DECEMBER 3, 2014
COPENHAGEN, Denmark—Denmark’s top media outlets have been reporting that the Capital Region’s medical community is adopting a new approach to blood management. According to the journal Kristeligt Dagblad, “it has been discovered that many more patients can do without donated blood.” The journal continues, “Jehovah’s Witnesses have been the reason why blood-free surgery has been introduced.” Based on their religious convictions, the over 8,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, including over 14,000 members in Denmark, seek the best medical care available without blood transfusions.
Danish hospitals have been known as the largest per capita users of donated blood in the world, even as much as 50-100 percent more than other European hospitals. However, in the article “Bloodless Surgery is Gaining Ground,” the news site Politiken notes, “Jehovah’s Witnesses get doctors to explore alternatives” to treatments often performed with donated blood. In caring for Witness patients, some doctors have begun using a number of blood conservation practices, such as preoperative use of erythropoietin and iron and B-complex vitamins, and intraoperative use of antifibrinolytics. According to The Copenhagen Post, “each year, between five and ten Jehovah’s Witnesses go through extensive heart surgery at Aarhus University Hospital Skejby” without the use of donated blood.
The medical community in Denmark has also recognized a growing body of clinical evidence that blood transfusions carry significant risks. Rigshospitalet, in Copenhagen, instituted a blood management project in 2009, which the newspaper Berlingske reports has significantly reduced the usage of donated blood and has resulted in patients having “fewer complications and a lower mortality rate.” Most of the other hospitals in the Capital Region have since joined the project, and hospitals in other regions are planning to follow suit.
Berlingske also relates how Dr. Morten Bagge Hansen, a researcher and head of the blood bank at Rigshospitalet, describes Denmark’s significant reduction in the use of donated blood as “substantial progress that really benefits the patients.” Further, Denmark Radio and Kristeligt Dagblad both cite Dr. Astrid Nørgaard, Medical Director at Rigshospitalet, as concluding that “bloodless surgery would not be where it is today, if it were not for Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
International: J. R. Brown, Office of Public Information, tel. +1 718 560 5000
Denmark: Erik Jørgensen, tel. +45 59 45 60 00