Jehovah’s Witness Husband: I Love My Wife… so Let Her Die May 10, 2011

Jehovah’s Witness Husband: I Love My Wife… so Let Her Die

Ladies, no matter what you think of your husbands, be thankful none of them are like Bruce Huff. His wife Candy became unconscious weeks ago and the only thing that would save her was a blood transfusion, something that Jehovah’s Witnesses, like Bruce Huff, forbid.

“I love Candy. I told them to do absolutely anything to save her life except give her blood or blood products,” Bruce Huff said.

Bruce Huff was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness several decades ago, and although he only sometimes attends church now for health reasons and does not consider himself a member, he still shares the beliefs of the church…

Candy Huff never considered herself a Jehovah’s Witness but shared his beliefs, Bruce Huff said. He said they had talked many times about the blood issue and thinks she would not have wanted transfusions.

There’s a bit of good news to report. The hospital (in Charleston, South Carolina) stepped in and filed a petition in court asking “that someone be appointed to make medical decisions for Candy Huff, alleging Bruce Huff was unable to make decisions in her best interest.”

The court sided with the hospital and Candy is still alive, receiving blood.

Pamela Thompson, an attorney for Clark Memorial Hospital, said Bruce’s religious objections were not the reason for the petition.

“This situation was very, very unique,” Thompson said. “[Religion] was not the substance or basis of the petition.”

Because of privacy laws, Thompson said she could not explain their reasons, but said they had good reason to believe Bruce Huff was not able to make the best decisions for his wife.

Bruce Huff suffers from Parkinson’s disease, but there’s no word that that played a role in the court’s decision. I don’t know why the hospital can’t cite “religious lunacy” as a reason to take control of the situation. It’s one thing to not get a blood transfusion to save your own life. It’s another to deny someone else the chance to live because of your beliefs.

(via The Freethinker)

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  • LIz

    This doesn’t sit well with me and it isn’t really the fact that this idiot wanted his wife to die. It bothers me because it is apparently acceptable to make stupid decisions like this if you have religious ‘substance or basis’. How is this somehow unique, just because he took the belief from a religion and ran with it as opposed to taking the belief and staying with the church. If NO ONE believed that blood transfusions were wrong and this guy came along and said he didnt believe in them, people would assume he’s insane or just wants his wife to die. But because a religion practices this belief, it’s suddenly wrong but acceptable.

  • Amy

    While I don’t personally agree with his stance, I’m appalled that the court stepped in in this instance – this is a private matter and he said that they had discussed the matter. This is another good reason to have a living will with clear instructions – so that the state/courts can’t step in and make them against your own decision or the decision of your family.

  • Erik

    This isn’t Charleston, SC; this is Charlestown, IN.

    For a minute I was scared this was happening right outside my doorstep…

  • Ramona

    What Would Ghandi Do? (The same thing? Oh, okay.)

    On a similar note, as a nurse at a Catholic hospital I ask all pregnant women to put in writing who should be saved in the event of all too common life-threatening complications: their life or their baby’s. If your family or spouse has a religious objection to certain medical procedures, organ donation included, have your bases covered early.

  • gski

    This is the type of situation that makes living wills so important. You can specify who makes decisions for you and place limits on medical interventions. Get your paperwork in order, will, living will, power of attorney and conservator. These documents are the best way to be sure your wishes will be followed and it makes life easier for those executing those wishes.

  • cat

    I think that when discussing what should be done with an unconscious patient, what we know about that person’s previously expressed wishes should be strongly considered. In this case, it is less clear what Candy’s wishes really were, but what about cases where they are clear? Patients can and should have the right to refuse medical treatment-regardless of their reasons. Bodily autonomy is an extremely crucial issue. If I had a spouse (which I would not, by choice and, under most envisionable circumstances, by law), I would want them to respect my decisions about my body.

  • phira

    A living will would be helpful here, since it’s not clear whether or not Candy would have refused blood transfusions. But I do think that if she would have, then that needs to be respected, even if we think the reason for it is stupid or illogical.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with blood transfusions. But I also believe in bodily autonomy. As cat has already said, patients have the right to refuse treatment, then that’s their right, and it needs to be respected. The only reason why this is a tough situation is because the patient cannot consent or not to a blood transfusion, and so the decision rests on her next of kin (her spouse).

    Like I said, I might disagree with the reasons here, but if I believe that I have full autonomy over my body, I cannot believe that other people don’t.

  • As an assistant DA my Mother saw a lot of these cases over the years. In the event of two adult Jehovehs they would usualy stay out of it. Only when a parent was stopping treatment for a minor did they get involved. Unless I missed my guess there is more to this story than what we are able to be told. Just my opinion.

  • Claudia

    These situations make me uneasy because bodily autonomy is extremely important.

    I think it’s a given (around here anyway) that you shouldn’t be allowed to do something for religious reasons that you wouldn’t be allowed to do for any other reason. So it’s wrong to allow someone to not recieve life-saving care for religious reasons if you would deny the same decision based on political views or “just because”.

    Beyond that however I think the issue of medical decisions gets tricky. Most people would agree that a sane adult should get to decide on their medical treatment, but what about someone unable to speak for themselves? We give next-of-kin the right to decide on life-support, should they also have the right to decide on other aspects of treatment? How do we factor in side effects, risks, chance of success in what decisions we respect? What about older teens, who are still minors but are able to have their own desires? What about when an older teen and his/her guardian disagree?

    I don’t pretend by any means to have the answers to these very difficult questions, but I do hope we don’t forget they exist in our rush to condemn the near miss with death some lunatics religious beliefs (or desire for life insurance?) caused his wife.

  • He said they had talked many times about the blood issue and thinks she would not have wanted transfusions.

    I think that it’s possible to be very wrong about what someone would want, even if you have discussed the issue in general with them. Unless she came right out and said, “I wouldn’t want a transfusion if it was necessary to save my life,” then for all we know he’s (unconsciously) projecting his beliefs onto her. If she had made an affirmative statement to that effect, then it should be respected, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here.

  • Robert Wilson

    Generally I agree that the person’s wishes should be respected even if those wishes are stupid. So I understand Amy’s concern about the court stepping in.

    I don’t share the same concern though because the article states: “they had talked many times about the blood issue and [the husband] thinks she would not have wanted transfusions.”

    In other words, have a living will. What if she told him “oh no, I understand what you’re saying but I wouldn’t refuse a transfusion” one day and he forgot? He could be racking his brain for her stance on it and either willfully forgetting a direct statement about the subject or not remembering it and simply assuming cause she liked him she must like this particular stance he holds.

    The court did the right thing. Without a living will a stupid decision like this should not be respected simply because the spouse claims that the patient shares their religious view.

    EDIT: Toomanyjens beat me to it.

  • doglovingirl

    Two comments, as a nurse:

    1. I recently had a 26-year-old developmentally-delayed patient who died because his Jehovah Witness parents refused to allow him to get blood. They said he was a J.W., and that it was “his choice,” but it seemed to me he was just parroting back whatever his parents told him (“No blood, please”). Very sad!!!!

    2. Even having a living will doesn’t necessarily protect you. It’s very upsetting, but family members can override a patient’s wishes (and written documents). If the living will says one thing (“no feeding tube”), but the family insists (“That document is 10 years old! I don’t care what it says, put in the tube!”), the doctors usually do what the family wants, possibly to avoid lawsuits.

    Talk to your family yourselves and make sure they know exactly what you do and do not want. Ask them directly if they will support and respect your wishes. Hopefully they will if/when the time comes…

  • pjb863

    Just as an FYI about living wills: I know how they work (and don’t work) from personal experience. My late partner of 24 years (same-sex) suffered a major brain hemorhage, with no chance he was going to be anything more than in a vegetative state. However, it was executed in Illinois several years before, and he was taken to a hospital in Florida, where we lived at the time. Guess what – not recognized by the hospital. The result was that his 80 year old sister (legal next of kin) had to fly to Florida to sign the paperwork. I really didn’t have an issue with this, because I wasn’t ready to make a decision on my own, and I’d always been close to his sister (more so than my own), but it was just the principle of the thing.

    To the credit of the hospital staff (except for the Legal Dept.), they treated as next of kin in every other respect.

    I probably don’t have legal standing to sue in Florida due to Amendment 2 and previous laws “protecting marriage,” and given all the other specifics of those miserable nine days, I can’t see where it would make any real difference.

    In this case, however, maybe it shouldn’t be such an easy decision.

  • Parse

    To reiterate what everybody else says, cases like this show why living wills are important, especially when what you want is significantly different than normal treatment.

    I think the hospital made the right decision – the wife was never officially a Jehovah’s Witness, and they had no documentation stating that she wanted to avoid blood transfusions. When she recovers, well, then if she’s upset about the medical choices made for her, then at least she’s still around to voice her case. The same couldn’t be said if they listened to the husband.

  • Nakor

    It makes me ill that people can choose such things on the behalf of others. (Frankly, it makes me ill that they’d even choose it for themselves. It’s still just another death in the name of religion.)

  • TJack

    I agree that bodily autonomy is very important, however I believe the man’s statement:

    “He said they had talked many times about the blood issue and thinks she would not have wanted transfusions.”

    Show’s that the wife hasn’t said anything concretely on what to do in a situation like this. I’d much rather the state to step in a situation like this and keep the wife alive, than allow the husband to project his own religious dogma on his wife.

    And think about the different outcomes:

    1) She wanted to get a blood transfusion
    a) She gets it and lives
    b) She doesn’t and dies

    2) She didn’t want the blood transfusion:
    a) She gets it and lives
    b) She doesn’t and dies

    1)A) and 2)B) show the outcomes where her wish is granted. 2)A) is where she is kept alive against her own wish. This might upset her, but I would think she would get over it. However, look at 1)B), she wanted to live, however, her husband steps and and denies her life. Isn’t that much worse than the alternative? I think just by the situation that 1)B) can occurs warrants the state to step in. After all, she can always end her life or pray for forgivness if 2)A) happens, but can never be brought back to life if 1)B occurs.

  • More on the case:
    “Candy Huff was diagnosed with poly-pharmaceutical overdose”

    But irrespective, I would rather live in a world were we are free to decide our own fates. Part of our modern law is that husbands and wifes can decide for us when we are incapacitated if we do not have living wills. Thus, for “poor” miss overdosed Candy, who chose her husband, chose to take tons of meds, chose to not have a living will, why am I suppose to care.

    I’d rather people have free choice and die stupidly than have no freedom.

    Children make the issue complex, but these were adults.
    That is what the Darwin Awards are meant for.
    Oooops, was that heartless?

  • Claudia

    Oooops, was that heartless?

    Uhm, yeah, it was fucking heartless, and uncalled for and unneccesary to state that the law allows “husbands and wifes” to make medical decisions.

    Thus, for “poor” miss overdosed Candy, who chose her husband, chose to take tons of meds, chose to not have a living will, why am I suppose to care.

    By your use of quotation marks I am to assume that someone driven to enough desperation to attempt to take their life is undeserving of pity or compassion. You have no idea what her personal life or personal arrangements were. For all we know she could have made it patently clear to her husband that she DID want blood transfusions and simply made the mistake of trusting him to follow her directives. You are under no obligation to care, but it is generally considered to be basic to human empathy to take pity on those in terrible distress and danger while totally helpless. But then we get back to the “heartless” bit, don’t we?

  • Annie

    I would love to know what she thinks about what went down… now that I presume she is better. From Sabio Lantz’s addition to the story, perhaps she was trying to take her own life?

  • Jennine

    I donated my kidney to a 16 year old girl who had been ill since the age of five. She couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be healthy.

    My mother, a devout Christian, to this day feels that I interfered with God’s plan for her life. In other words, I should have done nothing and let this child die.


  • Benjamin Kay

    Yes, Jehovah’s Witness. They can’t accept blood or blood products — except when they can?

    The article talks about a JW accepting “synthetic” blood, but it turns out that “synthetic” means “made from cow blood” in this case.

  • Steve

    There is also some difference between what type of blood products. I think they can receive some like plasma or platelets. The whole thing just doesn’t make any sense (as usual it’s based in a misinterpretation of scripture).

  • Tom

    Question: how common is it for people to have frequent discussions about something they fully agree on? The way this guy claims his wife’s beliefs to be just like his own, despite then implicitly admitting she doesn’t officially concede that, as well as the way he states that that he “thinks” he knows her position and it just happens to be his as well, despite the frequent discussion thing, is ringing a lot of alarm bells for me.

  • Jesus

    How about this?

    The only lunatic who would refuse a blood transfusion that could potentially save their life is a religious nut that thinks that the blood will infect them with sin. Anyone who really would refuse a treatment that could save their life deserves the death they get…

  • It strikes me as ironic how some atheists fight for freedom of belief but are sort of moral Nazis in other realms.

    People want freedom for themselves, but the freedom of others limited when it offends their sensibilities.

  • Lynn

    My father is a doctor and has run into this issue before. He has had parents attempting to deny their children a life saving transfusion, but he would give it to them anyway while the in house lawyer worked through the legal matters. He says that he would rather be sued for saving a child then go home knowing he let them die.
    However, he says if adults want to blow off their lives for stupid reasons, well, it’s their decision. The grey areas come up with teenagers and with mentally disabled.

    If there wasn’t any proof about her wishes in the form of documentation, then I don’t know how I feel about it. What if she really didn’t hold those beliefs and the husband lied? Personally, I would rather the mistake that saves a life rather then takes one.

  • Steve


    It’s heavily implied that her husband suffered from some medical condition that potentially impaired his judgment and/or decision making. That’s another variation of the “mentally disabled” dilemma you mentioned.

    Parkinson is mentioned and while it initially causes only decreased motor functions, at the end stage dementia is also common. Some purely psychological conditions may also call medical decisions into question.

  • Dan W

    Kudos to the hospital for doing what was right to save this woman’s life when her dumbass husband would have just let her die. I have no major issue with silly religious beliefs when they harm nobody, but when someone will die because your religion forbids life-saving medical treatment, I think your religious beliefs should be ignored. Hitchens was right- religion poisons everything.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Why would it have been ok for him to kill her (or let her die) for “religious” reasons, when we would not allow the same actions for reasons of someone’s politics, their favorite sports teams, etc. (Try saying “Blood is the color of the Red Sox and she was a Yankee fan”).

    Why does religious get more respect than it deserves?

  • Shoop

    Its a dumb decision for the wrong reasons, but its still their choice. Unless someone choses for their child, that should not be a choice.

  • fiddler

    Just for the sake of argument, mostly based on the fact that she WASN’T JW, what if there is a lot more going on here? I understand that a person belonging to a church has some allowance, but she wasn’t a JW. Imagine, a husband is going through a tough time and the marriage suffers. He decides on a “not with me, not with anyone” approach and overdoses her. She doesn’t die. Therefore he makes up a possible agreement with something that can complete the job. This is a real possibility and is very likely an idea raised when they came to a decision. As has been said, better she be alive and upset, than dead.

  • Paper Tiger

    I believe that this woman has the right to die for any reason that she chooses, including an immensely stupid one, but making life and death decisions for someone else because of your personal beliefs is completely wrong. The doctors were right to save this woman’s life as they could not be sure of her intentions and when you cannot be sure, the only possible option is to keep her alive.

    I also believe that parents should not be allowed to make decisions like that for their children, even if the child agrees. Kids are not considered mature enough to drive, work, sign a contract or get married, so why should this be any different? Some people may argue that parents make decisions about medical treatment although the time. True, but withholding medical treatment is not medical treatment.

  • Drew M.

    @Sabio Lantz:

    Thus, for “poor” miss overdosed Candy, who chose her husband, chose to take tons of meds, chose to not have a living will, why am I suppose to care.

    That is what the Darwin Awards are meant for.
    Oooops, was that heartless?

    Oh. My. God.

    Sabio. Thank you for exciting a guffaw so loud it woke up my house. Really, reading this followed by the tagline of your time-cube-like blog had me in fucking stitches:

    Playfully navigating life with skepticism, freedom and compassion

    Comedy gold.

    To paraphrase our own Richard Wade:

    “When people appear to deserve compassion the least, that’s when they need it the most.”

  • JD

    Another problem is that it’s also a deliberate misreading of the text. The passages they use to prohibit blood transfusion is about *drinking* blood. Anyone that confuses drinking with a transfusion is an idiot, in my opinion. The JWs as a whole should catch up with the 19th century one of these days.

    One, drinking blood was what the non-Hebrews did at the time as part of their rituals, so it was to make sure the Hebrews stayed away from rituals of other religions. The donor isn’t killed to provide the blood, something that often happens with drinking blood. Drinking is consumption, the blood is just destroyed in the stomach, this doesn’t happen with transfusion, it’s actually used to provide necessary circulatory needs.

  • Brian

    People who think like this do the rest of us a favor by dying.

  • Alex

    I’m very much looking forward to the poor woman waking up, so we can hear her honest opinion. If it turns out she is a JW, that’s unfortunate I guess, but if she was to die meaninglessly then that would be terrible.

  • ckitching

    Thus, for “poor” miss overdosed Candy, who chose her husband, chose to take tons of meds, chose to not have a living will, why am I suppose to care.

    So, where the hell did you come up with the idea that she tried to suicide via overdose? People are injured by poly-pharmaceutical overdoses all the time, and the biggest reason is entirely accidental. Patients often fail to remember to tell their doctor about all the medications they’re taking (especially when it comes to over-the-counter meds).

    Or are you saying that she deserves to die for not understanding the complexity of multiple drug interactions?

  • And THIS is precisely why every adult should have a living will. If she wakes up and didn’t want the transfusion she’ll be angry with the hospital. If she wakes up and has no objections to a transfusion she’s going to be REALLY pissed off at her husband for trying to let her die.

  • One of the reasons this situation is unique, is that a devout Jehovah’s Witness would have a living will. JW’s push HARD for living wills, and usually carry a pocket version in their wallet. The fact that he, “would not consider himself a member” but still adhere’s to the teachings is what makes it complicated, because they are potentially even shunned by the actual church.

    The fact that she was never a member, and we are taking her husband’s word on whether she would want to live or not based on religious beliefs that she doesn’t follow to makes it HIGHLY suspect, and I can see why the court would intervene.

  • Dustbree

    Maybe if y’all stop criticizing him for something you don’t understand and do your own research about blood. Transfusion u would find out that more ppl die from having a blood transfusion than not having one I hope she wake up and sew the hospital. Maybe y’all should read the Bible.

  • my great grandma broke her hip, the doctors in the nearest hospital went into a panic, they had no blood substitute, she was transferred to one that had some.  her hip replacement went well, she survived, and went on with her life.

    the problem to me, is not that he’s trying to protect her from blood(no big to me), but that he doesn’t know about blood substitute, or isn’t willing to enlighten the physicians, that seem rather ignorant of them.  so, he should know, and with these substitutes his wife would live, yet he refuses the real stuff and isn’t willing to allow substitutes, his only option seems to be death.

    hell, even fresh coconut milk will work as a blood substitute, i call murder through proxy.

  • Babyannabell

    Maybe y’all would do well to brush up on your spelling, while you’re at it, try to reverse the brainwashing! I personally could not live by a cult which prohibits it’s followers from asking questions about the fundamentals of it’s existence, forbids them from dating outwith their faith, and places other such restrictions on it’s members. Freedom of speech and expression? Passed this little lot by… Hope your blinkers fit comfortably…..

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