OceanSide church of Christ
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JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES AND BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS
Victor M. Eskew
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are opposed to blood transfusions. On the website, www.jw.org, in a section entitled: “What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?”, they write: “…We avoid practices that displease God, including the misuse of blood by taking blood transfusions” (Acts 15:28; Gal. 5:19-21).” On that same site, there is another article entitled: “Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses Accept Blood Transfusions?” In that article, they explain: “This is a religious issue rather than a medical one. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood (Gen. 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23: Acts 15:28, 29). Also God views blood as representing life (Lev. 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.” From 10% to 12 % of the Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with this doctrine. The majority, however, accept it and practice it. Many of the Jehovah’s Witnesses carry a Medical Directive Card issued by the Watchtower Society that states their desire to have no blood transfusion. There have been numerous instances in the news Jehovah’s Witnesses have died because they would not receive a blood transfusion.
This teaching was not an official position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses until 1945. Remember, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses was adopted in 1931. Therefore, blood transfusions were allowed for fourteen years. Fredrick Franz is the main individual responsible for the teaching against blood transfusions. It is interesting to note that between the years 1921 and 1952, the Jehovah’s Witnesses refused vaccinations. This doctrine was changed when they found themselves being quarantined during the outbreaks of diseases in various countries. Too, they were often prohibited from travelling on international flights because they had not been vaccinated. Refusing blood transfusions has caused the Jehovah’s Witnesses to have to make numerous other decisions about medical procedures. Can they give blood? No. Organ transplants were forbidden from 1967 to 1980. Now, this is a matter of individual conscience. Blood can also be divided into three major fractions: red blood cells, plasma, and platelets. These are also forbidden among the Jehovah’s Witnesses. These blood fractions, however, can also be divided. Take for instance blood plasma. It can be further divided into hormones, inorganic salts, enzymes, nutrients, and clotting factors. With regard to these small fragments of blood, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are free to take them if their conscience will allow it. They do not allow their pets to have blood transfusions. Too, they will not use any fertilizers that have blood products in them.
Let’s read two passages that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use as a foundation for their teaching against blood transfusions. One of them is from the Old Testament. The other will be from the New Testament. In Leviticus 17:10-12, we read: “And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.” The New Testament passage is found in Acts 15:28-29. “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater things than those necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”
There are three responses that can be made about this unique doctrine. First, the passages they cite have nothing, nothing to do with blood transfusions. The passages forbid the eating of blood. This involves blood taken in through one’s mouth. This blood enters into the belly and is process by the digestive system and eventually is eliminated from the body. A blood transfusion involves none of these things. Blood transfusions are injected directly into the circulatory system and remain in the body. It is a complete falsehood to liken a transfusion to eating blood.
Second, the passages that forbid eating blood do so for two purposes. First, God wanted His people to be different from the nations that surrounded them. Idol worshipper drank blood in many settings: hunting, medical situations, and religious services. The drinking of blood served no useful purpose. It was vain, man-made action. Second, blood should be something that is highly respected. The life of the flesh is in the blood. When blood is shed life is taken. It was what was required for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, it should never be treated with disrespect and dishonor. All of the blood that was ingested by the heathen nations involved the taking of precious life from some victim.
Third, blood transfusions do not disrespect life. Instead, they honor life. When Paul spoke to the heathen philosophers atop Mars’ hill, he made this affirmation about God: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26). It was from this verse, that blood transfusions were believed to be possible. A blood transfusion allows the life from one human being to be transferred to another human being. Life is not disrespected. Instead, it is honored. This writer has seen individuals receive blood transfusions. Prior to the infusion, the patient was weak and listless. Once the blood entered into the individual’s system, life was restored. The patient was animated and strong once again.
In an article, entitled: “Refusal of blood transfusions key to deaths of 2 Jehovah’s Witnesses, coroner finds,” two mothers are reported to have died within a few days after giving birth to their children because they refused blood transfusions. Two mothers are dead. Two children are motherless. Two husbands are missing wives. Why? Because individuals have taken texts from the Bible and put interpretations on them that were never intended. Accounts like these sadden us when we read them. We are sad because the treasure of life could have been given to them if only they would have received the blood offered to them. Instead, they rejoiced in death. Hosea was right: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hos. 4:6).