A Buffalo hospital agreed Tuesday to treat a seriously ill woman without the use of blood transfusions, which are banned by her religious beliefs. Sisters Hospital was assured by the woman's lawyers that it would not be sued if her condition worsens.
Following two days of court fights, attorneys and medical officials at Sisters Hospital told State Supreme Court Justice Norman E. Joslin that Joanne Mangione, 30, a patient in the intensive care unit, won't be forced to receive blood or blood-derived medical compounds.
"They will honor her request not to be transfused," hospital attorney Tamar P. Halpern said.
In what appears to be the Buffalo-area's first court fight over proposed blood treatments for an adult and mentally competent Jehovah's Witness, Ms. Halpern and attorneys for Mrs. Mangione told the judge the case came about because Mrs. Mangione was too heavily sedated Monday to be consulted.
Ms. Halpern said some relatives of Mrs. Mangione, a Buffalo licensed practical nurse who gave birth to her second child last Wednesday, had put "pressure" on the hospital staff to give her blood, following a staff physician's recommendation to treat her severe breathing problems.
After giving birth, Mrs. Mangione developed pneumonia, which worsened into a condition known as adult respiratory distress syndrome, according to hospital officials. Her decline prompted Dr. Norman Sfeir, a hospital pulmonary medicine specialist, to urge blood transfusions to save her life.
Jehovah's Witnesses object to blood transfusions because of their interpretation of biblical passages.
Dennis McCarthy, a Sisters Hospital spokesman, said Mrs. Mangione's condition seemed to be improving late Tuesday.
He said the hospital had hoped to use blood to raise the hemoglobin count of the woman's blood to help her fight a variety of infections.
John Mangione, 30, the patient's husband, declined to comment.
Albert J. Rydzynski, an Erie County lawyer who is a practicing Jehovah's Witness, and Billy E. Moore, a Jehovah's Witness and lawyer from Columbus, Ga., said the hospital won't be sued if non-blood therapy fails to help Mrs. Mangione.
"There will be no claim made as a result of any untoward result," said Moore.
He said Jehovah's Witnesses don't sue doctors, even those who administer blood transfusions over religious objections, as long as the doctors are acting "in conformance with their conscience." Rydzynski said they otherwise "look for the best possible medical treatment and believe in modern medicine."