Frank M. Brown, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Asheville (N.C.) VA Medical Center, was sued by a Jehovah’s Witness named William Clinton, who claimed Dr. Brown refused to operate on him and thereby violated his First Amendment right to freedom of religion. Though the case raises some interesting questions, it was dismissed by a U.S. District Court for reasons having little or nothing to do with the religious component. For one, Dr. Brown was protected by the Qualified Immunity Doctrine, which insulates federal employees from personal liability under most circumstances. Also, in the absence of legislative remedies, plaintiffs may sue for constitutional violations involving the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments, but they can’t do so for First Amendment violations, according to the Supreme Court. Continue reading
We expect surgeons to be as careful as pilots given their life-and-death decision – but it turns out they are anything but.
A heart surgeon’s own heart usually sinks when a Jehovah’s Witness enters the consulting room. A patient who categorically refuses to have a blood transfusion takes one potential safety net away from the operation. Some surgeons flatly refuse to operate on these patients, and most would refuse if they considered it likely that the proposed operation would result in excess bleeding. Continue reading