The husband of a Montgomery County woman given blood transfusions under court order on Wednesday despite her objections on religious grounds, told doctors at the hospital beforehand that he "would not fight" the judge's decision for the procedure, according to county court records.
Frank Fuentes Jr. and his 28-year-old wife, Marsha, who was near death at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Montgomery County when the transfusions were ordered at 3:20 a.m., had signed hospital forms saying they objected to blood transfusions despite their understanding that death could result in some circumstances without them.
The transfusions became necessary, court records stated, when Mrs. Fuentes developed complications and lost nearly half her blood after giving birth to a healthy child late Tuesday night.
In a statement issued yesterday by Shady Grove hospital, Fuentes and her husband declined to comment and asked that the matter be considered "private and personal."
The couple are Jehovah's Witnesses and their religion forbids them to have blood transfusions because blood is regarded as a gift of God. The religion also prohibits eating meat without draining blood from it.
Officials at Shady Grove said yesterday that Mrs. Fuentes was in satisfactory condition and had been moved out of the intensive-care unit.
Officials there and at other area hospitals said yesterday they are often faced with patients who refuse blood transfusions, but seldom in emergency circumstances. Unless there are children involved, officials said, they usually respect the patient's wishes and rely on substitute techniques for replenishing the blood supply--even if death seems the likely result.
A distinction in the Fuentes case was that she was the mother of five children who, hospital lawyers contended, could have suffered as a result of their mother's death.
In cases where parents object to their children receiving blood, hospital officials said, doctors are usually able to get the child placed in court custody long enough for medical treatment to be given.
Dr. David Reese, head of pediatrics at Arlington Hospital and a faculty member of the Georgetown University School of Medicine, said he has asked twice in the past 10 years to have the courts intervene so he could administer blood transfusions to children. In both cases, he said, "the parents seemed perfectly willing to go along with the court order."
" Doctors try to consider the patient's point of view," he said. "We try not to force anything on anybody. But we take a different view when it's a child involved . . . If someone is very stupidly putting a child's life at risk, most of us take the view that we must stand up for that innocent child."
At Georgetown University Hospital, spokeswoman Cynthia Byers said doctors "try to oblige Jehovah's Witnesses. We try to respect their wishes." But she said the hospital seeks court orders when parents refuse to authorize transfusions for their children.
The same practice is adopted at Washington Hospital Center, said spokeswoman Donna Arbogast. She said exceptions are made only when the welfare of a child is involved, such as when the mother is pregnant or the sole support of children, or when the patient is a child.
Officials at the 3 1/2-year-old Shady Grove hospital said they had not been confronted with the transfusion issue until the Fuentes case arose this week. Hospital spokeswoman Sue Frye said doctors there will respond "on a case-by-case basis" in the future.
She added that doctors would administer blood transfusions against a patient's will only "when it's very, very clear that the only other alternative is death."