10 years' experience with heart surgery
in Jehovah's witnesses

Gombotz H, Rigler B, Matzer C, Metzler H,
Winkler G, Tscheliessnigg KH.
Klinik fur Anaesthesiologie der Universitat Graz.
Anaesthesist. 1989 Aug;38(8):385-90


As a result of their interpretation of the Bible, members of Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions under any circumstances. Consequently, they present moral and ethical problems to surgeons and anesthetists, especially in cardiac surgery. PATIENTS and METHODS. From November 1978 to November 1988, 66 members Jehovah's Witnesses were scheduled for cardiac surgery; 57 patients were operated upon (mean age 33.3 years, 14 days to 70.4 years; mean body weight 51 kg, 0.7 to 95.5 kg); 21 were younger than 14 years. Patients with hematocrit (Hct) less than 35%, expected high intra- and postoperative blood loss, compromised left ventricular function, ST-segment alterations, critical aortic stenosis, severe unstable angina pectoris, complex heart defects, especially in children, extreme body weight, severe diabetes, renal insufficiency, coagulopathies, severe pulmonary disease, and heavy smokers were excluded from operation. Whereas in nonbypass patients no special blood-saving techniques were used, in bypass patients a modified version of isovolemic hemodilution, with a hypothermic, bloodless priming technique of extracorporeal circulation (ECC) was performed after induction of anesthesia. At the end of the ECC all blood collected in the pericardial and pleural cavities was returned to the oxygenator and the entire content of the extracorporeal circuit was infused into the patient through the aortic cannula. All patients receiving ECC were ventilated for 24 h postoperatively and received dopamine (2-5 micrograms/kg) and antibiotics routinely. RESULTS: Due to the above mentioned contraindications, 9 patients were not accepted for surgery, 10 were operated upon without cardiopulmonary bypass or blood-saving techniques. In 47 patients open heart surgery with ECC and moderate or deep hypothermia was performed. In the adult patients (n = 36) Hct values decreased from 44.4% (35-70%) preoperatively to 32.1% (21-46%) after hemodilution, reached their lowest levels during cardiopulmonary bypass at 17.9% (9.9-43%), and increased to 33.7% (22%-43%) at the end of the operation. Hct averaged 28.2% (20%-39%) on the 3rd and 33.2% (23%-46%) on the 12th postoperative day. In children (n = 11) Hct decreased from 47.2% (36.9%-70%) to 33.6% (27.2%-49.1%) after hemodilution, during bypass to 16.1% (10.5%-25.5%) and increased to 32.1% (24.4%-37.4%) at the end of the operation. On the 3rd postoperative day Hct was 25% (21.4%-39%) and increased to 29.4% (25.1%-40%) on the 12th postoperative day. No statistical differences in Hct values were found between both groups.
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