JULY 15, 2013 | UNITED STATES

Helping Prisoners

Learn how Bible truth is reaching the hearts of people in prison.

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JULY 8, 2013 | UNITED STATES

Seeing God’s Word in My Language

See how deaf parents benefit from having the Bible in American Sign Language.

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OCTOBER 04, 2012 | UKRAINE

Justice Prevails in Ukraine

On September 26, 2012, the Ukraine Supreme Court quashed an illegal attempt to seize a large part of the property on which the Ukraine branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses is located.

The Witnesses legally purchased the property in 1998. However, in 2008, the previous owner sold the property a second time, to the Sport Development Center LLC (SDC). Such actions are known in Ukraine as property raids.

The local commercial court ruled that the contract of sale to the SDC was legal, and the appeals by the Witnesses were dismissed.

However, justice prevailed. In December 2011, the high commercial court ruled in favor of the Witnesses and in April 2012 rejected the SDC’s appeal. This confirmed that the property rightfully belonged to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Three months later the appellate commercial court in Lviv revoked the local court’s unlawful decision that had recognized the SDC as the owner of the property.

In a final attempt to claim ownership, the SDC appealed the April decision to the Supreme Court of Ukraine. On September 26, however, the court swiftly and commendably rejected the appeal, finally settling the matter.

If the landgrab had been successful, Jehovah’s Witnesses would have lost their administrative building and a large portion of their property, hampering activities at their national headquarters in Ukraine.

By MICHELLE CASTILLO / CBS NEWS/ July 3, 2012, 1:07 PM

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Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions after cardiac surgery at no greater health risk

A man receives a blood transfusion./ AP

(CBS News) New research shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions after cardiac surgery are at no greater health risks than people who undergo the procedure. The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine on July 2, intended to look at patients who do not undergo blood transfusions after cardiac surgery. Because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe on religious grounds that they are not supposed to ingest the blood of another, they made ideal test subjects.

The study looked at 48,986 non-Witnesses who had blood transfusions and 322 Witnesses who refused to have blood transfusions who all underwent cardiac surgery between 1983 to 2011. After matching the patients up by similar cases, researchers found both groups had similar risks for dying at the hospital. However, Witnesses had lower chances of having additional operations for bleeding, renal failure and sepsis compared with non-Witnesses who received transfusions.

“It behooves us to examine more closely some Jehovah Witness processes of care and implement them in our routine surgeries,” study author Dr. Colleen Koch, a cardiothoracic anesthesiologist at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said to HealthDay.

Witnesses spent less time in the intensive care unit and less time in the hospital than the other group. They also had higher survival rates compared to the people who were non-witnesses at 95 percent and 89 percent respectively. Both groups had close 20-year survival rates (34 percent versus 32 percent).

According to the Mayo Clinic, blood transfusions can cause a number of health complications, including allergic reactions, fevers, lung injury, spread of bloodborne infections and acute immune hemolytic reaction – a rare transfusion reaction in which a person’s body attacks the new blood because it’s not the proper type. But, HealthDay points out that screening techniques introduced in the 1990s have made it safer than it previously was.

Transfusion is typically ordered because of the risk of anemia – which the National Institutes of Health defines as a condition where the body does not have enough red blood cells. Anemia can cause the person to feel tired or weak, have headaches and shortness of breath, as well as problems concentrating or thinking.

Dr. Victor A. Ferraris, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Kentucky, wrote in an accompanying commentary that the study shows that it might do doctors well to look at their own practices.

“The findings of this analysis by Pattakos and colleagues add to the increasing data that suggest that more conservative use of blood transfusions would be in our patients’ interest, in both Witnesses and non-Witnesses,” he stated.

But, Dr. Gregory Fontana, chair of cardiothoracic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, warns HealthDay that the results don’t indicate that we should expand the findings to everyone.

“just because this paper is published, we cannot willy nilly start treating everyone like Jehovah’s Witnesses,” he told HealthDay. “It does provide further evidence that transfusion with real indication carries a risk that heretofore has been underestimated.”

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Angola: Over 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses At Annual Assembly

1 OCTOBER 2012

Cabinda — At least 3,900 Jehovah’s Witnesses of Cabinda Circuit on Sunday attended the Annual Special Meeting which took place in the hall of the assemblies of the People Grande, outskirts of Cabinda city.

Under the theme “Protect Your Conscience,” Jehovah’s Witnesses of Cabinda Circuit gone from all congregations were instructed on how to keep their conscience clean and maintain continuous perseverance in the biblical laws and principles.

Putting into practice the principles of Jehovah, be alert, be cautious and be awake with the principles and laws of Jehovah, were reminders that were transmitted to Jehovah’s witnesses during a special meeting today, Monday.

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More doctors honor religious objections to blood transfusions

October 09, 2012|By Manya A. Brachear, Chicago Tribune reporter
Tracy Pickett gives Dr. Christopher DeWald a hug after her first appointment since she had surgeries for scoliosis at Rush University Medical Center. As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, Pickett was nervous that doctors performing the complex surgeries would not honor her wishes if she needed a blood transfusion.
Tracy Pickett gives Dr. Christopher DeWald a hug after her first appointment since she had surgeries for scoliosis at Rush University Medical Center. As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, Pickett was nervous that doctors performing the complex surgeries would not honor her wishes if she needed a blood transfusion. (Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune)

As a Jehovah’s Witness, Tracy Pickett always has enjoyed knocking on doors and introducing strangers to the tenets of her faith. But by the time she reached her mid-40s, scoliosis made every step excruciating and her spiritual mission impossible.

Walking again would require surgery that often involves tremendous blood loss and a transfusion — a medical procedure to replenish the blood supply forbidden by her church.

“Even though I love life and I don’t want to die, I want good medical care without blood,” said Pickett, 49, of Crown Point, Ind. “If it got to that point, I would rather lose my life than disobey my creator and take a blood transfusion.”

Dr. Christopher Dewald, Pickett’s orthopedic surgeon at Rush University Medical Center, nervously agreed to find alternatives and perform the surgery. Dewald said he couldn’t fathom letting a patient die on his operating table, but because he respected Pickett’s convictions, he invested time to explore the options.

“I explained to her that I would have a hard time letting her pass away right in front of me and that I might have a problem not giving her blood,” said Dewald, a Roman Catholic. “But I was going to do everything in my power to honor her wishes.”

For years, many doctors have resisted accommodating religious tenets that they believe endanger their patients. But more physicians, including Dewald, are practicing within the confines of religious restrictions, even when it might put their patients’ lives at risk.

Although alternatives to transfusions have been around for years, more physicians are weighing patients’ spiritual well-being and peace of mind as part of their treatment.

“In the rational realm, it doesn’t necessarily make sense,” said Dr. Valluvan Jeevanandam, an expert in high-risk cardiac surgery at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “But if what they believe makes them peaceful and content, I’m not going to take that away from them.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses cite Acts 15 in their own New World translation of the Holy Scriptures to explain their objection to blood transfusions. “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”

Most Christians believe that verse denounces pagan rituals such as eating and drinking blood. But Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret it as a prohibition on accepting blood that has been removed and stored. They also point to four verses in Leviticus and three verses in Deuteronomy to demonstrate that any blood spilled and not eaten (referring to animal blood) should not be reused, but given back to God.

Because it can be difficult to find doctors who respect the rule, the church appoints hospital liaisons to manage a database of local physicians and make referrals.

“Each major city of the world has a hospital liaison committee to bridge the gap between the Jehovah’s Witness community and medical community,” said T.J. Bullock, the church’s liaison in Chicago. “If physicians have questions about what we accept or don’t accept or are looking for advice, we can put them in touch with other physicians.

Jeevanandam has accepted many of Bullock’s referrals. He said he warns every patient that the mortality rate is higher for anyone who declines blood transfusions.

“We don’t have a 100 percent success rate. We do lose people,” he said. “You’re telling me what ammunition to use to fix your problem. If you take blood away, that’s a large portion of my arsenal. There will be potential for higher complications.”

Brian Montalbano, 31, of Nashville, Tenn., found Jeevanandam several years ago when he needed a second heart transplant. His first transplant at age 9, before he was a Jehovah’s Witness, had involved a transfusion that also transmitted a virus, he said.

By the time he came to Jeevanandam in his late 20s, he not only remembered that rocky recovery, but also had converted to a faith that didn’t allow another transfusion. However, it did allow him to get a new heart.

Montalbano encountered more complications. Shortly after the surgery, his lungs filled with fluid. Other doctors besides Jeevanandam recommended a transfusion to boost his strength. Still, he declined, resulting in a stroke that temporarily paralyzed his left side, he said.

“I believe I was making the right decision,” said Montalbano, adding that he has fully recovered. “The ultimate goal is to serve God and do his will. And I believed that if I made it through, I would be doing it faithfully. Any risks that come would be worth the reward.”

Dr. Hieu Ton-That, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Medical Center, has struggled to build a critical mass of specialized colleagues who agree to avoid transfusions regardless of the outcome. He has worked to overcome the widespread misperception that Jehovah’s Witnesses wholly reject medical care.

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