Saturday, April 26, 2008

Coca-Cola: Blood Substitute

Eighteen months ago, a Congolese woman presented at Coombe Women's Hospital, in labor. All very ordinary, babies born every day, and things proceeded as per usual.

Sometimes childbirth is not usual and ordinary. The woman, known as Ms. K., began to hemorrhage after her son was delivered. She lost buckets of blood, but a good obstetrician has seen such a complication before. Transfusion is the answer, but when the time came, Ms. K. declared that she was a Jehovah's Witness, and a transfusion was against her religion.

There was a newborn infant in need of a mother to consider. Ms. K. was given a transfusion, whether she liked it or not. And because of that, she took the hospital to court, seeking damages to her person and breach of rights and what all.

The judge decided that there was no assault. No rights breached. The hospital was well within its right to treat her as good medical practice dictated.

Ms. Justice Laffoy noted that, since Ms. K. told the admitting desk that she was Roman Catholic, she laid the groundwork for her own undoing. What was a doctor to believe, the first statement or the second one? After all, Ms. K. said she was a Jehovah's Witness after she had lost 80% of her blood volume, so she'd hardly been in a position to make an informed decision about anything. Add to that Ms. K.'s assertion that all she needed was tomatoes, eggs and Coca-Cola to make her right as rain, and the doctors figured that she was not at all mentally competent.

So the doctors have been vindicated and Ms. K. is out of luck. And possibly out of pocket. This is Ireland, after all, where the loser pays legal costs.

This entire case proves that Coca-Cola may be the pause that refreshes, but it's no substitute for red blood cells and plasma.

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