Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Accept Blood Transfusions?

What JW.ORG Says

What JW.ORG says:

from jw.org
  • Myth: Many Witnesses, including children, die each year as a result of refusing blood transfusions.
  • Fact: This statement is totally unfounded. Surgeons regularly perform such complex procedures as heart operations, orthopedic surgery, and organ transplants without the use of blood transfusions. * Patients, including children, who do not receive transfusions usually fare as well as or better than those who do accept transfusions. * In any case, no one can say for certain that a patient will die because of refusing blood or will live because of accepting it.

The Truth

Is it true that “no one can say for certain that a patient will die because of refusing blood or will live because of accepting it”? What about physicians and other medical professionals?

  • NPR: “Over his parents’ objections, 14-year-old Dennis Lindberg refused vital blood transfusions that could have saved him because it was against his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness.” … “So we’ve got a 14-year-old boy who died this week of something that was medically pretty treatable and had a pretty good survivability rate.”
  • CBC: A Quebec coroner has found that the refusal of blood transfusions played a key role in the deaths of two Jehovah’s Witnesses who died of childbirth complications last year.

    Dr. Luc Malouin looked into the deaths of Mirlande Cadet, 46, and Éloïse Dupuis, 26, after they died in separate incidents at hospitals in Montreal and Quebec City… In his report about Dupuis’s case, Malouin pointed out that sometimes, doctors and medical staff find themselves in “untenable” situations. ‘On the one hand, they have taken the oath to protect and save human life and, on the other hand, they have an obligation to respect their patient’s freedom of choice, even if they know that ultimately that choice will kill them when a simple medical treatment could prevent that death.’ 
  • Vice: “ Jay Requarth is a retired cardiothoracic surgeon who worked on a trauma case with a 15-year-old Jehovah’s Witness during his residency. The teen required a lifesaving blood transfusion, which the ER team implemented.

    “When the family arrived,” Requarth says. “They rushed into the trauma bay and ripped down the blood. Obviously, this is a huge issue for the family and the caregivers, but the courts side with the physicians in these cases. In my case, we contacted the hospital’s lawyer who instructed us to proceed. The police were called to remove the family.
  • Washington Post:
    Why doctors let a Jehovah’s Witness and her unborn child dieThe pregnant woman suffered from acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a treatable condition: The American Cancer Society says that “more than 90% of patients with APL go into remission with standard induction treatment.” The authors of the letter also note that pregnant women with the cancer have reported an 83 percent remission rate, with a good outlook for their babies when the women are diagnosed in their second or third trimesters.

    In this case, the patient repeatedly declined blood products — including red cell, white cell, platelets or plasma transfusions — while knowing that such a decision could have drastic consequences, including death, the letter says. 

These are just a few stories that happened to have made national headlines. Despite Watchtower’s unfounded proclamation that “nobody” can say for sure, physicians, coroners and other medical professionals can and have determined that unnecessary deaths do occur because of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stance on blood transfusions, including children.

Watchtower also encourages its members to be willing to die rather than accept a blood transfusion:

  • But suppose one’s wife or child were near death. Giving blood, no matter who the loved one might be, would still constitute a violation of God’s law. Just because one is near death, this does not give one liberty to break God’s commands. When one is near death is no time to tamper with or violate the law of God, but a time to draw as near as possible to God by remaining faithful. Everlasting life is the reward for faithfulness. How foolish it would be to gamble away the prospect of life eternal for the very uncertain promise of a cure by blood transfusion!​—Rev. 2:10. w70 4/15 pp. 245-252

What JW.ORG Says

“This is a religious issue rather than a medical one. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29) Also, God views blood as representing life. (Leviticus 17:14) So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life.”

The Truth

Even if it’s true that “God views blood as representing life,” why would the representation of life be more important to Jehovah than life itself? Would that not be be like a husband who viewed his wedding ring as more important than his marriage?

In the companion article, “What does the Bible say about blood transfusions?  the following is stated:

  • “History shows that early Christians refused to consume whole blood or even to use it for medical reasons.”

However, Watchtower does not cite any historical evidence to support the incredible claim that “history shows” early  Christians  refused blood for medical reasons. Bible writers would have had no concept of blood transfusions, which would not be invented for centuries.

When speaking of the Bible’s mandate to “abstain from blood,” typically Watchtower gives the following defense:

  • “Examine the scriptures carefully and notice that they tell us to ‘keep free from blood’ and to ‘abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:20, 29) What does this mean? If a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcohol, would that mean simply that you should not take it through your mouth but that you could transfuse it directly into your veins? Of course not! So, too, ‘abstaining from blood’ means not taking it into our bodies at all.” tr chap. 19 pp. 163-169

This is a flimsy illustration, seeing as many over-the-counter medications contain alcohol and would not be prohibited for alcoholics, such as anti-diarrheal medicine, laxatives, iron products and anti-emetics.

The Bible forbids eating blood, which would have been a safeguard for followers of the Mosaic Law as well as early Christians, given that eating blood is incredibly dangerous:

  • “any animal that consumes blood regularly runs a risk of iron overdose…haemochromatosis can cause a wide variety of diseases and problems, including liver damage, buildup of fluid in the lungs, dehydration, low blood pressure, and nervous disorders.” LiveScience.com

Yes, eating and digesting blood does not cause the blood to enter the bloodstream and can cause significant health problems. This is not the same as a medical professional carefully injecting clean, filtered blood into one’s veins:

  • “Your blood carries oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. Blood transfusions replace blood that is lost through surgery or injury or provide it if your body is not making blood properly.” National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute

Suffice it to say, injecting alcohol into one’s veins or eating blood would only be a detriment to a patient’s health, while blood transfusions are always used to prolong life, even if there are risks involved.

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have an intense respect for human life:

  • Respect for life is a sacred obligation to the Giver of life, Jehovah God. Of him the psalmist said: “With you is the source of life.” (Psalm 36:9) We owe our lives to God, not only because he created man but also because he has allowed mankind to continue until now and has provided the means for sustaining life. (Acts 14:16, 17

Is sacrificing the life of one’s own child because of imperfect men’s interpretation of scripture showing respect for life?

For a more in-depth discussion of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stance on blood transfusions, head over to jwfacts.com

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