Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 00:56 GMT 01:56 UK
Liver transplant for Jehovah's witness
Doctors can now use blood free surgery techniques
Doctors have performed a liver transplant on a Jehovah's witness without the use of any blood products.
Jehovah's witnesses cannot usually have life-saving operations because their religious beliefs mean that they refuse infusions of blood or blood products.
Dr Olivier Detry and co-workers, from the University of Liege in Belgium, report in the medical journal The Lancet how they successfully performed the procedure.
Before the operation, the patient was given iron by mouth and a compound called erythropoietin that increases the rate at which red blood cells are made.
The researchers used this therapy to increase the production of red blood cells so that the patient could afford to lose blood during the operation.
The blood that the patient lost during surgery was then filtered through a machine and put back into his body.
The researchers conclude that their success with this patient "may allow successful liver transplantation in Jehovah's witnesses who should not necessarily be excluded from this life-saving procedure".
Concerns over blood
Paul Gillies, national press officer for the Jehovah's witnesses, said representatives from the church worked closely with the medical profession to find alternatives to blood transfusion.
He said recent contamination of blood supplies with HIV and hepatitis C had heightened concerns over safety.
Mr Gillies said: "We approach this subject from the Bible's perspective, and the medical profession are looking for alternatives because of the dangers associated with blood transfusions.
"It seems that we are coming together, even though we have been walking down two different roads."
The Jehovah's witnesses say there are more than 400 references in the Bible which say that it is wrong to make use of another person's blood.