BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS
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According to the Watchtower Society, the acceptance of blood transfusions is considered to be a major sin. They base this on the following Scriptures:

Acts 15:28-29
(28)
For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to YOU, except these necessary things, (29) to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If YOU carefully keep yourselves from these things, YOU will prosper. Good health to YOU!”

Acts 21:25
As for the believers from among the nations, we have sent out, rendering our decision that they should keep themselves from what is sacrificed to idols as well as from blood and what is strangled and from fornication.”

Although the above-mentioned Scriptures are written only in relation to the use of oral consumption of blood (because transfusions weren't readily available in those days), the Watchtower Society expands this teaching to include the avoidance of blood transfusions as well (underline ours):

Does the command to abstain from blood include blood 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 that 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 (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 2005, p.130, para.13).

There is one major flaw in their logic – some serious medical conditions actually do require introducing alcohol into the veins:

One such treatment is involved in antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze is a common fluid used in automobiles which smells and tastes sweet; therefore children, pets, and confused Alzheimer's patients have accidentally poisoned themselves at times. When metabolized, the ethylene glycol in antifreeze forms crystals in the kidneys, causing death. Alcohol is the most effective antidote to this poisoning and is the preferred treatment used in order to save the victims. Since oral administration of the alcohol is too slow of a process to prevent death, the method is to introduce the alcohol directly into the veins. Next, we have cardiomyopathy; a deadly condition in which the heart muscle thickens, progressively weakening the heart and eventually killing the patient. One of the treatments for this condition involves injecting alcohol directly into a heart vein in order to reverse the thickening of the heart muscle, thus saving the patient's life. Injected alcohol therapy is also used in the treatment of liver cancers: The alcohol is injected directly into the cancerous tumor, killing the cancer cells quickly. We could go on with several other therapies which also employ alcohol injection, but I'm sure you get the point already.

When it comes to saving a life, would you refuse to allow a doctor to put alcohol into the veins of a recovering alcoholic because another doctor told him to abstain from alcohol? Of course not, these are exceptional circumstances! To deny a patient such lifesaving treatment would be tantamount to murder.

BLOOD-GUILT?

In spite of the flawed logic, the Watchtower Society continues to teach that blood transfusions are an improper use of blood (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 2005, p.130, para.14; Our Kingdom Ministry, September 1992, pp.3-6 ). Can their interpretation be correct? Many do not believe so, and this is why:

The only instruction the Bible gives concerning the disposal of blood is that it must be poured out into the soil (Deuteronomy 12:16); and this is only in reference towards killed or dead creatures. The implication is that we should not be using the blood/life from a dead creature. This is because when a creature is finished “using” its life, its life is to be returned to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), for it belongs to God who is the giver of life (Psalms 24:1, Isaiah 42:5, 1 Corinthians 10:26).

Parallel with this is the fact that God demands that we deeply respect life, and that we do nothing to cause a person's death if we can avoid it (Exodus 20:13; Exodus 21:23,28-32; Deuteronomy 22:8; Matthew 5:21). In the Old Law, those who deliberately caused the death of another person were to pay for that death by losing their own lives (Genesis 9:6, Numbers 35:30-32, 2 Samuel 4:11). The matter all boils down to bloodguilt: Are you bloodguilty if you accept a transfusion, or are you bloodguilty if you refuse to save a life through donation/transfusion? What does the Bible state regarding bloodguilt? Here are some scriptures:

Exodus 22:2-3 (2) If a thief should be found in the act of breaking in and he does get struck and die, there is no bloodguilt for him. (3) If the sun has shone forth upon him, there is bloodguilt for him.

Leviticus 17:3-4 (3) As for any man of the house of Israel who slaughters a bull or a young ram or a goat in the camp or who slaughters it outside the camp (4) and does not actually bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to Jehovah before the tabernacle of Jehovah, bloodguilt will be counted to that man. He has shed blood, and that man must be cut off from among his people.

Deuteronomy 19:10 that no innocent blood may be spilled in the midst of your land that Jehovah your God is giving you as an inheritance, and no bloodguilt has to be upon you

Deuteronomy 22:8 In case you build a new house, you must also make a parapet for your roof, that you may not place bloodguilt upon your house because someone falling might fall from it.

These are just a few of many. The common thread among all the Scriptures is this: Bloodguilt always has to do with causing a death, it never has to do with prolonging a life. Since abstaining from blood donations/transfusions would mean deliberately contributing to another's death, this would be in direct opposition to Jehovah's view on the sanctity of life.

COMMON MERCY

On top of all this we also cannot ignore that, on many occasions, Jesus Christ showed it was required to put mercy ahead of Theocratic Law by pointing out that respect for life should come foremost, regardless of Law (Matthew 12:11). He mercifully overrode the Sabbath Laws when he healed people on the Sabbath day (Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 14:1-6); even though the breaking of the Sabbath Law could easily result in the death penalty (Numbers 15:32). He also overrode the adultery Law when he showed mercy to an adulteress (John 8:1-11), even though the sin of adultery was also supposed to result in the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10-12). On another occasion He mercifully healed a bleeding woman with only one touch, even though the Law stated that such a woman was unclean and untouchable (Mark 5:25-34, compared with Leviticus 15:25-27). On yet another occasion, He mercifully healed the daughter of a foreign woman even though it wasn't His responsibility to do so (Matthew 15:22-28). You know that Jesus didn't sin in doing these things because the Bible clearly tells us that Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). In essence, Jesus was teaching us that mercy is not a sin – in fact, Jesus even rebuked the Pharisees for inflexibly putting Theocratic Law over mercy (Matthew 23:23).

Remember, God is a merciful God (Psalms 103:8; Ephesians 2:4), and God is LOVE (1 John 4:8). And when it comes to Theocratic Law, love is the Law's fulfillment (Matthew 22:36-40). This is why Jesus made it clear that God wants mercy to override Law (Matthew 9:12-13). God is so serious about this that those who do not show mercy will, in return, not be shown mercy in the Kingdom judgment (James 2:13), whereas those who do show mercy will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7). THAT is how important mercy is in God's eyes.

A Jehovah's Witness may argue:
But the Bible statesFor whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it(Matthew 16:25). Therefore, If we choose to save ourselves through the breaking of God's Law regarding abstinence from blood, we will still lose out on everlasting life later.

The Rebuttal:
If you read the entire context of this Scripture at Matthew 16:25, you will see that it speaking in relation to whether a person chooses to accept the general hardships that come with being a Christian. This passage is speaking in regards to selfishness, not mercy and the sanctity of life.

So, now you are presented with the question: If someone was bleeding to death, should you rigidly uphold the perceived law against blood transfusion, or should you show mercy to that someone by allowing a lifesaving treatment?


THE FINER DETAILS

Although the Watchtower Society was once against all forms of blood transfusion, deeming it a disfellowshipping offense (The Watchtower, August 1, 1958, p.478), their current stance isn't quite so harsh (though it is still pretty tough): As of the year 1990, members have been taught to refuse the “primary components” of blood: Red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma (serum). However, as a conscience matter, a member is free to choose to accept blood fractions, such as clotting factors, hemoglobin, hemin, gamma globulin, etc. – basically, “pieces” of the primary components (Our Kingdom Ministry, November, 2006, pp. 3-6; The Watchtower, June 15, 2000, pp.29-31). It is also viewed that, since God made it so these same fractions are shared between mother and baby during pregnancy, then these aren't violations of God's Law on blood (according to their view of these laws) ( The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, p. 31 ).

In 2004 the Watchtower Society sought to clarify their position regarding blood transfusions. According to the Watchtower, June 15, 2004, the Watchtower Society divides blood into four primary components: Red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Although these four components are to be viewed as unacceptable to receive, it is deemed to be an acceptable “conscience matter” for individuals to agree to receiving any of the fractions of these four components (p.22). This is because these smaller fractions can be viewed as so processed and separated that they are no longer blood. (See also: Our Kingdom Ministry, November 2006, pp.3-6). How does this work? Let's use the salad illustration: A salad is composed of several items. However, if you separate the items, none of the separated items are considered to be a salad. For example, a lettuce leaf all by itself is not a salad. A tomato all by itself is not a salad. Cucumbers all by themselves are not a salad. Croutons all by themselves are not a salad. BUT...if you mix them altogether you have a salad. This is how the Watchtower Society views the concept of blood and blood fractions. But this is a nonsense view: If taking whole blood is considered to be a major sin, then parts of the blood must also be viewed as equally sinful. Consider the following: Say you wanted to buy a certain car but you found out it was a stolen item. Obviously, it would be a sin to buy the stolen car; but if you adhere to the Watchtower Society's line of reasoning, you could buy all the fractions of the car and be clear in your conscience. After all, the wheels aren't the car, and the seats aren't the car, and the spark plugs aren't the car....

Personally, we like how Paul Grundy, author of JWFacts.com puts it: “At Genesis 3:3 God forbade Eve from eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Would Jehovah have considered it acceptable if she had just nibbled on the peel, or fractionated it and partaken of the juice, or somehow just extracted the Vitamin C?

STORING ONE'S OWN BLOOD

At this point, a reasonable person may begin to think: “Wait a minute, can't a Jehovah's Witness store a supply of their own blood in order to get around this problem?” The answer is: NO. (The Watchtower, December 15, 2000, p.30). Going by the Scriptures at Leviticus 17: 11,13 and Deuteronomy 15:23, the Watchtower Society teaches that it is just as wrong to be transfused with your own blood as it is to receive it from someone else because any blood removed from the body is supposed to be poured out on the ground (The Watchtower, October 15, 2000, pp. 30-31). And the Watchtower Society does not differentiate time allotments for storage: Whether the blood is stored for a few short hours or for several weeks, the used of stored blood is considered to be unacceptable. Again, the Watchtower Society is not taking into consideration that the Scriptures are speaking in terms of blood from dead creatures.

What's the difference between blood from dead creatures and blood from living creatures? The Scriptural view is that one's soul is in one's blood (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11-12,14). According to the Watchtower Society, one's soul is the combination of body and spirit (a.k.a. life force); therefore, without the life force, the person ceases being a soul (Reasoning From the Scriptures, 1989, pp. 375-380). And, once a person is “done” with his life force, he returns to dust, or dirt, because God originally made us from the dust/dirt (Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19). This is why God commanded that the blood be returned to Him via the earth beneath our feet (Thus, even if we intend to consume a creature for food, pouring out the blood still allows for the life-force being returned to God).



PARENTAL TACTICS

According to the Watchtower Society's elders' manual, Shepherd the Flock of God, a member who willingly accepts blood and remains unrepentant afterward may find oneself announced as disassociated by the elders (Shepherd the Flock of God, 2010, p.111-112). The premise is, if a parent agrees to the unacceptable blood treatment, it will be viewed as self-disassociation. This is because, in the Watchtower Society's eyes, a member who no longer lives by certain beliefs is no longer considered as a member of the religion in normal circumstances. Never-mind that the parent may still believe in all the other doctrine taught by the Watchtower Society; this one action is enough to assume intention to disassociate.

When it comes to the matter of lifesaving blood treatment, many believe this is an unfair assumption. Now, it is understandable that if a member chooses to begin celebrating Christmas, or attend church services elsewhere – those actions would definitely fit into the realm of self-disassociation. However, to condition a person's membership based on a lifesaving medical treatment seems to be a bit harsh. Think about it: If Jesus Christ Himself accepted that a person could break Theocratic Law to mercifully rescue an animal (Matthew 12:11), why isn't it acceptable to mercifully put aside Theocratic Law to rescue people ?

To the Jehovah's Witness parents of minor children, the Watchtower Society's teaching puts them in a no-win position. If they agree to using forbidden blood treatments, they face automatic disassociation from the world wide denomination of Jehovah's Witnesses. And, since Jehovah's Witnesses are heavily discouraged from cultivating friendships outside of the denomination (The Watchtower, November 15, 2008, p.30, para.11; The Watchtower, July 15, 2003, p.31), such parents are faced with losing all of their friends if they choose to accept the treatment for their child. And, in many cases, the entire families of these parents are also Jehovah's Witnesses, thus these parents will also lose fellowship with their own parents, siblings, and other extended family members as well. BUT...if the parents choose to deny the blood treatment according to the Watchtower Society's teaching, they risk causing the death of their own child. Keep in mind, the Watchtower Society teaches that “if we tried to save our present life by breaking God’s law, we would be in danger of losing everlasting life. We are wise, then, to put our trust in the rightness of God’s law, with full confidence that if we die from any cause, our Life-Giver will remember us in the resurrection and restore to us the precious gift of life” (What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 2005, p.130, para.15). Thus, parents are being taught that saving their children via unacceptable blood products will result in their losing out on the everlasting life in the resurrection promised to them in the future. The parents' choice is essentially this: Give the blood treatment and risk eternal damnation forever, or let the child die now and receive everlasting life later.

Now this is where it gets interesting: In many places there are laws stipulating that, when parents refuse life-saving treatment for their child, doctors can obtain emergency court orders allowing them to treat a child against the parent's wishes. Jehovah's Witness parents are very aware of these laws. Although a small percentage of Jehovah's Witness parents are serious in upholding the Watchtower Society's teaching (and thus will fight these court orders), most parents in this position stand aside and let the courts do the “dirty work” for them. This is a common tactic that was revealed in Florida's Sun-Sentinel newspaper in a column written by Michael Mayo; the following is an excerpt from the article:

State butts in to give kids a reprieve on life”

[State attorney Jim McClane said] “The parents told doctors they would object to the transfusion, but wouldn't object to a court order compelling it. The parents didn't testify or try to dissuade the judge from acting. That split approach, which strikes me as shrewd, allows parents to ultimately get their children proper medical care, but also follow the rules of their faith.” “They want the state to get involved to save their kid, so they don't have to answer to their congregation,” said Broward prosecutor Scott Raft, who has handled roughly a dozen of these cases over the last three years. Hackett said one former Palm Beach County judge used to tell conflicted parents, “This is on my conscience now, not yours.” (Published on August 27, 2011. The Sun-Sentinel is a news company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the United States)

A CONTRADICTORY GOD?

On the whole, the Watchtower Society paints the picture of a contradictory God. For example:

  1. Although viewing blood storage as against God's Law, they still allow the individual members to receive fractions.... fractions which come from stored blood. And, to make it worse, it takes multiple pints of blood to create one single dose of the fraction. For example: Albumin, an acceptable blood fraction, is used to save the lives of severe burn victims and other patients with certain chronic illnesses. It takes 40 units of whole blood to harvest enough albumin for one single dose – meaning each singular dose is derived from 40 pints of stored blood. If stored blood is against God's Law, as the Watchtower Society teaches, it is still okay to use the fraction even though it is derived from that “illegal” blood? Going back to the earlier illustration: Can you rightfully use the wheels from an illegal, stolen car?

  2. The Watchtower Society has stated that Jehovah's Witnesses do not donate blood because it's a practice which “conflicts with God's Law” (The Watchtower, March 15, 2005, p.18, para. 8; The Watchtower, October 15, 2000, p.31). This, then, means that Jehovah's Witnesses are against blood donation as well as the storage mentioned earlier. And yet, even though the donation and storage of blood is viewed as against God's Law, they willingly take the fractions from blood which has been donated and stored. Can you still use the seats from the illegal, stolen car?

  3. The Watchtower Society boldly champions Jehovah as a merciful (The Watchtower, May 1, 2009, p.18). And, as shown earlier, God is so serious about mercy that He requires us to show mercy to others if we want to be shown mercy on Judgment Day. And, as shown earlier, God is very serious about safeguarding another's life. And yet, the Watchtower Society implies that it is okay for a Jew to put aside God's law to rescue an animal, but it is not okay for a Christian to put aside God's law to rescue another human.

Interpreting Acts 15:22-29 and 21:25 as commands against lifesaving treatment tends to contradict the Scriptures which command us to show mercy (Matthew 5:7, Luke 6:36, 14:5) and avoid causing another person's death (Exodus 20:13, 21:12, 23, 28-29, Numbers 35:31, Leviticus 20:2, Deuteronomy 19:21, Mark 3:4). Doctrine which teaches against blood transfusions creates confusion because the Bible teaches that God would demand life-saving conduct while at the same time the religion demands that we refrain from performing a life-saving action. Remembering that Jehovah is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), a member needs to remember to abide by His Laws governing mercy and the sanctity of life instead of invalidating His Word by clinging to human tradition ( Mark 7:9, 13; Colossians 2:8). It is important to remember that God is THE ruler, not men ( Acts 5:29 ). And, considering that the Watchtower Society openly admits that they are not inspired and are fallible (Awake! March 22, 1993, p.4 footnotes; The Watchtower, December 1, 2002, p.17 para.18; ), it seems that one should go with the inspired and infallible direction: Scriptural precedent.

To view more information regarding the Jehovah's Witness teaching on Blood Transfusions, please click below:

4 Jehovah.org
http://4jehovah.org/jehovahs-witness-blood-transfusion.php


Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood
http://www.ajwrb.org/