Reprint of the Sep/Oct 1992 Bethel Ministries Newsletter

Is Blood FORBIDDEN Among Jehovah's Witnesses?

by Randall Watters

The Watchtower objects to the eating and even the transfusing of blood, as most of our readers know. What many do not know, however, are the inconsistencies in their position on blood and blood fractions. I believe the following information will be effective in illustrating the serious inconsistencies in their policy regarding such a vital issue. Countless Witnesses and Witness children have died since the ban on blood took effect in 1945, under the direction of the Watchtower's third president, Nathan H. Knorr. Since the time of Knorr, many difficulties regarding their stand on blood have come up for vote in the sessions of the Watchtower's Governing Body, revealing their attempt to play God in this matter.

The Watchtower of Feb. 15, 1963 (p. 124) told JWs that they could not receive anything derived from blood in medical treatment:

"It is not just blood, but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle."

Yet, six years earlier they had made exceptions in the case where blood serums might be injected in the form of inoculation. The Watchtower of 1958, p. 575 said,

The injection of antibodies into the blood in a vehicle of blood serum or the use of blood fractions to create such antibodies is not the same as taking blood, either by mouth or by transfusion, as a nutrient to build up the body's vital forces. While God did not intend for any man to contaminate his blood stream by vaccines, serums or blood fractions, doing so does not seem to be included in God's express will forbidding blood as food. It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not.

Several inconsistencies must be pointed out in this statement. First of all, their later statement of 1963 contradicts it. Second, they argue that the Bible connects the prohibition on blood with its use as a FOOD, and since vaccinations are not a food, it really doesn't apply the same way. Consequently, they are making BLOOD AS A NUTRIENT the issue, rather than BLOOD AS SACRED (a religious issue). If they really believe that blood is still to be considered the same way as in Gen. 9:4 and Deut. 12:23,24, they would not use blood for anything, but would always pour it out on the ground. In fact, they actually use this very principle in arguing against autotransfusions! The Watchtower of 1959 stated,

According to the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out on the ground as water and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13,14; Deut. 12:16,23, 24; 15:23; 1 Chron. 11:18,19) This is because life is in the blood and such shed blood is held sacred before Jehovah God. The covenant regarding the sanctity of blood stated after the Flood is still binding today, and it covers both animal and human blood, whether one's own or anothers'. Consequently, the removal of one's blood, storing it and later putting it back into the same person would be a violation of the Scriptural principles that govern the handling of blood.... Gen. 9:46. (p. 640)

So in one case, they say you can use parts of blood as long as it's not used for "food," yet elsewhere they say autotransfusions are wrong be cause blood should always be poured out on the ground!

This is only the tip of the iceberg of inconsistency. As late as 1975, JWs who were hemophiliacs were not allowed to use blood particles in therapy, including blood plasma and derivatives containing blood factors (Awake!, 2/22/75, p.30).

Not long thereafter, they changed their mind, but failed to put it into print for another three years, when the June 15, 1978 WT (p. 30) revoked its earlier ban, allowing certain blood particles to be used. Only those hemophiliacs who telephoned WT headquarters between 1975 and 1978 found out they had changed their stand on this issue; others who failed to "phone home" were left to follow the old mandate until 1978.

Organ Transplants

In the Nov. 15 WT of 1967 organ transplants were banned for JWs, whereas they had previously allowed such as late as 1961. They used this in reinforcing their stand on blood, saying that blood is also an organ transplant (see quote below for 1977). Then in 1980 they changed their stance, allowing organ transplants as a matter of individual conscience! Strangely, no mention was made of blood no longer being an organ, so one must assume they are contradicting themselves on this point, as they still refuse blood transfusions. In 1984, they allowed for a bone-marrow transplant... the very source of blood! Still, a blood transfusion would merit disfellowshipping from the organization.

Below are listed some of the "milestones" in the WT's official statements regarding blood and organ transplants:

1909 Acts 15:135 (including prohibition on blood) not considered as law for Christians. WT REPRINTS 1909, p. 4374.

1945 Denunciation of blood transfusions as pagan and God-dishonoring. WT, July 1, 1945, p. 198201.

1961 Taking a blood transfusion is grounds for disfellowshipping. WT, 1961, p. 63, 64.

Donating organs (eyes) for transplant up to your conscience. WT, 1961, p. 480.

1963 Any fraction of blood considered as a nutrient not to be used in medical treatment. WT, Feb. 15, 1963, p. 124. (See also Awake! of Feb. 22, 1975, p. 30.

Ask your bakers and candy makers if blood is used to make the lecithin used in their products. WT, p. 123

1964 Cosmetics in which cows blood is used are condemned, as well as fertilizers which contained blood. Pet owners told it is wrong to allow transfusions to be given to sick animals. Food with blood in it not to be given to pets. Awake!, May 8, p. 30; WT p. 127, 128.

1967 Organ transplants are a form of cannibalism and to be shunned. WT, Nov. 15, 1967, p. 702704. (compare 1961)

1977 Blood transfusions are organ transplants: " . . . many a person might decline blood simply because it is essentially an organ transplant that at best is only partially compatible with his own blood." Jehovah's Witnesses and the Question of Blood, 1977, p. 41. (compare 1961)

1978 Ban on certain blood fractions lifted for hemophiliacs. WT, June 15, 1978, p. 30. (compare 1963)

1980 Organ transplants are a matter of conscience, decided by the individual. WT, March 15, 1980, p. 31. (compare 1967, 1977)

1984 Accepting a bone-marrow transplant is up to your conscience. WT May 15, 1984, p. 31.

1985 An infant accepting an autotransfusion of minute amounts of blood for test purposes is up to the conscience of its parents (letter correspondence).

There has been much speculation as to what the next position taken by the WT will be on blood. It is likely that they will allow for more loopholes in their interpretation of what is "lawful."

One thing is for certain, though. For the WT to admit that they were wrong would cause too great a stir in their ranks, so any changes must be presented as "new light" in order to make it appear that "Jehovah" is making the changes, rather than a few men on the Governing Body.


A Letter to the Watchtower Regarding Blood

Ron and Michelle Leeds of Pembroke Pines, FL. want to share with our readers the following exchange of letters that took place when they were members of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Michelle points out that Witness theology absolutely prohibits both transfusions and autotransfusions. The blood gas test she describes includes returning blood to a newborn. Thus, it is essentially an autotransfusion. Yet, the Society told her it is permissible.


Dear Brothers:

I am writing you in regard to some questions that have arisen in my mind concerning certain medical procedures and how they should be viewed. My husband is a respiratory therapist. Although his specific job in the allied health field has little if anything to do with blood as used with a transfusion, there is a certain type of medical test he performs on infants in the neonatal unit which has brought up questions in our minds. Let me explain this procedure and my question as simply as possible. In medical practice, it is called a "blood-gas analysis." This is a test given to premature infants to determine the blood oxygen level, PH balance, and other vital data about the child. This test will enable the medical profession to know how to proceed in further treatment. This diagnostic test is commonly administered to adults, also, whereby a blood sample is taken, analyzed, and the blood is then discarded after the test.

The question that comes to mind pertains to these newborn or premature infants. The procedure is described as follows: the medical personnel must first remove 13 c.c.'s of mixed blood and I.V. solution from an inter-arterial catheter to ensure a pure blood test sample. Then they will collect a 0.20.3 c.c. sample, analyze and discard it. But because a child at this stage of their life has so little blood, the first 13 c.c. mixture of I.V. and blood taken must be returned into the baby's body. This must be returned, otherwise the volume removed would deplete the baby's blood supply. In premature infants weighing as little as 2 pounds (approximately 1 kilogram), the entire blood volume may be only 80 c.c.'s, which is about two "shot glasses" full. This illustrates how vital this small amount of blood is to the infant. Medically speaking, the hospital does not consider this to be a blood transfusion, but simply a standard test. I am sure that many children of Jehovah's Witnesses have had this test performed. My question is: how is this test viewed in the light of the Society's prohibition on transfusions and autotransfusions?

My other question is regarding individuals who are hemophiliacs. We know these people are born with a very low blood-clotting factor. Modern medicine is now able to use "fibrinogen" to stop hemorrhaging and blood factor VIII for helping hemophiliacs. Again, what is the Watchtower Society's view on using components of blood for these vital purposes? In light of the recent April 15th Watchtower magazine, I am anxiously awaiting your response.

In Jehovah's Service,

Sister Michelle Leeds


The following photocopy is the reply given by the Watchtower's Service Dept. to Michelle Leeds' letter regarding autotransfusion with infants. Compare the letter with this statement in a 1982 Awake!, which information is still current "truth":

Witnesses view [the scriptures] as ruling out transfusion of whole blood, packed RBCs, and plasma, as well as WBC and platelet administration. However, Witness religious understanding does not absolutely prohibit the use of components such as albumin, immune globulins, and hemophiliac preparations; each Witness must decide individually if he can accept these.

Witnesses believe that blood removed from the body should be disposed of, so they do not accept autotransfusion of pre-deposited blood. (Awake!, 6/22/82, p. 25)

While the Watchtower may deem it "new light" to "clarify" all the little rules and regulations they have made up over the last 113 years, the Bible is SILENT on the issue of blood transfusion. In the Old Testament, blood was to be poured out on the ground as sacred, since it meant the life of an animal was lost. Yet blood transfusions do not kill the donor and are used to SAVE lives! Who is truly acting in the spirit of the scriptures, and who disrespects life?


(Leeds' letter part I) (Leeds' letter part II)


RELATED ARTICLES:

Is Blood FORBIDDEN Among Jehovah's Witnesses?
Revisions on the Blood Issue
Blood and the Law of God
Critique of Transfusion-Free Medicine
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Rh Factor
Shunning:”A Part of the Faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses”
Just Up the Hill A Ways by Gary Busselman

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