When TV writes Jehovah’s Witnesses into the plot, look out! We get clobbered. It not malicious, usually. They just don’t have a clue as to what we’re about. Nor are the hatchet jobs confined to us. Religious folk never fare well on TV. There’s just not that many TV writers with religious backgrounds out there and they can’t picture the other side. Not that they toss and turn at night worrying about it. It’s much easier to use caricatures and stereotypes.
So I was blown away when an episode of The Practice episode featured Jehovah’s Witnesses and they got it right, and even, amazingly, treated us with dignity.
Do you remember Rebecca the receptionist? Well, it turns out she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though nobody knew it until she got caught in a bomb blast. And who would plant a bomb in the Practice’s office? This creepy psycho fellow, wasn’t he a former client? who’s been up to no good the past few episodes.
Anyway, they rush Rebecca to the hospital, where doctors decide only a blood transfusion will save her! But, lo and behold, Mama, a hitherto unknown character, shows up and declares that daughter is a Jehovah’s Witness who’s very serious about her faith. She has affidavits from the congregation to back her up. Head lawyer Bobby will have none of it. Rebecca needs blood, doctors say, and Bobby’s going to see that she gets it!
And so the stage is set for a drama that, incredibly, gets it right….mostly. We don’t come across as right-to-die extremists, nor death-wish martyrs. We aren’t doctor wannabes, telling medical personnel how to do their job. Our blood stand is Bible-based. Someone in the writing staff did some research. (for a change) Not absolute accuracy, but that's allowable, since no case is ever "typical," there’s always individual variation. We all have quirks.
Now, it should be pointed out that in the real world such situations shouldn’t pop up too often. You don’t just spring Surprise! No blood! on your doctor. Ideally, JW’s speak to their doctors beforehand, in good times. Not all doctors are comfortable with the added challenge of bloodless medicine. It’s not right to broadside them. Not to mention the anesthesiologist, who often frets more than the surgeon.
However, as mentioned, this was an emergency, brought on by a unabomber. They never wait for you to ask your doctor if bloodless medicine is right for you (and them).
In court, Bobby doesn’t believe Rebecca’s a Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about their faith, he says. Rebecca never did. That’s a good point, Bobby. They do. But Mama has an answer. Rebecca, who is black, is so worn down by facing prejudice that she has learned to keep her mouth shut. Well…… maybe. It’s not impossible. Especially if you’re the poor girl from the humble background working for hot-shot TV lawyers! (though she always seemed to hold her own pretty well)
What about blood cards? Bobby wants to know. Jehovah’s Witnesses carry blood cards. Rebecca didn’t have one. Right again, Bobby. They do. They’re called Medical Directives. Baptized witnesses have them. It’s odd Rebecca did not.
In fact, I’d almost side with Bobby around now: that Rebecca is not really a Witness, and Mama’s just an imposter. But what about those affidavits?
Lots of courtroom drama follows; The Practice could keep you riveted with courtroom drama. Bobby works himself into a frenzy. Rebecca can be saved, he charges at the bench, but…but for this….Voodoo religion! Mama calls him on it, and she never loses her cool. Yes, Bobby, you tipped your hand. This is not about respect for Rebecca’s conscience. This is about your own religious prejudice, pure and simple.
The judge rules for Mama. I couldn’t believe it!
Afterwards, no hard feelings. Indeed, there is respect, for Mama proved herself dignified and sound of mind. As if admitted to the bar, she and all the lawyers close the show around Rebecca’s bed, praying for recovery.
The Rebecca actress must have received a better job offer that year, for they wrote her out of the plot. The transfusion episode was her last. Thus we don't know how she made out!
Three videos are available from Jehovah’s Witnesses with regard to bloodless medicine. Click here to view them: (the 3rd, 4th, and 5th listings)