H.L.C. Elders Speak Out

A Group of Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC) Members Speak Out

HLCs are sat up in most parts of the earth by the Watchtower Society (hereafter WTS) to assist Witnesses in finding cooperative physicians who are willing to provide bloodless treatment. In their dealings with physicians, they often come face to face with the inconsistencies and discrepancies in the Watchtower Society’s blood policy. One group of HLC brothers has come forward to express themselves on the blood issue. They have asked us to publish the following information to all of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and especially “Hospital Information Services,” in Brooklyn, New York. The information should also be of interest to medical and legal professionals. 

We are a group of eight brothers working at present for the Hospital Liaison Committees in different places and countries. We have been able to communicate about our assignment and share different experiences about the work that has been done. We are very pleased that much good has been accomplished in behalf of our brothers. Many not professing to be Jehovah’s Witnesses have also benefited from the arrangement.

It is widely acknowledged, even by doctors, that blood is a dangerous medical treatment. In many of our presentations in different hospitals we often hear comments that clearly indicate that doctors usually do their utmost to avoid using treatments made from human blood. And it is noteworthy that these comments come from doctors working in the field of Hematology.

We can’t deny the fact that medical devices, procedures and medications have developed dramatically. This has contributed to, and is the main reason for reducing the need for blood products. Additionally, there are numerous company’s developing products to improve clotting capacity and maintain circulating blood volume. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is another very important tool, and although many doctors resist it’s use, they do acknowledge its value in treating acute anemia.

The Society has also emphasized the use of Erythropoietin which stimulates the production of red blood cells, and together with Iron Dextran there is evidence of greater benefit and results in treating Witness patients.

Many positive things can be said regarding alternative non-blood therapies, there is no denying that. At the same time the facts are, that our work would not be necessary if medical science were to find a replacement for blood. However, in August of 1997, blood is still a valuable product for saving lives and sometimes we overlook the benefit and the importance of using it. Even among the HLC members who have many years of experience in their assignment, you can find a complete ignorance of why blood is used. These brothers have been trained through Seminar’s I and II, and the only thing that many know about blood, is that it is a dangerous medical treatment and should be avoided. Not just because of Biblical reasons, but because they believe that it is bad medicine, and that there are good alternative products available.

There exists a guideline or “rule” that developed among clinicians that stated a patient likely should be transfused if the hemoglobin level fell below 10 or the hematocrit below 30. It is called the “10/30 rule.” Many doctors today still use this guideline, and sadly, some doctors even transfuse earlier without any medical reason. Another troubling question is, how low can we go without unnecessarily exposing the life of the patient?

After the Seminars, presented by three brothers from Hospital Information Services for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn, the custom is to go and visit some hospitals and medical institutions. Brother Major Spry, Associate Director and the principle voice in Brooklyn around the blood issue, always try to send the message that the 10/30 rule is outdated and “we want it down, much more.” Often the doctors agree that ‘it is alright to get it down, but one shouldn’t’t forget that much depends on the patients age and condition.’ A young healthy person can endure more than an anemic, undernourished or aged patient. Therefore, each patient must be considered individually, and no standard position or policy can easily be defined.

Still, the brothers in Brooklyn have achieved some very good results by their work. One example of progress is noted in “The American Journal of Surgery” Consensus Conference: Blood Management Surgical Practice Guidelines, Volume 170, No. 6A (Suppl) December 1995. In this there is a proposal of about 11 policies for surgical blood management and proposed interventions that would achieve each policy’s intended outcome. “The policies were designed to achieve four clinical outcomes: maximization of oxygen delivery, cost-effective minimization of transfusion risks, education of physicians and patients, and appropriate surgical management of special surgery subset, Jehovah’s Witness patients.”

In the same “The American Journal of Surgery”, page 14, there is a section entitled: “Blood Management Policies For Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Policy 2 states:

“In general, Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse all allogeneic blood products and any autologous blood that has been separated from the body. These prohibitions do not prevent most Witnesses from accepting the use of cardiopulmonary bypass, dialysis, intraoperative blood salvage, and reinfusion. Although the casual observer may not discern a difference between these interventions and autologous blood that has been separated from the body, Jehovah’s Witnesses distinguish acceptable therapy from unacceptable according to whether the diverted blood is still part of the circulatory system. In dialysis and cardiopulmonary bypass, blood remains part of the circulation. Autotransfusion devices can meet this test by dedicating an intravenous line from the collective device to the patient to maintain a closed circuit. Hemodilution can be similarly modified.

Jehovah’s Witnesses readily accept most drugs, such as iron dextran, aprotinin, desmopressin, and synthetic “blood substitutes,” because these agents contain no human blood products. Hemoglobin-based blood substitutes are unacceptable to Jehovah’s Witnesses if they contain either human or animal blood.

As a matter of conscience, Jehovah’s Witnesses may accept some products that contain blood products, such as immune globulin. Epoetin alfa, which contains a small amount of human albumin, is acceptable to most Jehovah’s Witnesses. Albumin will likely be refused conscientiously when used as a volume expander, but the amount contained in Epoetin alfa is small and therefore generally acceptable.”

What is blood?

This description of our position as an organization is quite accurate. However, there are a couple of problems that HLC members must address. First, and the question is often asked: What is blood? This may seem like a simple question to answer, but it is not, for there are a number of blood components that the Society permits Witnesses to take. Are these components not also blood, and how is it decided which parts of the blood are acceptable, and which are not? Since it is acceptable to introduce these “allowed components” into our bodies, it is understandable that Witnesses and medical personnel are confused by our position? Although this question has been in the minds of many brothers, no one dares to deal with the question publicly. Why?

Hemodilution

When it comes to Hemodilution and Intraoperative autotransfusions, very few members of the HLC’s have taken the initiative to try and understand exactly how these procedures work. All of these external devices and methods should create questions as to whether or not the blood is still a part of the body. But the friends simply accept these procedures since the Society does not forbid them.

It is interesting to note how brothers who are struggling to find medical solutions react to the article, “Obstetrics and Gynecology, Volume 72, Number 6, December 1988, ‘A Simplified Device For Intraoperative Autotransfusion’.” When the article is presented, and the brothers see the device and the way blood is collected and stored into a blood bag, in a lowered position, their first and immediate reaction is generally to reject the device.

Here is how the procedure works: During the surgery doctors use Blood Aspiration with Automatic Anticoagulant Mixing, and the blood is collected into a Blood Reservoir. It is then drained by gravity into the Blood Bag, and stored in a lowered position until it is filled. When the Blood Bag is filled, it is raised to the top of the assembly, and the blood is reinfused. Although it is hard to see the blood as still being a part of the circulatory system, the brothers accept the procedure once they are told that the Society has approved of its use, and that it does not violate any scriptural principles.

Albumin

Albumin is another problem. We accept albumin as a matter of conscience, although the blood contains more albumin than white blood cells, which we must reject. Many doctors are also confused by this position, but they usually are so respectful, and most of them think that there are religious principles involved although a clear contradiction exists. What doctors don’t know, and we are not permitted to explain to them, is that this position is clearly an organizational ruling for the members, and lacks any logical reason or scriptural support.

EPO

Another interesting feature about the use of Albumin that many members of the HLC’s have commented on, is that we should never decide or interfere in the conscientious decisions of our brothers. The problem here is that the Society has so greatly emphasized the benefit of Erythropoietin that HLC members often forget or don’t tell the brothers that between the two most common Erythropoietins: Eprex and Recormon, Eprex contains Albumin, but usually the HLC members don’t feel any responsibility to inform them of this. Another sad part of all this is that the brothers, even many members of the HLC’s, don’t really understand how Erythropoietin works, and hence over-estimate it’s value in treating Witnesses.

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a treatment used to raise the hematocrit, and stimulate the production of red blood cells which transports oxygen. Some members of the HLC’s feel that the Society has overemphasized the benefit of Erythropoietin. The recommended dosage in case of emergency is between 200-1000 IUnits/kg=2pounds/Daily, and when a clear response appears, 3 times a week. Some companies selling the product even recommend more IUnits. The sad part of this is that today the scientific documentation of the real benefit of Erythropoietin is vague.

The treatment is most frequently prescribed for patients with renal dysfunction’s, or patients who have predeposited their own blood some 4 weeks before an operation can receive a EPO treatment. But if the patient is in good health and no indications of any serious infections appear, they usually don’t need EPO. Even among the HLC members, there is confusion about the real benefit. Some suggest high dosages, not because a Witness patient needs it, or because an EPO treatment doesn’t bring serious contra-indications as long the hematocrit level is low, rather they feel more comfortable knowing that if something goes seriously wrong, at least it was not because EPO treatment was not used.

This lack of knowledge and lack of scientific documentation among the HLC members should be a matter of concern for the brothers. First of all, many brothers don’t know that the real benefit of an EPO treatment comes usually after 2-4 weeks. In about 3 days one can find a small reticulocyte response, within 7 days for hematocrit response, and the final and necessary benefit usually comes after 2-4 weeks. This is important to understand, particularly in a case of acute blood loss.

Another part of an EPO treatment is the Cost vs Benefit. Some doctors have recommended a small dose of EPO like 80 IUnits/kg/3 days a week. At the same time an HLC member without any scientific or medical reason, may recommend a dosage of of 600 IUnits/kg/each day the first week. In many places the patient will himself have to bear this expense. The costs may differ from one place to another, but we can conservatively estimate that the higher dosage recommended by the HLC member will drive up costs approximately $4,000.00, and this without any scientific justification, as optimal dosage regimens have not been determined for EPO.

Cord Blood

Another question that has been raised among some Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as HLC members has to do with the issue of Umbilical Cord blood.

Today medical scientists are doing research about the use of umbilical cord blood and there are indications that it could contain and provide a vital lifesaving medical benefit. However, as in so many other cases, the Society is clearly opposed to us as Jehovah’s Witnesses accepting, or even donating umbilical cord blood (See W97, 2/1 – Questions From Readers). However, since they permit some of the components found in umbiblical cord blood to be produced and used, it is hard to see any logic or and biblical basis for their prohibition.

Problems with Alternative, Non-blood therapy

Avoiding blood is a way of searching for quality medical treatment. But offering something that can replace blood is simply not possible at this time. Doctors are well aware of the situation and the need for something to replace blood transfusions. When a good alternative to blood exists, doctors will use it. Today the only real alternatives are the surgeons skill, some medications, technical devices and procedures available in some of the hospitals, and of course the risk of operating outside the critical limits.

We as HLC members should ask ourselves if our work is simply to find cooperative doctors? A comment expressed among some brothers within the HLC’s was taken from the ‘Bloodless Coordinator’s Corner’ on the Internet. www.noblood.com

Sometimes hospitals and doctors accept the challenge to treat us with alternatives, but that could be fatal if they are not prepared for it. Sometimes the doctors are very interested in doing an experiment with a Jehovah’s Witness. Consider the statements made in the ‘Bloodless Coordinator’s Corner’, for this is the reality for many Witnesses right now in many countries when the hospital decides to cooperate without being prepared for it. As members of the HLC’s we can confirm that from our experience. Note the following:

“Our Guest Editorial comes from Bernice Goldstien, Coordinator for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Washington. We thank Bernice for her contribution!

… Bloodless Surgery is not actually blood free. There is shed blood. ‘Bloodless’ is a term applied to transfusion free medicine. Bloodless Surgery is being requested by an increasing number of patients who recognize there are alternatives to blood transfusions.

In the past, the most one could hope for was a physician who agreed not to use blood as part of the treatment plan. According to Dr. Estioko, Cardiovascular Surgeon and Medical Director of the Bloodless Medicine “A promise not to give blood transfusions is not enough. A cooperative doctor could kill you.” What was he talking about? If the doctor agrees to operate without blood, what does he offer in it’s place? There is more he can do! Much more!

… Clearly, an arrangement for non-blood medical management goes far beyond a promise from a physician not to give blood. It involves real commitment by the entire hospital.”

Although the WTS is doing an excellent job of providing information about alternatives, the reality is, that in many countries the doctors and hospitals are not always prepared or even willing to handle a case with alternative therapy. Many cases have ended in tragedy, cases where our brothers were attended by a cooperative doctor, who was not qualified and lacked the required experience to handle the case. Often times because the doctor was not able to offer anything to adequately replace blood therapy. The sad part is that many HLC members do not realize that Witness patients often die because of a lack of commitment and the use of alternative treatment in the hospitals. The only real cooperation is often to simply let the patient die, and that is unacceptable. The medical staff should cooperate, and realize that another hospital or doctor might be of help, but this doesn’t always happen, and tragically, many HLC members are not really qualified to evaluate these situations and know how to respond.

Minor Children

The most depressing feature of being a member of a HLC is when our children are involved. Why has the WTS completely failed to gain one legal case when it comes to minor children? It is obvious, there is nothing so effective as human blood to transport oxygen and today there is nothing to replace its use in the medical field. We must appreciate the fact that the legal system protects our children. Even for us, as members of HLC’s, we realize that it is much easier to work with the doctors knowing the rules and laws about minor children. Every Jehovah’s Witness should know, although there have been cases where Witness parents have acted against it, that parental authority is not absolute and that there can be no guarantee of bloodless treatment for Witness minors in general. They should understand that the state, has the right to provide treatment believed to be necessary to safeguard a child’s life or health.

When there are effective alternatives available, when there is a choice to be made, that choice should be made by the parent and not by some doctor, social worker, or judge. But here one needs to ask an important question: Who is qualified to make a decision about alternative nonblood management, and will that decision adequately meet or respond to the child’s needs? As members of the HLC’s we have been eye witnesses of cases where cooperative doctors have followed the parents wishes for alternative non-blood therapy, and the results have sometimes been tragic, with just one more unnecessary death being the result.

We shouldn’t be too dogmatic about the benefit and positive results of using blood products, but one thing is for sure. As long as there is nothing that can replace the blood products, they are going to be used, and many children are going to be saved by them. Judges are going to decide in favor of using blood products and protecting the child’s life and health above the religious beliefs of the parents.

A Question of conscience?

One of the arguments we use and present to the doctors has to do with the emotional damage done to a person who’s conscience is violated by forcing a medical treatment made of human blood. Every reasonable person understands that it is unacceptable to force a treatment that violates a persons conscience. With most Witnesses, however, their conscience does not really enter the picture. They are simply responding to a situation based upon how the Society has ruled on it.

When we as as Jehovah’s Witnesses look back and remember the wounded and dead brothers who did not accept vaccinations, blood serums, organ transplants or hemophiliac treatments, we must acknowledge that they took their stand largely because of an organizational policy and prohibition forced upon them. These positions have now been abandoned by the leadership, and we rarely if ever see brothers refusing vaccinations, organ transplants, or any of the blood components on the Society’s approved list. This fact alone should cause anyone involved in these situations to pause and reflect seriously about the real issues involved. Is the issue truly one of conscience, and if so, whose conscience?

In Conclusion

We are a group of eight members of the HLC’s that have been carefully considering these points, and we would like to conclude this consideration with the following thoughts. In particular, we direct our comments to the brothers in ‘Hospital Information Services for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn.’

Quoting your own words during Seminars I and II, we are supposed to be “trained professionals” in our area of providing information about alternative nonblood management and cooperative doctors. That’s fine, we have seen many blessings and the very good results of that work. We also hope that medical science can find something to replace the present blood products used in the medical field. What a blessing, not just for us as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but for all people of the earth. Certainly all of the doctors are going to rejoice when a replacement for blood becomes available, and surely it will immediately be applied in hospital protocols and procedures for emergency care.

But, despite what is going to happen in the near future, discovering new synthetic blood products, new diseases and infections, or something else, the real questions are still going to be in our minds: Is the Society’s blood doctrine actually correct? Why do so many brothers enter into an inner conflict about the issue when they consider the biblical facts? Has the Society really provided us with the truth, and all of the Biblical facts regarding blood? Do they realize that in accepting some minor blood components they have created a tremendous contradiction in their firm stand? Where are the serious and solid arguments against stored autologous blood transfusions? Do they appreciate that their position kills many precious minor children, unless the legal system steps in to provide protection for their life and health? Should our main concern as Jehovah’s Witnesses be to look for medical alternatives, or to confront ourselves with the biblical facts about life and blood?

Your brothers,

A group of Members in Hospital Liaison Committee’s


What follows is a letter we received from an H.L.C. brother who has come face to face with the problems, and has come forward to voice his concerns:

I am a regular reader of the different material and information about blood at the Net. Also I have the special privilege to be part of a HLC (Hospital Liaison Committee). However, I understand that we are working in a very dangerous field because of so many contradictions in our blood doctrine. Personally I suffer and often work with a deep feeling of guilt, particularly when our brothers need to go through unnecessary pain and death. I can personally testify to about 4 deaths of our brothers, where they could have been saved. How? These brothers and sisters could have been saved if available alternative treatment approved by the Society had been used. But why did they not use it? The doctors could not use the treatments because the Witness patients objected on the grounds that the treatments contained fractions of human blood. These patients were not able to explain why the Society approves these treatments, but after the HLC explained to the brothers, and the doctors, the Society’s position – they agreed. Sadly, in these 4 cases I have been through, the patients died because the necessary treatment was used too late.

I have shared the pain and loss with these brothers, hugging them, talking with them, sitting together with them in cold hospital corridors just to share some fellowship, and human compassion. These poor innocent brothers are victims and they can’t understand and explain their position except for being faithful to organizational directives. First they abstain completely from all alternative blood products, but if the organization gives their approval, then in a matter of seconds they change their mind and heart.

Let me be very clear – I am ready to leave this assignment, I can’t continue to support this cruel doctrinal enforcement. Precious children and wonderful Jehovah’s Witnesses are dying for nothing. There is just one thing that keeps me in this HLC. We are three brothers in different places that are not supporting the Society’s view. If someone in Brooklyn reads this, then I want them to know that we have been very successful in our work, among doctors and brothers, as to distributing information about our internal problems. We are not pushing the matter, we respect the individuals choice in this decision. But we also hope that Society could take note of what is going on, and in the name of the truth, love and justice, do what they must do for our dear brothers.

I want to use this opportunity to thank  Lee Elder and some others out in the Net who hopefully can be a valuable tool in saving lives and changing erroneous doctrines.

Your Brother,

A Member of HLC

Control and Repression – The Ray Hemming Story

Ray Hemming

Ray Hemming
Jehovah’s Witness Elder

If there’s one thing that people identify Jehovah’s Witnesses with, it’s their refusal of blood transfusions. I know it was a doctrine that I once believed was right for me and my family. If a medical emergency had arisen, a blood transfusion would not have been an option.

I, like many Jehovah’s Witnesses, hoped that such an emergency would never happen. But if it did, I was comforted by the thought that there were alternatives to blood transfusions such as saline, dextrose, etc. These were the kind of alternatives the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society trumpeted in their literature as the preferred emergency non-blood choices.

Three years after my baptism as an ordained minister for Jehovah’s Witnesses, my daughter, who was seven-years old at the time, fell very ill with severe tonsillitis. She lost a lot of weight due to the illness and became frail and weak. Our family doctor referred us to a nearby hospital for consultation, where we were advised that her tonsils should be removed.

However, the physician would not agree to perform the operation without assurance from me that blood could be used if a complication arose in the procedure. I remember nervously asking him to review our blood booklet “Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood.” That’s all we had in those days for medical dilemmas. There were no Hospital Liaison Committees (HLCs) at the time. The doctor said he was familiar with this booklet, but refused to discuss the matter.

My wife and I were faced with our first dilemma related to the Watchtower’s doctrine on blood. Should we consent to the doctor’s wishes and hope things turned out okay? With some dismay, we left the hospital with our daughter and began to search for help elsewhere. Eventually we were directed to a qualified professional, who specialized in alternative medicine. Because of his advice, which included dietary restrictions and some medication, our daughter was helped through that critical period. In time she regained her strength and health, although the problem has never been fully resolved, even today.

The refusal of blood transfusions was a subject that most Jehovah’s Witnesses would try to avoid when in the door-to-door ministry. This is a very emotional doctrine for non-Jehovah’s Witnesses. And there was simply no adequate response to a parent standing in front of you at their door, asking the question, “Would you let your child die?” Any response like “our child will be resurrected in the new world” or “Jehovah’s Witnesses have alternatives to blood” did not cut it, and frankly, that was of no comfort to a rational Jehovah’s Witness.

However, I never dreamed that one day I would be arguing that the Watchtower’s blood policy is very wrong. In fact, the blood transfusion issue is what finally led to me being expelled from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses after eighteen-years of service.

I had been an “Elder” in the congregation for many years, having teaching assignments, giving public talks and providing spiritual support to fellow Witnesses. But as time went on, I was beginning to have doubts about some of the information coming from the Watchtower.

During a particularly difficult time in my son’s life, I took some time off work. With spare time on my hand, I began reflecting on my life as a Jehovah’s Witness and browsing the internet–a big “no no” for Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1998–for information about some of the doctrines of my faith;.

On my internet journey, I found a website entitled “New Light on Blood” (ajwrb.org). I was flabbergasted by the enormous amount of information presented, both biblical and scientific, about the experiences of people affected by the blood policy and the history of the Watchtower’s shifting position regarding its medical prohibitions. This information caused me to re-think my belief on blood.

Eventually, I overturned my strongly entrenched beliefs (2 Corinthians 10:4), because this Website provided well-researched information from medical professionals, appointed men in the congregations, former HLC members and some Elders operating within the Watchtower organization.

I presented some of this new information in a letter to my Congregational Overseer. Then I sent letters to other Elders that I knew, inviting their comment. While I received no written responses, I was visited by several of these Elders, but they would not talk about the issues. They were afraid to talk with me. The Organization had strangled their ability to comment.

However, I was asked to raise these questions on the blood issue with Elders at the Watchtower Headquarters in London. I think they suggested this in the hope of shifting some of the responsibility away from themselves. So I did as requested, and sent a letter to them. The reply I received (which can be viewed on this website) made no attempt to enter into any dialogue on my questions. Their response amounted to nothing more than a warning about apostates operating on the internet.

A few weeks later, I received another visit by a local Elder, telling me that a judicial committee had been formed and I was invited to attend. A judicial committee is made up of a group of men who act as judges to enforce Watchtower policy. In my case, the judicial committee was organized to decide if I was guilty of apostasy. I guess being an elder who was circulating material that raised questions about Watchtower policies was enough for them to charge me.

I agreed to attend the meeting in the hope of making at least one of them think about the blood transfusion doctrine differently and perhaps strike a cord in their hearts. I never expected them to agree with me on the subject, as it would have put them in the same precarious position as myself.

During the meeting, I made reference to the words of Jesus concerning worship of God. Christ said “learn what this means ‘ I want Mercy not Sacrifice’” and how he gave the story of David in the Bible while on the run from King Saul. Here a priest out of mercy is recorded of giving David and his men, who were in desperate need of food, some of the “Show bread” from the Temple, something prohibited under their law. I thought the same principle would reasonably apply today. Jesus clearly was demonstrating to the religious leaders of his day that the spirit behind the law was love. The religious leaders could not see this, that’s why they objected to Jesus disciples plucking grains of wheat on the Sabbath.

Does God want the sacrifice of so many young men, woman and children, which has occurred with Jehovah’s Witnesses over the years regarding the blood issue? Does this seem reasonable or even logical, when we reflect on those words? Jesus prefaced the expression “I want mercy not sacrifice” with the words, “learn what this means”. Jehovah’s Witnesses as an Organization have not yet learned this basic principle with regard to blood.

There were other points that I raised, such as how over time, the Watchtower had shifted its position on blood, and that now some blood components were considered acceptable in medical treatments that were once viewed as “unacceptable”. This of course became very confusing to the average Jehovah’s Witness, who is not trained in medical procedures or in the chemistry of blood. Because of this, the Watchtower organization gave birth to a new arrangement– the Hospital Liaison Committee. The HLCs were set up because the blood policy had become messy and the Watchtower was losing control over this issue.

For example, some serums with certain blood components in them became acceptable medicine to the Watchtower policy makers. There reasoning was that this was not feeding on blood. Abstaining from blood is essentially the discourse given in the bible book of Acts 15, which the Watchtower bases most of its policy on. Here, the context to those bible verses is in reference to eating blood. Interestingly, acknowledgment came through the Watchtower that a blood transfusion is essentially an Organ tissue transplant.

So the question remains, are these tissue transplants “feeding on blood”?

The Watchtower hypocritically remains resolute over their prohibition on blood in spite of their contradictions. These policy makers (Governing Body members) who reside at the Watchtower headquarters in New York, probably will at the some time, sit down to a meal and enjoy a nice steak served up rare, with its blood and think nothing of it and experience no crises of conscience.

At the end of the judicial meeting, they informed me that I was expelled/excommunicated, which meant that no Jehovah’s Witness on the face of this planet would be able to speak or socialize with me. Finally I remember saying, “Do you believe that you have carried out God’s justice here and acted with the love of Christ?” I said this because these men knew the hard work I had done in that Congregation and the sincerity in which I applied myself over many years but all this seemed irrelevant to them and the presiding overseer said coldly that I would “die at Armageddon” if I continued as I was. I left the meeting with a “goodbye”, and as I walked to my car a great relief came over me because although I knew that I would lose all the friends I had, I also knew I done the right thing.

The irony of that whole episode in my life is that the Watchtower could change its position once again regarding blood or its components and the same Elders who judged me would have to argue in favor of the changes in policy which had condemned me as an apostate.

Indeed, just two years later, the Watchtower approved the use of the largest of all blood components (hemoglobin) as well as the use of bovine (cow’s blood) to manufacture the blood product Hemopure.

Finding the real truth, good science in this case, is not the issue. Nor is it loyalty to Jesus Christ, the scriptures or even  one’s own conscience. Rather, this is about control and repression, loyalty to the Watchtower Society and its man-made directives.

Ray Hemming

Agency Law and the Watchtower Society

Those considering legal action against the Watchtower Society (hereafter WTS) may wish to explore the potential for holding them liable for negligently providing inaccurate medical advice. The WTS has placed itself in the role of divinely inspired and spirit directed advisor, counselor and agent as a brief survey of their writings demonstrates:

*** w71 9/1 526 Fortify Yourself So as to Maintain Integrity ***
“Contrary to the advice of the organization of Jehovah’s witnesses…”

*** km 2/84 4 Expanding Your Ministry as a Regular Pioneer ***
“God’s Word and spirit, along with the good advice offered by Jehovah’s organization…”

*** g92 5/22 27 The Truth Has Set Me Free ***
“By applying the therapy along with the good advice from Jehovah’s organization…”

*** g81 10/8 14 The Real Brotherhood of Man Today ***
“Bryan Wilson, professor at Oxford University, England, made a study of “the recent rapid growth” of the Witnesses in Japan. He wrote: “Witnesses offer a wide range of practical advice . . . “

By advising millions of persons on a whole range of issues and more specifically how they should go about selecting acceptable and non-acceptable blood products, the WTS may have created an agency relationship with its members. If this is established, the WTS then owes a fiduciary responsibility towards those who are contractually required by their baptismal vows to look to the WTS as “God’s spirit directed organization” for advice on the use of blood products.

Loyalty

In a fiduciary relationship the WTS would be required to demonstrate loyalty towards its members. This requires their being entirely open and not keeping any information from members that has any bearing on the relationship. It can likely be proven that the WTS has not demonstrated loyalty towards its members and this violates its duty owed to members if they are are legally established as “principals.”

Skill and Care

An agent under these circumstances is under a special duty to exercise more than an ordinary degree of skill and care. Life and death decisions are made based upon the WTS analysis of the scientific and medical facts on the use of blood. As we have shown, the WTS has either misrepresented the facts, or they have negligently failed to carefully research the available scientific literature and have simply provided millions of persons with bad medical advice.

Full Disclosure

One who advises or acts as an agent on behalf of another must by law make a full disclosure of all the facts. The WTS has not complied with this legal requirement. Time and again they show only those facts that support the current WTS blood policy and they distort or withhold important information that should be available to members facing life and death choices. Additionally, they go so far as to threaten, intimidate and coerce members so that they will not even seek outside information to supplement the medical advice they are receiving from the WTS.

There are other legal theories that could be explored in an action against the WTS such as “undue influence” or moral turpitude (legally wrongful) since they violate the generally held moral standards of most communities, and hence likely qualify as torts (the French word for” wrongs”). The potential for wrongful death cases appears significant and additional research is needed.

In the United States medical information is private and there are complex laws governing its use. The Advance Directive that Jehovah’s Witnesses are asked to sign by the WTS requires doctors and hospitals to share their medical records with the WTS Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC). While we would argue this is a gross violation of doctor patient confidentiality, the WTS would argue this is simply to provide the HLC with relevant information so they can best advise their doctors on how to treat them with WTS approved blood components or alternatives. The simple fact that the WTS takes this extraordinary step makes it clear in our view that Agency Law is applicable.

In cases where the HLC uses their access to confidential medical information to learn that a member has taken an unapproved blood product and then reports the member to the local congregation for investigation, we believe they have violated the HIPPA laws by not limiting their use of the information to the minimum necessary.

Watchtower Position Crumbles

For those who have spent some time studying the Watchtower Society’s (WTS) position on the use of blood, one of the most troubling aspects is their allowance of all the various components of plasma. Thus Witnesses may elect to accept the various Immunoglobulins, blood serums, blood clotting factors, albumin and so forth. They may not, however take all of them at the same time.

How does the WTS justify such a position? Especially since they were once so opposed to the use of blood fractions as this quote amply demonstrates:

“Whether whole or fractional, one’s own or someone else’s, transfused or injected, it is wrong.” – The Watchtower 09/15/1961 p. 559

In the following quotation taken from the Watchtower of June 1, 1990, pages 30 & 31, you will note how they justify the use of blood fractions:

“It is significant that the blood system of a pregnant woman is separate from that of the fetus in her womb; their blood types are often different. The mother does not pass her blood into the fetus. Formed elements (cells) from the mother’s blood do not cross the placental barrier into the fetus’ blood, nor does the plasma as such. In fact, if by some injury the mother’s and the fetus’ blood mingle, health problems can later develop (Rh or ABO incompatibility). However, some substances from the plasma cross into the fetus’ circulation. Do plasma proteins, such as immune globulin and albumin? Yes, some do.

A pregnant woman has an active mechanism by which some immune globulin moves from the mother’s blood to the fetus’. Because this natural movement of antibodies into the fetus occurs in all pregnancies, babies are born with a degree of normal protective immunity to certain infections.

It is similar with albumin, which doctors may prescribe as a treatment for shock or certain other conditions. Researchers have proved that albumin from the plasma is also transported, though less efficiently, across the placenta from a mother into her fetus.

That some protein fractions from the plasma do move naturally into the blood system of another individual (the fetus) may be another consideration when a Christian is deciding whether he will accept immune globulin, albumin, or similar injections of plasma fractions. One person may feel that he in good conscience can; another may conclude that he cannot. Each must resolve the matter personally before God.”

fetus

Photo: Lennart Nilsson

The line of reasoning here used by the Society is quite apparent. The “natural movement” of these various allowed components across the placental barrier is viewed as a basis for the Christian in accepting these blood components.

Elders and Hospital Liaison Committee member’s will often make statements to the effect that the “natural movement” of these blood components is evidence that God allows the use of these blood products since it would be unimaginable for God to break his own laws on blood.

The members of the Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses for Reform on Blood agree. It would be “unimaginable” for God to break his own laws. If various components of blood actually pass through the placental barrier, either from the mother to the fetus or vice versa, than it would seem entirely reasonable that God would have no objection to our using these blood components in this way.

It is interesting to note that the medical literature contains a great deal of information on this subject. Some of it is available on the Internet, some is not. In either case, we will provide complete references so that you can research this material for yourself.

We begin by noting the presence of fetal blood within the mother’s circulatory system is an established fact demonstrated by numerous medical studies. Is this a new discovery of which the Society is not aware? That is hardly imaginable. Fetal cells were first recovered from maternal blood as reported by Walknowska et al in 1969. 1 Additionally, as early as 1961 the Society acknowledged this fact:

While there is no direct flow of blood between the mother and the fetus, yet by osmosis there is some transfer of blood between the mother and the baby through the placenta. – Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, p. 25

P.C.R. technology has facilitated additional research in this field of study, primarily for the purpose of screening for birth defects or prenatal diagnosis. This technology allows us a clear look at what is happening with respects to exchanges of blood components between the mother and the fetus. This technology and the resulting knowledge became available prior to the 6/90 WT article quoted above.

A 1993 article in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” references two studies involving P.C.R. technology reported on in 1989 and 1990, and goes on to say:

“Thus fetal DNA sequences indeed exist in maternal blood. Among the various candidate cells, the most promising appear to be fetal nucleated red blood cells. We isolated nucleated red blood cells on the basis of flow-sorting for the transferring receptor and glycophorin-A” 2(italics ours)

Here we find evidence that red blood cells do indeed pass from the fetus to the mother. The significance of this finding for the Watchtower blood doctrine can hardly be overstated. Using the reasoning and logic employed by the WTS itself, what further evidence does one need to conclude that God would not object to transfusion of red cells?

The following study comes from the Baylor College of Medicine. Please note:

“Fetal cells unequivocally exist in and can be isolated from maternal blood. Erythroblasts, trophoblasts, granulocytes and lymphocytes have all been isolated by various density gradient and flow sorting techniques.” 3 (italics ours)

Erythroblasts are immature red blood cells, and lymphocytes are white blood cells. Both are forbidden blood components by the Watchtower Society, despite the fact that they clearly are among those components that have a “natural movement” across the placental barrier.

As an interesting side point, this study notes that fetal cells can persist in the mothers blood stream for extended periods of time. In one case fetal cells were still present twenty-seven years after child-birth. How appropriate then that we think of a blood transfusion as a cellular organ transplant which becomes part of the body.

As reported in “Early Human Development,” fetal nucleated cells in maternal blood has been demonstrated by many groups. Fetal cells are detected in the mother’s circulation as early as four weeks and five days after conception, and are present during all three trimesters of pregnancy; gradually increasing as gestation progresses. Also of great significance is that the majority of cord blood samples reveal the mother’s cell’s are also present in fetal circulation. So we have a dual exchange of blood components more than 50% of the time.4

Conclusion

How can the WTS continue to ignore the facts, and insist on adherence to a policy that routinely results in avoidable death? Here we have seen how the scientific facts clearly disprove the basis upon which the Society allows some blood fractions while not allowing others. Some of the questions that remain unanswered are:

1. Did the WTS know the facts all along and make a conscious choice to misrepresent the truth?

2. Did the WTS negligently fail to do careful research when establishing a policy that millions would rely upon in choosing their medical care?

3. Will the WTS exhibit the moral courage to set matters straight? (In 2000 – likely in response to pressure from AJWRB – the WTS modified its blood policy to allow all blood fractions. Yet they still continue to prohibit red cells which as we have seen above are able to pass the placental barrier.)

4. How many more lives will slip away in the meantime?

Note: Those considering independent legal actions against the WTS will want to take note of the potential for the WTS being held liable for negligently providing inaccurate medical advice.