Jehovah's Witness who needed bloodless transplant dies

The Kansas City Star/October 25, 2012

A western Kansas woman who forced the state to honor her religion and agree to provide a Medicaid-funded bloodless liver transplant has died.

Mary Stinemetz, 66, passed away Sunday at the University of Colorado Hospital, roughly three years after she first learned she needed a liver transplant.

A Jehovah’s Witness from the western Kansas town of Hill City, Stinemetz got a Kansas appeals court to find that the state violated her constitutional right to exercise her religious faith when it denied Medicaid coverage for an out-of-state liver transplant.

Stinemetz refused to undergo a liver transplant at the University of Kansas Hospital because she would need a blood transfusion - something she couldn’t accept as a Jehovah’s Witness. She wanted to receive a special bloodless transplant in Nebraska instead.

State officials had argued in court that there was no medical necessity for a bloodless transplant, and that her religious preference shouldn’t determine insurance coverage.

The state chose not to appeal the case and agreed to cover the procedure. But by the time Stinemetz could get on a transplant list, her condition had worsened to a point where she was no longer eligible for a liver transplant.

For 20 years, Stinemetz had suffered from primary biliary cirrhosis, a chronic disease that causes the liver to deteriorate and malfunction over time.

By this summer, Stinemetz had acknowledged in an interview that she was terminally ill with the disease.

Her survivors include her husband, Merlyn, six children and their spouses and 24 grandchildren.

Her memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah Witnesses in Hill City.

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