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Supreme Court building in Santiago, Chile

DECEMBER 31, 2019

Landmark Supreme Court Case in Chile Upholds Patient’s Rights

Landmark Supreme Court Case in Chile Upholds Patient’s Rights

On December 13, 2019, by means of a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Chile revoked a previous ruling by a lower court, thereby upholding the right of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse a blood transfusion on the basis of her beliefs.

Sister Ríos holds up the favorable court ruling granted on December 13, 2019

The court case involved one of our sisters, Polonia Ríos, who was repeatedly denied a necessary surgery because she refused to accept blood transfusions. She eventually filed a constitutional injunction against the public hospital that refused to treat her. On August 6, 2019, the San Miguel Appeal Court ruled against Polonia and in favor of the public hospital.

Subsequently, Sister Ríos appealed the case to the Chilean Supreme Court and received a favorable decision. This is the first time the Supreme Court issued a ruling that protects the rights of competent adult patients who refuse certain medical treatments because of their religious beliefs. For more than 25 years, the Court held that a patient could not refuse any treatment that, in the opinion of doctors, could put the patient’s life at risk.

The official ruling from the Court states, in part: “The interested party . . . is a patient who wishes to live and enjoy her health by means of a surgery that she has been waiting to have for three years . . . [Her rejection of a blood transfusion] is not arbitrary, nor anything meant to prevent the providers from rendering their professional duty. Rather, it is a reflection of the patient’s beliefs, which are to be respected in harmony with her right to freedom of conscience and her dignity, even more so when there are favorable reports to perform the surgery without the need for such a transfusion.”

We rejoice with our brothers in Chile for this exciting legal victory.—1 Corinthians 12:26.