about blood transfusions from Investigator #12
THE JW VIEW ON BLOOD
(Investigator 12, 1990
May p. 8)
Vic Chambers was
by the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1957 and Lance Garvie in 1971. Both
belong to the Woodville Congregation. Recently they called at my house
and told me about their views on blood transfusions
in the blood. The blood carries oxygen and removes poisons. To take
blood is like taking some one else's life. Therefore early in man's
history, long before the Law of Moses, God said: 'Only flesh with its
soul its blood, you must not eat.' That's in Genesis 9.4."
much can go wrong
with a blood transfusion. Even doctors won't take them nowadays.
There's the risk of hepatitis and AIDS. Your body destroys foreign
'As for any man of the house of Israel or some alien resident who is
residing as an alien in their midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall
certainly…cut him off from among his people.' To be 'cut off' means
they were to be put to death. We're not under the old Law so of course,
Jehovah's Witnesses don't put people to death if they take blood.
says: 'Simply be firmly resolved not to eat blood, because the blood is
the soul and you not east the soul along with the flesh. You must not
eat it. You should pour it out upon the ground as water.
fact that God's
command to Noah was incorporated into the Law of Moses shows that God
wasn't changing. It applies to Christians too as revealed in Acts
15 explains that
the elders in Jerusalem met together to decide whether Gentile
Christians had to be circumcised. The conclusion was: 'For 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 end from blood end from things strangled and from
fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you
will prosper. Good health to you.'
words 'no further
burden' show that circumcision was not necessary for Christians. The
words 'good health to you' show that abstaining from blood and these
other things would promote good health."
whether the following paragraph from their 1961 booklet, BLOOD MEDICINE
AND THE LAW OF GOD, was still taken as accurate:
involved in loving God with our whole soul? Remember that in his
post-Flood statement of the law to Noah, God equated the soul with the
blood, saying: "Only flesh with its soul — its blood — you must not
eat." (Genesis 9:3, 4) Later he restated the principle to the
Israelites: "The blood is the soul." (Deuteronomy 12:23) We
cannot drain from our body part of that blood, which represents our
life, and still love God with our whole soul, because we have taken
away part of 'our soul — our blood' — and given it to someone
else. Nor would it be sound to argue that loving one's neighbour as
oneself would warrant such giving of blood to another person. Love of
neighbor is the second commandment and is limited by the first one,
which requires complete love of God, consequently obedience to his
accept that. If you give your blood to someone else by transfusion then
you can't love God with 'all your soul'. To take blood from another or
to give your own blood to another person is to reject Jesus' sacrifice
when he gave his own blood for mankind."
the two visitors:
religion used to claim that vaccinations were against the Bible. You
also taught that transplants of human tissue are against the Scriptures
and it's better to go blind than have a cornea transplant. You used to
teach that thinking is done not in the brain but in the literal heart,
the muscle that pumps blood. Christians, whom you call false
Christians, all along taught the truth on these things. Therefore I
will have to get your interpretation about blood checked just in case
you're wrong again."
Garvie spoke up for
the first time:
are now up to the individual conscience but I still wouldn't have one.
You risk transferring the other person's attitudes into yourself. One
man who had a child's heart transplanted into him took up skipping — just like a child."
haven't heard of that.
You're wrong, however, in teaching that the Bible is against organ
transplants. Therefore I'll have to get your interpretation about blood
Mr Chambers continued:
consistent. It's against blood before the Mosaic Law, during and after.
Blood transfusion is never necessary anyway. Surgeons just have to work
with precision and not like butchers. Also there are alternatives to
blood like dextran and saline solutions."
are OK when the patient loses only a litre or two of blood, but not
when he's lost say 60% or more."
Witnesses have had very low blood counts and survived without blood
Me: "I've checked some
medical journals and found examples of doctors doing all they could but
the JW still was about to die and then accepted blood and was saved."*
real Jehovah's Witnesses."
value of blood
transfusions was scientifically proved during the World Wars. Debate
about their worth was settled then."
cut Bible command to abstain."
following newspapers and
journals demonstrate there are limits to how much blood a patient can
lose and still survive without blood transfusion:
27, Dies (The News, 1996 March 16)
said no to blood
(The Advertiser, 1979 January 8)
transfusions (The Advertiser, 1975 January 9)
American Medical Association 1974 May 20 discussed three JW patients given
oxygen in addition to having their blood volume restored with non-blood
products. One patient still required a blood transfusion to avoid death.
American Medical Association 1977 September 19 discussed
in Jehovah's Witnesses — Report of 542 Operations Without Blood
transfusions." It said: "…anemia was a contributing factor in 12
deaths, and loss of blood was the direct cause of three deaths."
12, p. 20)
l940 the JW
leaders believed: "…blood transfusion has saved many lives."
(Consolation 1940, October l6, p.11 Australian edition) Their own
magazine recorded experiences like this one:
Mending of a Heart
York city a
housewife in moving a boarder's things accidentally shot herself
through the heart with his revolver. She was rushed to a hospital,
her left breast was cut around, four ribs were cut away, the heart was
lifted out, three stitches were taken, one of the attending physicians
in the great emergency gave a quart of his blood for transfusion,
and today the woman lives and smiles gaily over what happened to her in
the busiest 23 minutes of her life. (Consolation Volume XXII, 1940,
the Dutch edition
of CONSOLATION stated:
never published a decree which forbids employing medicine, injections
and blood transfusions. It is a human invention like the Pharisees'
disregard for mercy and grace. To serve Jehovah with all the mind does
not mean to put our intelligence in a box. The life being of
great value is holy to Jehovah." (September, p. 29)
However, at that
JW leaders opposed vaccinations:
is a direct violation of the ever lasting covenant that God made with
Noah after the flood." (The Golden Age 1931 February 4, p. 293, USA
vaccination is a
direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream vaccination is a
direct violation of the law of Jehovah God." (1935 April 24, p. 471)
especially F.W. Franz* (vice-president, at the time, of the Watchtower
Society), realized that blood transfusions can also be described as "
direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream". Opposition to
transfusions originated in this way as a spin-off doctrine from the
Franz, b. 1893 became a colporteur for JWs in 1914, vice president of
the sect in 1945, and president in 1977. He was the chief
"Bible truths" as transfusions being against the Bible; Armageddon
occurring in 1975; organ transplants being "cannibalism"; the literal
heart and not the brain being involved in thinking; ex JWs to be
shunned; Adam and eve created in 4026 BC; and paradise to be on earth
within the twentieth century.]
The JW leaders enforced the new doctrine (as they enforce most of their
new "light") by threatening
death at Armageddon:
behooves all worshippers of Jehovah who seek eternal life in this new
world of righteousness to respect the sanctity of blood and to
conform to God's righteous rulings concerning this vital matter."
(w1945 July 1, p. 201)
the "law of
Jehovah" against vaccinations was booted aside. It had restricted the
international travels of the JW leaders and their missionaries. It had
also resulted in thousands of JWs being quarantined. The spin-off
doctrine — opposition to blood — should reasonably have been shoved
aside also. But the leaders, at that stage N. Knorr, F. Franz and M.
Henschel, would have lost face.
100 followers had
died already from blood loss. Certain prophecies had recently failed.
One prophecy was that: "Israel will never be restored as a nation."
(Consolation 1939, 11/29, p.17, Australian edition) Another prophecy
the mid 1920s concerned the resurrection of ancient Jews in about 1950.
And there were other major changes in doctrine. To dump both the
anti-vaccination and the anti-transfusion commands at the same time,
while other serious things were failing as well, might have hurt the
prestige of the leaders just too much.
W. Franz had
five main arguments which I'll now proceed to refute:
argued that blood is the soul Christians must love God with "all your
soul". Blood donors lose some blood and therefore can't love "with all
your soul". (Blood, Medicine and the Law of God 1961 p. 8)
Franz is wrong in this argument because love does not depend on blood
volume. God has no blood at all because God, the Bible says, is a
"spirit". And yet, though being bloodless, "God is love". (1 John
claimed that Genesis 9:4 "blood you must not eat" is a command to all
mankind. (w1945 12/1)
Franz is wrong again since Deuteronomy 14:21 (please check it up)
clearly shows that Genesis 9:4 did not apply to all mankind.
Furthermore, Genesis 9: 4 refers to the blood of those animals which
"may serve as food for you". (9:3) Humans are not "animals"…which may
serve as food".
used Leviticus 17:10-14 which commanded ancient Jews not to eat blood.
That command, however, was part of the Law of Moses which JWs believe
does not apply to Christians. (Ephesians 2:14-16; Psalm 147:l9-20)
Obviously, if the command doesn't apply then Franz and his JW followers
shouldn't quote it [to support their anti blood doctrine].
cites Acts 15:28-29 which gives four "necessary things" that should be
The Watchtower for 1909 April 14, pp 116-117, which JW leaders have
never declared wrong, states that the four "necessary things" were not
a law. The four "necessary things" were not addressed to the whole
Christian church but to: "the brethren who are of the Gentiles in
Antioch and Syria and Cilicia." (Acts 15:23) The four "necessary
things" were necessary for Jews and Christians to be at peace with each
counter argues that one of the "necessary things" was to abstain from
"fornication". And that is something that still applies to all
Christians! (Revelation 21:8)
However, in Acts 15 "fornication" referred to ignoring Jewish laws and
arrangements regarding marriage. Technically that was "fornication" in
Israel. (Bruce, F. B. 1982 Bible Study Commentary, p. 67) So,
"fornication", in this instance (Acts 15), did not refer to sexual
deviancy or to premarital sexual intercourse but to getting married
other than by the Jewish means.
The four "necessary things" were temporary measures to maintain
peaceful relations between Jews and Christians in and around Israel.
arguments have now been demolished.
liked to cite
statistics of blood transfusions killing people. In the USA between
3,000 and 30,000 people are killed annually from blood transfusions. If
all transfusions were banned then all those people would live is what
Franz and JWs imply.
However, in the USA about 4 million people receive transfusions each
year. Many of them get only 1 or 2 units of blood. Many of the people
who get 1 or 2 units would also recover from their illnesses if,
instead of blood, they had one of the many available non-blood
alternative mixtures transfused into them.
of the 4 million
blood recipients the majority suffered major blood loss of 3 or 4 or
more pints. Alternatives to blood would be inadequate in such cases of
major blood loss because they do not transport oxygen and carbon
dioxide around the body. One can't be precise due to human variability
in ability to survive and recover. But If we banned all blood
transfusions and in this way tried to save those 3000 - 30,000 who died
from blood transfusion the new death toll would he over 2 million!
1930s the JW
magazines presented regular examples of people who suffered adverse
reactions from vaccinations. Citing isolated ill effects ignored that
smallpox, for example, which killed or disfigured 50 million Europeans
in the 18th century was conquered by vaccination. Had the world
listened to "Jehovah" and banned vaccinations we might again have small
pox cases (and other now-conquered diseases) by the hundreds of
When Franz cites examples of unfortunates who died from blood
transfusions he makes the same sort of statistical mistake that he
previously made when opposing vaccinations! There may be JWs still
alive who are disfigured from polio because Franz opposed vaccinations.
For about 15 years until l980 Franz also opposed tissue transplants as
"unscriptural" and JWs were required to choose blindness to a cornea
JWs have died
needlessly for lack of blood transfusion? I am aware of four
unnecessary JW deaths in South Australia occurring in 1965, 1974, 1978
and 1985. There might however be others that I don't know about. Of all
JWs worldwide about 1/700 live in South Australia. A rough estimate of
worldwide needless JW deaths is therefore 700x4 = 2,800.
This, however, should be checked by uncovering total JW deaths from
blood loss in other countries, states, or cities and making similar
Another approach is to base estimates on hospital records and reports
in medical journals. Apparently about one JW in 10,000 died annually,
unnecessarily, from blood loss. If one adds up all JW preachers for
each year from 1946-1981 the total is 40,000,000.
of this is 4000.
4000 JW deaths! Both estimates, however, are just estimates.
Why Retain the Doctrine?
don't JW leaders
admit their error, permit blood transfusions, and let their people
reason is that
scientists may soon have an "artificial blood" which safely performs
the major functions of real blood, such as transport oxygen and carbon
dioxide, long enough for the body to replenish its own blood supply.
(J. American Medical Association 1980, February 22)
reason is the
upheaval resulting from false prophecies for 1975 which contributed to
1 million defections. Admitting to 4000 needless deaths would obviously
cause further spiritual devastation. Scholar Jerry Bergman writes:
was informed by a member of the writing staff of Awake!
magazine, that the Society clearly recognizes their error
relative to the prohibition against blood transfusions, but hesitates
to alter the rule because they feel that a change would create more
problems than continuing to teach an incorrect position. All of those
who lost children, husbands, loved ones, or relatives because of the
ban on blood transfusions would no doubt feel, to some extent that
their loss was in vain.
Rather than create the chance of causing a
large upheaval by changing this doctrine, it was felt best to continue
the previous teaching. It was reasoned that a change in this official
teaching would 'stumble' many, and thus they would lose out on their
'everlasting life'. On the other hand, continuation of the doctrine may
cause several hundred or even thousands of people to die, but because
they have died 'in faith', will be resurrected according to the
Society's teachings and, in the end, nothing will be lost." (The Mental Health of
Witnesses 1967 p.156)