Weighing the Objections to Transfusion

In an earlier post, I showed how the JW religion is no different from curious cults that program members to lay down their lives for their beliefs – a cruel feat often perpetuated in the name of God. The Watchtower Society’s policy on blood transfusion is plagued with incoherence, fallacies, falsehoods and inconsistencies which need to be pointed out.

The precedent for prohibition of blood transfusion was set by the Watchtower’s previous rulings on vaccinations and organ transplants, which are not without some contradictions:

Vaccination

1921 – “Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice. We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can … Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations” (The Golden Age, Oct. 12, 1921, 17).

1952 – “Is vaccination a violation of God’s law forbidding the taking of blood into the system? … After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4 nor contrary to God’s related commandment Leviticus 17:10-14” (The Watchtower, Dec. 15, 1952, 764).

Organ Transplant

1967 – “Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one’s body for use in medical research to accepting organs for transplant from such a source? … Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try and perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others” (The WT, Nov. 15, 1967, 702).

1980 – “Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any issue or body part from another human is cannibalistic … Other sincere Christians today may feel that the Bible does not definitely rule out medical transplant of human organs … It may be argued, though, that organ transplants are different from cannibalism since the ‘donor’ is not killed to supply food. There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue” (The WT, Mar. 15, 1980, 31).

These are commands from the Governing Body, said to be “anointed” by the Holy Spirit. They dogmatically make up critical doctrines and then turn around to refute them years later. With this policy reversals and back tracking, how can we be so sure they won’t rescind their stance once again in the future?

When one considers how many JWs became physically blind because cornea transplant was forbidden; died because kidney, liver and bone marrow transplant were ruled as “cannibalism” or were delibilitated by preventable child diseases because Watchtower leaders forbade vaccinations when they were young, one needs to ask: When will Watchtower leaders accept responsibility for lives they have sacrificed on their altars of falsehood? Have they apologised for the many lives they led astray and damaged?

How can they even apologise to those they have goaded on to a Christless eternity with a bogus promise of a living in an earthly paradise as reward for blind loyalty? This is why we must never allow sentiments, blind devotion or fear to deter us from questioning and critically examining the beliefs of any religious organization, no matter what grandiose claim they make.

In Awake! No. 1, 2016 they state:
“We do accept medical treatment … However we reject any treatment that conflicts with Bible principles. For example, we do not accept blood transfusions, because the Bible forbids taking in blood. – Acts 15:20, 28, 29.

Even then, we seek the best medical care for ourselves and our families. In fact, blood conservation treatments that were developed to help Witness patients are now being used to benefit all in the community. In many countries, any patient can now choose to avoid blood transfusion risks, such as blood-borne disease, immune-system reactions, and human errors” (page 8).

These are typical objections a JW is likely to prattle at your doorstep within 60 seconds, but when carefully analysed, they are found to have gaping holes:

1. The statement “We do accept medical treatment” is newspeak. A more accurate statement is that Jehovah’s Witnesses accept only medical treatments approved by the Watchtower Society. Since they agree that blood is a tissue and a transfusion is a tissue transplant, it’s highly irrational and inconsistent on their part to allow all other tissue or organ transplants except blood.

II. The term “treatment that conflicts with Bible principles” also once applied to vaccination and organ transplants and the very misinterpreted Bible passages appealed to as “proof” are still the ones used to denounce blood transfusion today.

Blood has 4 primary components: red cells (RBC), white cells (WBC), platelets and plasma. Jehovah’ Witness are taught that “accepting whole blood or any of those four primary components violates God’s law” but regarding fractions from any of these 4 blood components: “We cannot say. The Bible does not give details, so a Christian must make his own conscientious decision before God” (WT, Jun. 2000, 29). This is as dicey as it gets. The Bible gives no details about “whole” blood or blood components. Blood components and fractions are technically the same. They are not blood but necessary for blood, so there’s no justification for rejecting transfusion of blood components while allowing those of blood fractions.

III. Not one text in any of the biblical books JWs cite refers to using blood for medical transfusion in which case, blood continues to serve as blood and not as food or nourishment in the human body. To assert that God’s law forbids blood transfusion, 3 problems quickly arise:

a) Transfusion of fractions from blood cells or plasma are permitted because “blood fractions can pass to another person in this natural setting” (WT, Jun. 15, 2000, 31). But why is blood cells transfusion banned? White cells are naturally present in breastmilk a mother feeds her baby with. Fetal blood cells have been detected in women several years after giving birth. “Leukocytes [white blood cells] bearing a Y chromosome have been identified in women for up to five years after giving birth to a son” (Williams Obstetrics, 19th ed., 1993, 127).

Another work states: “In the last weeks of pregnancy, small numbers of the baby’s red cells escape through the placenta into the mother’s circulation” (James Brevan, A Practical Handbook of Anatomy and Physiology, 1978, 26). It has been demonstrated that platelets, erythocytes and leukocytes transverse the placental barrier. Fetal red blood cells are present in the maternal circulation in approximately 80% of all pregnancy (Hematological Problems in the Newborn, 3rd ed., 1982, 41).

Since primary blood components naturally pass from mother to child, on what basis then does “the Society” forbids their transfusion? If God allows transference of blood cells to occur in 80% of pregnancy and even during labour, how then can blood transfusion be a violation of God’s law? Certainly, God’s law doesn’t condemn blood transfusion.

b) JWs are ordered to reject blood transfusion because the blood are collected and stored whereas the Bible says blood should be “poured out,” but they are allowed to receive blood fractions such as immuno globulin, fibrinogen, factor VIII etc. Yet The Watchtower itself says: “Each batch of Factor VIII is made from plasma that is pooled from as many as 2,000 blood donors.” (Jun. 15, 1985, 30)

This shows that JWs still accept stored, processed, collected and donated blood when they receive blood fractions. If storage of blood is really against God’s law, why doesn’t “the Society” condemn its use for transfusions and injections of blood fractions but rather condemn it in cases of whole blood? This inconsistency is as clear as the sun.

c) The Watchtower says taking in blood is forbidden but blood fragments can be taken in. The blood plasma consists of water (90%), hormones, inorganic salts, enzymes, nutrients (sugar and minerals), proteins, albumin and clotting factors (e.g factor VIII). JWs are allowed to take these substances yet they are forbidden from taking blood! Why not just cut the drama and accept blood plasma?

This is like a parent forbidding a child from eating sandwich but allowing him to bread, egg or fish separately. Isn’t this hilarious and pharisaical? Is it OK to break God’s law a little as long as you don’t break it a lot? If God’s law forbids taking blood why is taking a blood fraction acceptable? This inconsistency is hard to reconcile.

IV. The much vaunted “blood conservation treatments” actually have limited benefits, yet The Watchtower assures its readers: “Most who refuse blood, for religious and/or medical reasons, yet accept alternative therapy do very well medically. They may thus extend their life for many years…” (Jun. 15, 1991, 12).

This would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic. There are 3 main alternative therapies to blood transfusion. One, is the use of blood volume expanders. They are solutions intravenously given to boost plasma (fluid) volume and keep blood circulation going. Volume expanders do not carry oxygen nor raise the number of blood cells; they only increase blood volume and thus cannot help someone with serious blood loss. So far, there is no real substitute for human blood.

Two, there are growth factors given to people with low blood cell counts to boost RBC, WBC or platelet counts. But unlike transfusions, growth factors often take many days or weeks to raise blood counts and may not help people who need their blood cells urgently restored. People with bone marrow diseases may also not respond to growth factors due to insufficient blood-producing cells in the bone marrow.

The American Cancer Society 2016 findings note that some growth factors cause certain type of cancers (breast, cervical, head etc) and notably, these factors are more expensive than blood transfusion. The autologous transfusion, another alternative therapy involves blood being removed from the person, filtered and introduced back after surgery. Since this involves storage of blood, JWs are banned from utilizing it. Now where is that “extending of life for many years” Watchtower writers talk about?

V. Scare mongering is another tool Watchtower leaders utilze. JWs are constantly warned of serious risks of blood transfusion based on dated (and often misquoted) scientific sources. In 2008, the London Health Science Centre noted that Canada’s blood supply is one of the safest in the world and the risk of transfusion-transmitted disease for each unit of blood is:

HIV (AIDS) about 1 in 4 million

Hepatitis C about 1 in 3 million

Hepatitis B about 1 in 1.2 million

West Nile Virus about 1 in 1 million

Thus blood transfusion is still far more safer than the touted alternative therapies. Immune system reactions and human errors occur in all organ transplants, yet these do not warrant them being banned by “the Society.” No medical procedure is free from risks or errors. To claim that blood transfusion should be rejected on that basis is like saying food shouldn’t be eaten because there have been cases of food poisoning.

Jesus denounced the false religious leaders of His day who stridently adhered to the details of the Mosaic law while neglecting “the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Mt. 23:23) Similarly, Watchtower leaders exalt their own laws above justice, mercy and faithfulness. By banning blood transfusion, a life-saving medical precedure, they have replaced mercy with sacrifice whereas God says “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13).

Blood Transfusion: The Witnesses’ Death Trap

An ex-Jehovah’s Witness friend once shared with me a case of a JW woman who lost much blood while in labour. Since blood transfusion is forbidden by their religion, her family rushed to a fetish priest to stop her bleeding through occult powers. In spite of their efforts, she died. This is not an isolated case. According to a research work by Gupta et al. (2012), in the UK, there is a 65-fold increased risk of maternal death of JW women compared to the national rate. In the US, JW women are at an increased risk of maternal death due to blood loss. Similarly, in the Netherlands, there is a 130-fold increased risk of maternal death of JW women due to obstetric haemorrhage.

Yet JWs are taught “that God values human life and that people must value the lives of others.” (What Does the Bible Really Teach? p 127). But they state: “His principle is that his laws come ahead of suffering, even as in blood transfusion, God’s law takes precedence over the life of a creature” (The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1961, 118).

If God truly values human life then, His laws are supposed to protect life, not destroy it. A law that constantly perpetuates the loss of human lives cannot be from the Creator who gave life as a gift. The cover of Awake! May 22, 1994 was graced with pictures of several young JWs who chose to die instead of accepting blood transfusion. Its pg. 2 says:

“In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”

What do they mean by the “former times?” Are they referring to the early Christian persecution? This Awake! edition contains the stories of 15 JW children who rejected blood transfusion based solely on Watchtower policy. An affidavit presented to the court by one of them says:

“The way that I feel is that if I’m given any blood that will be like raping me, molesting my body. I don’t want my body if that happens. I can’t live with that. I don’t want any treatment if blood is going to be used, even a possibility of it.”

This level of indoctrination can even make this boy lose the will to live if transfused. JWs are taught that anyone of them who unrepentantly accepts a blood transfusion does so at the peril of losing eternal life on paradise earth. So a faithful JW must accept death rather than break their religious laws which stipulates that: “[T]he receiver of a blood transfusion must be cut off from God’s people by excommunication or disfellowship” (The WT, Jan. 15, 1961, 63). The weight of being disfellowshipped alone crushes many of them.

Watchtower leaders not only brainwash and intimidate children and youths to vehemently reject blood transfusion so as not to lose eternal life, but also command parents to “hold practice sessions in which each youth faces questions that might be posed by a judge or a hospital official” (WT, Jun. 15, 1991, 15).

In Western nations, child welfare departments and lawyers wade into this issue, when transfusion is withheld, but the power that the Watchtower Society wields over the minds of JWs usually prevails. The physicians and lawyers are perceived as “persecutors;” JW parents standing against them or who succeed in smuggling their children out of the hospitals are seen as “heroes,” while those who die for refusing blood are presented as “martyrs,” like the early Christians who were thrown to the lions.

Three proof texts are offered by “the Society” to support their prohibition of blood transfusion.

a) Genesis 9:3, 4 “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you …. Only flesh with its soul [or, life] – its blood – you must not eat.”

This is prohibiting eating of animal blood, not medical transfusion of blood into the veins. It must also be pointed out that this was the same “proof text” used by the Watchtower Society to condemn organ transplant as “cannibalism” between 1967 to 1980. Either appeal is dubious and eisegetical.

b) Leviticus 17:13-14 “As for any man … who in hunting catches a wild beast or a fowl that may be eaten, he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust … I said to the sons of Israel: ‘You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh.'”

The context of this passage is on animal sacrifices. God told the Israelites to pour animal blood out to the ground because life of the flesh is in the blood. Nothing here speaks of non-sacrificial, human blood transfusion which involves the replacement of blood in the human body with that of another human. The blood being “poured out” in Lev. 17:13 is of dead animals used in Jewish sacrifices, not living human donors and blood transfusion doesn’t render the donor to become a dead sacrifice to God.

It’s instructive to note that even today, Orthodox Jews who strictly hold to the Law of Moses do not reject blood transfusion since such an idea is not taught in the Torah. In fact, of all the religions that claim to adhere to the Bible, only Jehovah’s Witnesses equate eating of blood with blood transfusion – an awkward interpretation that defies both logic and science.

c). Acts 15:28, 29 “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.”

The term “from things strangled” solely refers to animals not properly bled. Under the Law, when dead animals were completely bled, the Israelites were allowed to eat the meat. Therefore, the command here was still prohibiting eating the blood of animals (a rite observed in paganism). No connection exists whatsover between this Biblical command and blood transfusion. When blood is transfused into the veins, it doesn’t get “eaten” in the body, therefore it’s absolutely unwarranted (if not foolish) to suggest that the recipient is feeding on another human soul via transfusion.

Eating blood, not Blood transfusion

“Does the command to abstain from blood include transfusions? Yes. To illustrate: Suppose a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Would that simply mean that you should not drink alcohol but you could have it injected into your veins? Of course not! Likewise, abstaining from blood means not taking it into our bodies at all. So the command to abstain from blood means that we would not allow anyone to transfuse blood into our veins” (Bible Teach, 130).

There are several problems with this argument:

1. This interpretation directly contradicts what The Watchtower said in September 15, 1958, 575:
“Each time the prohibition of blood is mentioned in the scriptures it is in connection with taking it as food, and so it is as a nutrient that we are concerned with in its being forbidden.”

As shown earlier, this view was Biblically correct. Yet after some years, Watchtower leaders turned 360 degrees to ban blood transfusion by equating it with “eating blood” just as they smoothly rescinded their prohibition on vaccination and organ transplant. This blowing of hot and cold on critical issues proves that the Governing Body is not inspired by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself.

2. The paralleism used is false. There is a difference between blood and alcohol (or any nutritional substance) infused into the veins. Transfused blood retains its original composition and mixes with the rest of the body, whereas alcohol or nutritional substances get broken down and digested by the body. Transfused blood doesn’t get metabolised, since it is given to replenish the body’s blood supply lost through an injury, bleeding or surgical procedure. Hence, there’s a clear difference between blood orally ingested through the mouth which gets digested by the body, and blood transfused into the body which remains the same.

3. Transfused blood is not “food” or “nourishment” but helps in carrying nourishment to the tissues. Notably, transfused blood itself is not consumed as a food the way it would be if it were eaten or drunk through the mouth – which is then broken down like other foods through the digestion system. This is why a person starving to death cannot be saved by blood transfusion because it doesn’t provide any nourishment for his body. Such a person would need actual food or nourishment which the transfused blood carries to the body tissues.

4. It must be highlighted that Awake! August 22, 1999 says: “Blood is an organ of the body, and blood transfusion is nothing less than an organ transplant.” We are also told that “a transfusion is a tissue transplant” (How Can Blood Save Your Life? 1990, 8).

Based on these definitions, blood transfusion is not “eating blood” but an organ or tissue transplant. In such transplants, the organs are not “eaten” by the body – they don’t serve as food or nourishment. They simply continue their specific functions and purposes as God intended. The same applies to blood transfused into the veins. It is a ludicrous and fatally inconsistent position to endorse organ transplant while forbidding blood transfusion.

To cement their deception, Watchtower leaders wrote:

“Would a Christian break God’s law just to stay alive a little longer in this system of things? Jesus said: ‘Whoever wants to save his soul [or, life] will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.’ (Matthew 16:25) We do not want to die. But if we tried to save our present life by breaking God’s law, we would be in danger of losing everlasting life” (Bible Teach, 130-131).

Notice how they are deliberately conflating a life-sustaining medical procedure with eternal salvation to muddle up the issue. JWs need to realise that when they reject blood transfusion they are not “losing their souls for the sake of Jesus” but to uphold the ideas of the Governing Body in New York City. No part of God’s law condemns blood transfusion. In the Bible, when Jesus healed a man of dropsy, He did a work which was considered unlawful on a Sabbath day, so He asked the Pharisees: “Who of you, if his son or bull falls into a well will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5)

He set aside the Law to do the work of healing and save a life. This principle is called Pikauch Nefesh Rabbinic principle. It dictates that the Law be superceded if it would result in loss of life. This is why blood transfusion is not forbidden in Judaism because its purpose is to sustain life. Conversely, the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion dictates that people be sacrificed on the altar of a man-made doctrine dubiously touted as God’s law. Life is not really valuable to the cruel hoax they worship.

Interestingly, in the Jewish law, apart from pouring out animal blood, the people were also to “burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD” (Lev. 17:6), yet JWs never follow this command. Breaking the law at one point is breaking all of it. This only way out is this: Jesus has already shed His blood to redeem us, so the Levitical law and the animal sacrifices in it are no longer required to earn God’s approval or receive salvation.

In Awake! (Feb. 2007, 8) we read: “These churches taught ‘twisted things’ … they taught people to worship the State and to sacrifice their lives for it in warfare.” This argument can be turned back on them: Watchtower leaders teach twisted things, demand blind loyalty and teach JWs to sacrifice their lives for them by rejecting blood transfusion. This is their death trap. Just like the 900 followers of Jim Jones; the 83 victims of the Waco fire and the martyrs dying for Islam, the Jehovah’s Witness religion too has its sacrificial victims. Like the others, they are also made into trophies of a legalistic blood cult.