“Bloodless surgery — operations performed without the use of donated blood — has been done for years on patients with religious objections to transfusions. Now, hospitals are embracing the practice more widely, saying it is cheaper and better for patients to avoid transfusions whenever possible,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The April 2013 online article added, “Surgeons who champion bloodless surgery say that in addition to reducing costs related to buying, storing, processing, testing and transfusing blood, the technique reduces the risk of transfusion-related infections and complications that keep patients in the hospital longer.”
Perhaps you noticed the trend in more doctors using bloodless medicine and surgery? During my recent bypass heart surgery I had no problem receiving bloodless surgery with a fast recovery and no medical complications. But my reason for requesting bloodless surgery had nothing to do with my health. That was a personal decision I made when I was a Bible-reading teenager trying to find my way.
I came across Leviticus 17:10-12, which stated, “If any man of the house of Israel, or visiting from another land, eats any blood, I will turn against that person who eats blood, and he will not be among God’s people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood. I have given it to you on the altar to make your souls free from sin. For the blood makes you free from sin because of the life in it.’ So I have said to the people of Israel, ‘None of you should eat blood. And the man who visits you from another land should not eat blood.’” — New Life Version.
After meditation and prayer I decided never to accept “any blood” — human or animal — to nourish my body or to save my life. Having accepted the blood of Christ to save my life forever as 1John 1:7 and John 3:16 says, I saw no need to ever accept “any blood.”
Although I did not fully appreciate that only the sacrificial use of blood has ever been approved by God, as described in Leviticus chapter 17, I still felt this was a sacrifice I could personally make, especially after reading that Christians were also instructed to “abstain” from blood at Acts 15:19-20.
The account at John 6:53-66 suddenly made more sense. The thought of consuming human blood was so unthinkable to servants of God that when certain disciples misunderstood Jesus’ words about drinking his blood, many of them stopped following him.
I questioned, however, whether a transfusion was the same as drinking blood until I stumbled across an illustration that asked if a man was told by his physician to abstain from alcohol, would it be OK if he quit drinking alcohol but had it put directly into his veins? The answer was obvious.
Of course, this position was far more controversial when I was a teenager than it is today. Doctors have come a long ways in taking the time to listen and respect the religious beliefs that guide human beings to make the sacrifices they make for their God.
For example, in Katie Couric’s best-selling book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got — Lessons from Extraordinary Lives,” she included a lesson by Mehmet Oz, M.D., the renowned surgeon, TV host of “The Dr. Oz Show” and bestselling author.
Dr. Oz wrote in part, “In my final year of surgical training, I was called to see a petite 53-year-old Jehovah’s Witness with an aggressive bleeding stomach ulcer. The problem facing my patient was that her hematocrit — the percentage of red blood in her body — was at only 17 percent. The normal value is 45 percent, and in this precarious setting it was standard procedure to transfuse blood in order to keep the figure above 30 percent.”
Dr. Oz said he approached his fading patient and her family and discovered they were “firmly opposed to a blood transfusion.”
“My only hope was emergency surgery — a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding in time,” he wrote. “We were in the operating theater within minutes, but I already knew that we were too late. By the time the bleeding ulcer was sewn closed, the hematocrit was down to 4 percent.”
Dr. Oz said he “stormed through the hallway toward the large family that waited outside the Intensive Care Unit. Exasperated, I explained what had occurred in the OR and stressed that the patient’s life would most definitely be lost if we could not transfuse her.”
After leaving and giving them five minutes to decide, he wrote, “I returned to an eerily calm waiting room. An older gentleman came forward and briefly explained that their God would protect her and that they would rather see their loved one die than go against the tenets of their religion.”
Dr. Oz admits, “I left the ICU banging my stethoscope against my thigh in disgust. I refused to be present when she died from a very preventable ailment: the lack of blood.”
But the patient did not die. She improved. She was released from the hospital 11 days later with a hematocrit of 9, according to Dr. Oz, who confessed, “Though her levels were still low, the ruby color of her cheeks had returned and she was well enough to go home.”
He admitted, “I realized that I had been angry at my patient’s family because of my perception that they were disbelieving my advice. I was wrong.”
Although he said he still disagrees with the choice made, “The experience taught me to listen more accurately to what my patients — as well as my friends and family — are really trying to say and to stop judging their comments as a referendum on me.”
Dr. Oz is right. It’s not personal. It’s no reflection on what others would do or should do. Like billions of people, I must stand before the judgment seat of God and answer for my actions — mine alone. So will you. People make sacrifices for principles all the time — to save the children, to feed the poor, to defend their country. Why not for God?
Personally, I believe in accepting the blood of Christ as the means to eternal life. That means there are certain things I cannot do in good conscience. Would accepting any other blood for salvation be a wise sacrifice?
What you do is between you and God. Like most true Christians though, I too, want to do all I can to please my Heavenly Father and stand humbly before the judgment seat of God as free from the blood of all men — literally and spiritually. Bloodless surgery may make it easier for some to do so.