Blood Transfusion Refusal

A PATIENT ASSUMES THE RISK OF DEATH By RELEASING THE PHYSICIAN FROM RESPONSIBILITY FOR RESULTS OF REFUSING To ACCEPT BLOOD. Shorter v. Drury, 103 Wn. 2d 645, 695 P.2d 116, cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 86 (1985).

In Shorter v. Drury the Washington Supreme Court held that a signed form releasing a physician from responsibility for “unfavorable reactions” or “untoward results” due to a patient’s refusal to accept blood for religious reasons, was validly executed and not violative of public policy. Thus, while the release did not absolve the physician from all liability for his negligence, sufficient evidence was presented to show the decedent had expressly assumed the risk of bleeding to death as a result of the physician’s negligence, and therefore no liability resulted.

Elmer and Doreen Shorter, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, refused to accept blood transfusions because they believed that to accept a transfusion would be to eat blood, which is contrary to their religious beliefs. In 1979, when the fetus Mrs. Shorter was carrying died within her, she failed to discharge it. Consequently, her physician,  Dr. Drury, recommended a dilation and curettage (D and C) to evacuate the uterus and guard against infection.

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Michele E. Jones, Blood Transfusion Refusal, 21 Gonz. L. Rev. 309 (1985).

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