Jose Mestre – the living impact of refusing blood transfusions
I really hope this photo disturbs you, that your initial reaction is one of revulsion – but that this initial reaction turns instead to the reason why. Because I want you to realise that when Jose Mestre was 14 this tumour (condition called haemangioma) was small on his lip. At 51 this is what it has become. The reason that he has not had any treatment? Because as a Jehovah’s Witness he would refuse a blood transfusion and treating the tumour may cause severe blood loss.
Now there may be an operation that may limit the blood loss - finally there seems to be a form of treatment that he can accept. I have argued that an adult has the right to refuse medical treatment, even if it was not in their best interests to do so. Yet the reason for my protest against the Jehovah’s Witness stand on blood is based on lives that could have been saved wasted, families left without a parent, a child never given the chance to reason for themselves whether this was a rational thing to refuse.
One would hope that no one would point to Jose Mestre and say that his faith is a testament to a sacrifice to god, and shows the power of belief. Myself, it shows how religious belief can manifest itself as a delusion. I would hope that if a 14 year old in present day Portugal had a similar condition then the law would be in a position to make him a ward of court.
Perhaps we can only hope that the state will not tolerate the acceptance of the hand welding the knife over a child as an offering to god (like Abraham) - that no parent has the right to refuse medical treatment that is in the interests of a child. That people may well tolerate the right of an adult to live their own life but not respect the decision which goes against their personal welfare and those closest to them.
The elephant in the room – religion – is not as benign as people make out. It can be challenged, it does need to be scrutinised. It should not be appeased when it stands in the way of the pursuit of happiness and liberty. Jose Mestre was not given that chance in his childhood; as an adult he could have chosen differently. We can try to allow children the chance to grow up and be adults and make an informed choice about who they are, and what they want to do with their life.
But if they are allowed to die they do not get that chance. Jose Mestre had a chance as an adult, his family were there to help him take another option. He choose instead the faith of his mother. The circumstances are rather unclear as to why this has continued. I would suspect that the mental health authorities have let Jose Mestre down.
The irony is that Revelation 21:4 “And he will wipe every tear from their eyes … the former things have passed away” – yet medical science strives to improve the human condition – and many lives have been saved by blood transfusions – some will turn their back on such progress, and teach their children to do the same.
Personally I do not want to wait forever for my tears to be dried by an imaginary hand. I hope your revulsion has turned towards a belief system that is highly dubious.
You may also want to take part in the Blood Challenge – life over death.