article printed in the Jan/Feb 1996 issue of the Free Minds Journal
reprints of the Free Minds
Jehovah's Witnesses and the Rh Factor
by Marlene Mercado
I want to share with you and your readers an experience I had when two Jehovah's Witness elders came to my home to enlighten me regarding the new "technology" that allows for the taking of certain blood fractions with a clean conscience. They came with absolute confidence that they would be able to answer all of my questions. After all, as they had previously informed me, they were fresh out of a special elders' school that taught them all they needed to know about this issue.
First let me give you some background as to my education and first hand knowledge of the topic that we discussed. In 1989 I won $20,000 on the "Wheel of Fortune" (no kidding!) which financed my long overdue education, you know, the one I put on hold so I could be a pioneer back in the 50's because Armageddon was so close! I chose the Health Unit Coordinator program at a local Community College, graduated on the President's honor roll, and shortly thereafter got a job at a large medical center here in town. This hospital serves as a major health care provider for all of the Inland Northwest. Critical cases are flown in from miles around. My job is in Nursing Service and entails transcribing all Doctor's orders on the patient Kardex for nursing care. I am one of a few that is trained to work on every floor of the hospital, from Birthplace to Psychiatric Services, from Surgical floors to Intensive Care. I also order blood (and blood fractions) for the patients that require it, and when it arrives I pick it up at the satellite blood bank in the hospital. One of the blood fractions that I regularly order when working in the Birthplace is the immunoglobulin Rhogam for Rh negative women who have given birth to an Rh positive baby. This happens to be one of the blood fractions allowed by the Watchtower Society for its followers. (See Awake! of Dec. 8, 1994.) What is Rhogam and why is it necessary?
The Rh Factor is a protein coating on the surface of the red blood cells. People either have it or they don't (hence the positive and negative designations). Rh incompatibility can arise only when a woman's blood is Rh negative and her baby's blood is Rh positive. This can happen only if the baby's father's blood is also Rh positive. There are usually no problems during a woman's first pregnancy with a baby whose blood is Rh positive. However, because some of the baby's red blood cells may enter the mother's blood stream at delivery or during an invasive procedure such as amniocentesis, the woman may become sensitized to Rh positive blood. In other words, she may produce antibodies against the Rh factor so that if she has a future pregnancy with an Rh positive baby, there is a risk of hemolytic disease of the newborn. Thus the baby's red blood cells are destroyed. In the past, this was a common cause of stillbirth, severe fetal disease or death. Previously, the only remedy was a complete exchange blood transfusion for the baby as soon as possible after birth. However, with the advent of Rhogam, Rh sensitization is becoming rare. When given by injection to a woman within 72 hours of delivery, it prevents 99% of Rh sensitization. The injection contains antibodies to theRh factor which destroy any of the baby's red blood cells that may have entered the mother's blood stream, before they cause her to produce her own antibodies. Rhogam has been available since 1968, and since one in eleven pregnancies are involved, it has saved many babies' lives.
What was the Watchtower's response to this miraculous discovery? Here was a solution to the problem of complete exchange transfusions at birth. Was there a big celebration in Brooklyn? Alas, such was not the case. Because, you see, Rhogam comes from donated plasma, and was therefore forbidden for Jehovah's Witness women! In the case of Rhogam, new light didn't flash up until June of 1974. (See "Questions from Readers" in the Watchtower of June 1, 1974.) Was there a major article to introduce this life saving new light? NO! You will find it buried in a footnote (small print) in the midst of a discussion about serum injections that immunize against disease. Rhogam is not the same thing as a generic immunization. The mother and the baby must be typed and screened in order for the mother to receive Rhogam. It is a blood product prepared specifically for her, and requires a blood draw to determine this. She then has a blood band put on her wrist which is the same as any other blood band that identifies a patient for whom blood has been ordered.
Now that Rhogam has been available for 27 years, Rh sensitization is rare. As a direct result of this, donors have become extremely rare. For example, there are only two women in this large metropolitan area who regularly donate their plasma. Because of the scarcity of this precious fluid, it has become necessary to advertise for donors. I have enclosed a copy of the ad that I found in the local newspaper in the week just before the elders' scheduled visit.
Amazingly, one of the elders tried to tell me that Rhogam was a synthetic product, as were all the other blood fractions that JWs have now approved for use. I asked him, "When does blood not become blood?" He said, "It's not blood, though. These are proteins that they have been able to isolate because of advanced technology!" Fortunately, I had cut out this ad, and I held it up and read it to him. "SAVE A BABY!" This ad proves that they are desperate for the plasma of Rh. sensitized women. Now let's change the ad for argument's sake to "SAVE A JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BABY!' Can I donate my Rh sensitized plasma to save a Jehovah's Witness baby?" He replied, "Probably not!" I said, "Well, of course not! That would be a disfellowshipping offense." He said, "Well, I've never heard of anyone getting disfellowshipped for that or for accepting a blood transfusion, for that matter." I couldn't believe my ears and reminded him that it's been a disfellowshipping offense since 1961.
We went on to discuss other blood fractions as well, and it really became apparent to me that the Society is now doing a fancy two-step shuffle to try to back away from their bloodguilt. It seems that blood is no longer blood once it becomes a Society-approved blood fraction. How clever of them to divide blood into fractions and quietly, one by one, move each one over from the forbidden zone to the conscience zone! Yet they're taking several decades to do this so no one will notice (they hope). Then once they succeed in making it ALL a matter of conscience, they can wash their hands (a la Pontius Pilate) and say to those who have lost loved ones, "We're not bloodguilty! It was their choice to refuse blood. It was a matter of conscience all along!"
Referring to the Awake! magazine of Dec. 8, 1994 (p. 27), the question is asked, "Is the RhIG shot made from blood?" The response: "Yes. The antibodies that make up the shot are harvested from the blood of individuals who have become immunized or sensitized to the Rh factor. Genetically-engineered RhIG not derived from blood may become available in the future." (Italics mine.) Here the Society admits that Rhogam is from blood, and that a synthetic version is only a future possibility.
Further along in the same article, in discussing whether or not a Christian can take the shot, they claim that they "have commented consistently on the matter." For backup they refer the reader to a footnote that cites a 1990 and a 1978 reference. They leave out the first reference of 1974 when Rhogam was first allowed for JW women. And of course, there is no mention of the previous 6 years when it was not allowed, when they were commenting consistently on the matter in a decidedly different way! My own blood is Rh positive, but I personally know women who were damaged by their previous stand. My question to the elders about the possibility of donating my plasma was hypothetical, as I do not qualify. But let me point out that because of that six year window of time when Witness women were not allowed to take Rhogam, many of them became sensitized, and therefore many of them could be donors.
There is a Christian principle involved here. What gives Jehovah's Witnesses the right to dip into the nation's blood supply when they themselves don't donate any? How do they justify this? Over the years I have heard such harangues against blood banks from them; these are looked upon as places of absolute evil where the sanctity of blood is profaned. But if it weren't for these very same blood banks, where would they get their albumin, fibrinogen, Factor VIII, Factor IX, and Rhogam? Where would all these blood products be processed from non-JW donors and stored so that JWs might have access to them? Since the most prevalent protein in plasma, albumin, is acceptable for them to take, but plasma itself is not, who would spin the albumin out of the plasma for them if they are burn victims or have a liver disease? Let me point out that the last JW patient I had who was taking blood was getting 250cc of albumin. It takes 10 liters of plasma to get that much albumin! If the albumin came from whole blood donations, which it most likely did, we are talking about 19 liters of whole blood. Since one donor gives about one pint, this means that 38-40 people donated their blood so that she could have that albumin. Her chart was marked "No Blood Products." I added the words, "except albumin."
The reason I became so interested in researching all this is because I had a family member die from this horrible doctrine. She bled to death nine days after giving birth to her fifth child who will never have the honor of knowing his mother. She lingered for several days believing that she was dying faithful to Jehovah. She had just graduated from nursing school as an RN, and her husband accepted her diploma posthumously. We were friends from our teenage years, and she was only 38 when she died. Such a needless death. She was denied the "technology" that she needed to live. I can only trust that God, in his perfect justice, will hold the leaders of the Watchtower Society responsible for all the deaths they have caused. They are truly the ultimate "people of the lie." ( John 3:19-21
Marlene Mercado (509) 928-8860
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