Recombinant Human Erythropoietin Therapy in Critically Ill Jehovah's Witnesses
Blood transfusions and blood products are often given as a life-saving measure in patients with critical illness. However, some patients, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, may refuse their administration due to religious beliefs. Jehovah's Witnesses accept most available medical treatments, but not blood transfusions or blood products due to their religion's interpretation of several passages from the Bible. Since recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) became available, several cases have been reported in which rHuEPO was successfully administered to critically ill Jehovah's Witnesses. Administration of rHuEPO in combination with other blood conservation techniques has been shown to increase hemoglobin levels and survival in patients who experienced trauma, burns, general surgery, or gastrointestinal hemorrhage. We performed a literature search of the MEDLINE and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts databases of rHuEPO therapy in the Jehovah's Witness population. Fourteen cases were identified in which rHuEPO was administered to Jehovah's Witnesses who required the drug for critical care resuscitation as an alternative to blood products. In each clinical situation, rHuEPO enhanced erythropoiesis; however, time to the start of treatment, dosages, route of administration, and treatment duration varied widely. Supplementation with adjunctive agents, such as iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12, was also beneficial. Use of rHuEPO in Jehovah's Witnesses may provide an alternative to blood transfusions or blood products. Other alternatives, such as hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers and perfluorocarbons, are also being explored.
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