When faith and medicine col­lide

Townsville Bulletin - - Your Health -

ANY nurse can walk into a bad sit­u­a­tion. The one Luanne Lin­nard-Palmer can’t for­get came as she read­ied a lit­tle boy with sickle cell anaemia for a blood trans­fu­sion, only to be told by his mother, ‘‘You know you’re damn­ing his soul to hell.’’

The child’s mother was a Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness, a faith that re­jects blood trans­fu­sions.

‘‘It blew me away,’’ Lin­nardPalmer re­calls. ‘‘I wor­ried not only about my own re­ac­tion but what was go­ing to hap­pen to this child with a life­long dis­ease.’’

The in­ci­dent planted the seeds for a newly pub­lished book by the Cal­i­for­nia nurse, When Par­ents SayNo:Reli­giou­sandCul­tur­alIn­flu­ences on Pe­di­atric Health­care Treat­ment.

In the case that was sem­i­nal to the book, doc­tors went to court and got a four-hour guardian­ship of the child so they could carry out the trans­fu­sion against his mother’s will. But the nurse who had been so af­fected by the case has no idea what hap­pened to him af­ter he went home.

The chal­lenges she re­counts are both re­li­gious and cul­tural.

A 14-year-old Mus­lim girl with se­vere burns on her arm was re­cov­er­ing af­ter surgery un­til her par­ents heard the sur­geon talk about a graft made with pig skin. They de­manded it be re­moved and the girl was ul­ti­mately left with al­most no func­tion in her lower arm.

Lin­nard-Palmer, a pae­di­atric nurse at Cal­i­for­nia Pa­cific Med­i­cal Cen­tre in San Fran­cisco and a pro­fes­sor of nurs­ing at Do­mini­can Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia in San Rafael, be­lieves that more time, train­ing and money are be­ing spent th­ese days on help­ing med­i­cal per­son­nel deal with re­li­gious and cul­tural is­sues when it comes to car­ing for chil­dren.

How­ever Rita Swan, whose group — Chil­dren’s Health­care Is a Le­gal Duty (www. chil­dren­shealth­care. org) — tracks a wide range of cul­tural and re­li­gious prob­lems af­fect­ing chil­dren, said the prob­lem is still very dif­fi­cult to mea­sure, since some re­li­gious groups are not forth­com­ing and deaths due to treat­ment de­lays are not al­ways recorded with that as the cause.

THOU SHALT NOT . . . some sects for­bid med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion

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