Court dismisses blood transfusion suit

The Tokyo District Court dismissed on Mar. 12 a suit filed by a Jehovah’s Witness demanding that the government and six doctors compensate her for administering a blood transfusion without her approval.

Presiding Judge Takashi Oshima rejected the claim by the 68-year-old woman from Chiba Prefecture, saying the doctors’ decision to give her the blood transfusion without her consent was not illegal. The plaintiff, whose name is being withheld, was seeking 12 million yen in damages from the government and six doctors at Tokyo University’s Institute of Medical Science.

The woman, who has been a Jehovah’s Witness since 1963, had a liver tumor removed at the hospital in September 1992 after the doctors guaranteed she would not need a transfusion during the surgery, according to the lawsuit. Before her operation, the plaintiff had written and signed a document detailing her desire to not receive a transfusion for religious reasons. The document also absolved the doctors of any blame in case her condition worsened as a result of her refusal to accept blood during surgery. The doctors accepted the document and agreed not to give her a blood transfusion under any circumstances, the plaintiff maintained.

In his ruling, Oshima said the “special contract” exchanged between the doctors and the patient was “invalid.” Making such a special contract “goes against medicine’s first goal, which is to treat and save the life of the patient, against the noble value of human life, and against the doctor’s obligation to save the life of the patient in the best possible way,” Oshima said.