualified colleague prepared to undertake it. The surgeon should be informed as soon as possible if any difficulty ensues. In an emergency, the anaesthetist is obliged to provide care and MUST respect the patient's competently expressed views. • As with any surgical procedure, the surgeon may decline to undertake a procedure if the perceived risk/benefit ratio is unacceptable and will attempt to contact a colleague who is prepared to manage the patient's care. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products • With any major surgical procedure, the opinion of the consultant surgeon should be sought, and the operation undertaken by a surgeon of seniority appropriate to the risks involved (Royal College of Surgeons, 2002). Planning Surgery • Major procedures can be carried out in stages in order to limit acute blood loss and the choice of operative technique may also influence outcomes. • Consideration should be given, before surgery, to one or more techniques to reduce intra-operative blood loss such as meticulous haemostasis and drug therapy. Obstetric Considerations • The introduction of an antenatal alert of the anticipated delivery of a child to a Jehovah's Witness mother can be beneficial so that appropriate senior staff will be available. This arrangement should apply to booking of delivery dates by both obstetricians and midwives (The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, 2005). • An appropriate care plan for ‘Women in labour refusing a Blood Transfusion' should be agreed between patient and the Consultant Obstetrician (Appendix Six). Pre Operative Assessment/Discussion • Pre-operative anaemia should be investigated and treated. Discussion of an individual case with a Consultant Haematologist could be beneficial. • Full pre-operative investigations and consultations with the patient should take place as early as possible, in order to ascertain the degree of limitation on intra-operative management. • Risks of blood loss should be reduced by identifying bleeding disorders and discontinuation of drugs that interfere with coagulation if feasible e.g. warfarin and antiplatelet drugs. • At the pre-operative visit, it is important to take the opportunity to see the patient without relatives or members of the local community (if a Jehovah's Witness) who may influence and impede full and frank discussion of the acceptability of certain forms of treatment. Treatments that are regarded as acceptable should be established and the patient made fully aware of the risks of refusal of blood or blood products. Agreed procedures and non-acceptable treatments should be documented in the clinical notes, witnessed by the patient and dated, timed and signed. At the patient's request, family members or members of the Hospital Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Liaison Committee for Jehovah's Witnesses may be included in these discussions (Appendix Two for contact numbers). • Post-operative blood loss should be carefully monitored and accurately recorded. 6. Legal Position

Conscious Adult Patient – Elective Treatment
- A conscious, mentally competent adult (over 18 years old) cannot be given treatment without his or her valid consent. Refusal of treatment can be for reasons, which are rational, irrational or for no reason at all. Health care professionals may be legally liable if they administer blood in the face of a refusal by a competent patient who has refused either verbally, by signing a consent form against blood transfusion and/or by carrying an Advance Directive card. - Consultation with an experienced practitioner who is aware of blood loss that is likely, pre-optimisation pathway & risks that bloodless procedures present to the patient. - Review, consider & discuss non-blood alternatives & treatments without use of homologous blood (Jehovah's witnesses do not accept pre-deposit autologous transfusions). - Consultation with other doctors who may have experience with non-blood management & treatment without recourse to homologous blood. - Consider transferring the patient to another site more familiar or willing to comply with the treatment permitted. - Complete relevant documentation (Appendix Three & Four). • Conscious Adult Patient – Emergency Treatment
- If patient is conscious & his/her condition not so extreme as to impair capacity to understand what is proposed, then the patient's wishes must be respected. - No other person has the authority to consent to or refuse treatment on behalf of the conscious adult patient. - If patient, having refused blood product, gives reliable indication at any point that he has changed his mind, then he may be treated in accordance with that wider consent despite the dissent of relatives. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products - Whenever possible consent should be expressly given in writing by the patient to prevent any misunderstanding. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products • Unconscious Adult Patient – Elective Treatment
- Investigate any suggestion that patient is a Jehovah's Witness & enquire as to restrictions in treatment this may dictate. - Any documents found with patient or produced by patient's relatives (most Jehovah's Witnesses carry an Advance Directive card) or information as to patient's beliefs notified by relatives must be carefully noted. If a relative or associate suggests that a patient would not accept a blood transfusion, they must provide documentary evidence such as an Advance Directive card. Without this, blood should not be withheld in life-threatening circumstances (Milligan & Bellamy, 2004). - Many Jehovah's Witnesses lodge a copy of the Advance Directive card with their General Practitioner, who should be contacted if documentation required (or contact the Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah Witnesses' – Appendix Two). - If relevant documents are produced that clearly indicates the patient has adopted particular views with regard to use of blood products, then those restrictions must be observed. • Unconscious Adult Patient – Emergency Treatment
- If an Advance Directive card is signed, dated and the signature witnessed, then there can be no reasonable doubt concerning its validity. - If there is obvious doubt as to the validity of the documents or no documents available, the patient should receive such treatment as is immediately necessary and in his/her best interest. DO NOT delay transfusion so as to put the patient at risk. - No other person can consent or refuse treatment. Thus in the absence of a direct expression from the patient of his/her views or a valid Advance Directive card, treatment should proceed without restriction from others. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products • Patient with Mental Illness – Elective Treatment
- Investigate any suggestion that patient is a Jehovah's Witness & enquire as to restrictions in treatment this may dictate. - Any documents found with patient or produced by patient's relatives (most Jehovah's Witnesses carry an Advance Directive card) or information as to patient's beliefs notified by relatives must be carefully noted. - Many Jehovah's Witnesses lodge a copy of the Advance Directive card with their General Practitioner, who should be contacted if documentation required (or contact the Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah Witnesses' – Appendix Two). - If relevant documents produced that clearly indicates the patient has adopted particular views with regard to use of blood products, then those restrictions must be observed. - Where it is suggested by relatives that there should be limitations imposed on treatment options seek senior medical and risk management guidance. • Patient without Capacity – Emergency Treatment
- If an Advance Directive card is signed, dated and the signature witnessed, then there can be no reasonable doubt concerning its validity. - If there is obvious doubt as to the validity of the documents, the patient should receive such treatment as is immediately necessary and in his/her best interest. DO NOT delay transfusion so as to put the patient at risk. If a relative or associate suggests that a patient would not accept a blood transfusion, they must provide documentary evidence such as an Advance Directive card. Without this, blood should not be withheld in life-threatening circumstances (Milligan & Bellamy, 2004). - No other person can consent or refuse treatment. Thus in the absence of a direct expression from the patient of his/her views treatment should proceed without restriction from others. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products • Child capable of giving informed consent (Gillick competent)
- A child who is adjudged capable of giving informed consent to treatment (including blood transfusion) can do so and can thus override parental wishes if he or she so chooses. - Young people between aged 16 and 17 years old are presumed to be competent to give consent (refusal may still be challenged), and should be treated as such unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. - Where a competent child up to the age of 18 refuses treatment and the treating team considers the refusal not to be in the child's best interests, the Trust's solicitors should be contacted (Litigation Department, Westcare Ext 2376 or 02871865121) and a Court can be asked to authorise the proposed treatment on the child's behalf. • Child unable to give informed consent – Elective Treatment
- Where parents refuse consent to a blood transfusion on behalf of a minor (i.e. a person below the age of 18) and the treating team believe that blood is necessary, the Trust's legal advisors should be contacted (Litigation Department, Westcare Ext 2376 or 02871865121) to consider making an application to the Court. - It is important, before this serious step is taken, that two doctors of Consultant status, should make an unambiguous, clear & signed entry in the clinical notes that the blood transfusion is essential, or likely to become so, to save life or prevent serious permanent harm. - In the event that a court order is sought, it is strongly recommended that the parents be given the opportunity to be properly represented & are kept fully informed of the practitioner's intention to apply for the court order. - Involvement of Litigation Department (Westcare Ext 2376 or 02871865121) is Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products • Child unable to give informed consent – Emergency Treatment
- Management of a Jehovah's Witnesses child in an emergency situation, who is likely to succumb without the immediate administration of blood, is viewed in law in a different light. In this situation, application to the courts would be too time consuming & blood should be transfused without consulting the court. (Courts are likely to uphold decision of doctor who gave blood). - Two doctors, Consultant status, should make an unambiguous, clear & signed entry in clinical notes that the blood transfusion is essential to save life or prevent serious permanent harm. - The Trust's legal department (Litigation Department, Westcare Ext 2376 or 02871865121) should be informed as early as possible. • If any patient has additional support needs to ensure effective communication to ensure informed consent, e.g. language and signing interpreting, then this will be provided for as appropriate. Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix One
Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix Two

Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah Witnesses' Contact Numbers The prime role of members of the Hospital Liaison Committee for Jehovah Witnesses' is to assist in avoiding confrontation between doctor and patient and to assist understanding on both sides. They can provide reference material and information about the latest developments in blood surgical and medical management. They will be able to provide a contact list of consultant surgeons and physicians who have had experience in providing non-blood medical management for Jehovah Witnesses' patients. Jehovah Witnesses' patients may require the hospital staff to contact members of the Hospital Liaison Committee on their behalf. Hospital Liaison Committee members for Western Area: - Mr David Benstead Telephone 00353749736974 Telephone 02871882317 Mobile 07708222583 Mr Tim Nightingale Telephone 02871811784 Mobile 07935223764 Mr Ronald Bacon Telephone 02870353502 Mobile 07867690764 Nonurgent communications, email: daveandmaggie@eircom.net Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix Three
Blood Components / Blood Products Advance Directive / Consent Ideally this advance directive / consent must be gained by an informed Consultant
Practitioner after the patient has had sufficient information and adequate time (to consult
others if necessary) to make a fully informed decision. This section is to be completed by
the patient and a Consultant Anaesthetist / Consultant Surgeon / Consultant Physician.

I _ (print patient's full
name), born on the _ day of _ (month), (year), am of sound
mind and I voluntarily make this health care advance directive. This will remain in force
until specifically revoked by me.

Concerning the following medical treatments:
Treatment Patient's Wishes Blood transfusion from a donor (whole blood)
I will accept
I will not accept
Blood transfusion predonated by me (whole blood)
I will accept
I will not accept
Red blood cell from a donor
I will accept
I will not accept
Red blood cell predonated by me
I will accept
I will not accept
White blood cells
I will accept
I will not accept
Platelets
I will accept
I will not accept
Fresh Frozen Plasma
I will accept
I will not accept
I will accept
I will not accept
I will accept
I will not accept
Coagulation factors
I will accept
I will not accept
Recombinant coagulation factors
I will accept
I will not accept
Immunoglobulins (including Anti-D)
I will accept
I will not accept
Crystalloids (Saline, Hartmann's, dextrose)
I will accept
I will not accept
Colloids (Gelofusion, Haemacell, Dextran)
I will accept
I will not accept
Recombinant Erythropoietin
I will accept
I will not accept
I will accept
I will not accept
I will accept
I will not accept
Patient confirms that above details are correct
Full Name (Print): Signature:
Date: Time:
Completed by: -
Full Name (Print): Signature:
Consultant Anaesthetist / Consultant Surgeon / Consultant Physician (Please select appropriate response)
Date: Time:
Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix Four
Elective Surgery – Patient who declines Transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products
Statement of Health Care Professional
Please affix patient addressograph label
Estimate expected blood loss: _ ml If expected blood loss > 500ml, Consultant Surgeon/Physician must be involved
Patient informed about procedure and blood loss? Blood samples taken: FBC Warfarin/Antiplatelet drugs to be stopped before procedure If expected blood loss > 500ml: Is If ‘yes', please specify _ Has If the patient wishes to proceed with proposed procedure with blood loss > 500ml expected: Patient referred to Anaesthetist at earliest opportunity? Patient advised of additional risks of morbidity / mortality Because of refusal to accept blood and/or blood products? Completed by: - Full Consultant/Specialist Registrar/Staff Grade (Please select appropriate response) Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix Five
Summary of Clinical management for Medical Staff to consider
Liaison with Anaesthetic / Haematological Personnel Consider iron supplements Consider erythropoietin Intra-operativelyAnaesthetic Experienced senior personnel should be present Correct patient positioning Normothermia maintained (use of fluid warmer and temperature of Haemodilution should be employed Hypotensive technique followed by optimal filling & normo / hypertension before closing the wound (considered essential) Anti-fibrinolytics Experienced senior personnel should be present Correct patient positioning Meticulous surgical haemostasis Use of topical haemostatic agents Staged procedure (if possible) Low risk operative technique (if choice available) Use vasoconstrictor (if appropriate) Tourniquet (if possible) Early Hb check (Use micro-sampling) Careful record of blood loss Early re-exploration, if indicated Early discussion with a Consultant Haematologist Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Appendix Six
Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products References:

DHSSPS (2003) Better Blood Transfusion – Appropriate Use of Blood (HSS Circular
MD6/03) www.dhsspsni.gov.uk
DHSSPS (2003) Good Practice in Consent – A Handbook for the HPSS.
www.dhsspsni.gov.uk Milligan, LJ, Bellamy, MC (2004) Anaesthesia and critical care of Jehovah's
Witnesses. Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain, 4, 2, 35 – 39.
The Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (2005) Management of
Anaesthesia for Jehovah's Witnesses
. Hampshire: Alfresford Press.
Royal College of Surgeons (2002) Code of Practice for The Surgical Management of
Jehovah's Witnesses
. London: IBSA.
Acknowledgements:

The Hospital Transfusion Committee would like to acknowledge representatives from
the local Hospital Liaison Committee who contributed useful comments to this
document. The local Hospital Liaison Committee provided a copy of a ‘Policy for the
treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses' as a reference source from North Bristol NHS Trust
that they perceived to be an accurate reflection on their beliefs.
Treatment of Patients who decline transfusion of Blood Components and/or Blood Products

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