Favorite Watchtower’s Approved Blood Transfusions

bloodchartAThe Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses in general still cling to the “no blood” mantra. As you will see in this section, that claim is extraordinarily dishonest. The Watchtower has approved the use of all red cell, white cell, platelet and plasma derivatives. The list of blood products Jehovah’s Witnesses can choose to use in good conscience has grown larger and larger over the last three decades. If fact, the list has become so extensive, it’s easier to say what they don’t permit:

  • Whole Blood
  • Red Cells
  • White Cells
  • Platelets

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Watchtower “No Blood Card”

blood-transfusion-jw The “No Blood Card” that Jehovah’s Witnesses carry with them has experienced very significant changes over the years, as you will see in this article. It was simply referred to as “the blood card” for many decades, then came to be called “the Advanced Medical Directive”. The last major change occurred in 2004, when it was combined with a Durable Power of Attorney specific to each state and is at times referred to as the “DPA”.

The first example shown is one of the older versions of the blood card that Witnesses carried back in the 1960’s. You will note its clear and uncompromising statement about the use of blood. It says specifically “I demand that blood, in any way, shape or form, is NOT to be fed into my body…”

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Blood Serum – Watchtower Quotes

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Blood Serum

Blood serum is the clear fluid that remains after the cellular components (red cells, white cells, platelets, clotting factors and fibrinogen are removed. It includes all proteins not used in the clotting process.

What follows is a collection of quotes from Watchtower Society literature. This information will help researchers understand the historical development of the Watchtower Society’s policy on blood serums and document the many changes in policy through the years.

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Questions for Those who Believe in the Watchtower Blood Policy

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One of the most effective ways we have found in assisting other Witnesses to analyze the WTS blood doctrine is through the use of questions. The following questions have been used by AJWRB members and physicians in different parts of the world.

If you are investigating the Watchtower’s blood policy we invite you to consider these carefully. Research the publications or discuss your concerns with the elders respectfully, and ask them to help you understand what they personally believe and how they grapple with these difficult issues. You may also wish to discuss them with members of your family or friends as a way helping them to analyze the blood  policy and their commitment to it.

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Straight from the Doctor

Dr. John Doyle, M.D answers questions Jehovah’s Witnesses want to ask.

QUESTION: These blood components allowed by the WTS, aren’t really blood, are they?

ANSWER: They are derived from fractionating blood, and so are blood products by definition.bloodchart2004

QUESTION: Aren’t there always alternatives to blood?

ANSWER: Very often there is. A patient with a high blood count (hemoglobin concentration) can sometimes tolerate large blood losses as long as the remaining blood is diluted with appropriate saline or other “balanced salt solution” so that the amount of circulating blood volume is still approximately the same. Of course, the diluted blood cannot carry oxygen as well as it did earlier. But once the hemoglobin concentration falls below 6 g/dl (severe anemia) the risk of organ injury or death from oxygen deprivation rises to the point that few physicians would ordinarily withhold blood.

For example, in one study of Witness surgical patients who needed but refused blood transfusion, over 60% of those with a hemoglobin concentration under 6 g/dl died (full data are given on one of my Web pages). By the way, efforts to make true blood substitutes that carry oxygen (salt solutions do not carry significant amounts of oxygen) are in progress. These substitutes are made from discarded human blood, and should be available in 5-10 years if all goes well.

QUESTION: Doesn’t blood kill more people than it saves? What about AIDS and all of the diseases that blood carries?

ANSWER: We all know that blood transfusions are not risk free. Indeed, nor are the drugs used to treat diseases entirely risk-free. Even latex surgical gloves can cause a severe allergic reaction in some individuals! (One of my patients almost died from this during routine gynecologic surgery – fortunately we recognized the problem and she responded to epinephrine).

The whole bloodless surgery movement, which I enthusiastically support (see my Web pages on the topic), is aimed at reducing potential complications from blood transfusions. As a result of the AIDS and hepatitis scare in the 1980’s, physicians have thoroughly revised their thinking about when blood transfusions are appropriate (see more of my Web pages for sample transfusion guidelines). This fact, coupled with the availability of new tests for blood-borne pathogens (see earlier question), puts the benefit to risk ratio for blood transfusions at an all-time high. In my opinion the ratio of lives saved to lives lost from blood transfusions is now likely many thousand to one.

QUESTION:The Witnesses who died after refusing a blood transfusion would have probably died anyway. Blood doesn’t save lives, does it?

ANSWER: In some cases of severe injury (terminal cancer, 95% burns, smashed-in head, for instance) transfusing blood to optimum levels may only increase the chance of survival modestly. In other cases where there is no concurrent problem besides the severe anemia (bleeding from an ulcer that has been surgically fixed, bleeding from a cut artery, for instance) blood transfusions may be genuinely life-saving. The benefits of blood transfusions depend strongly on the clinical context.

QUESTION: Do doctors want to use blood to cover up sloppy surgical technique?

ANSWER: Surgeons, like lawyers, car mechanics, teachers and golf pros all vary in capabilities. As an anesthesiologist, I have noted wide variations in the skills of surgeons in reducing blood loss. Many hospitals have an audit process to let surgeons know when their patients consistently require more blood than average.

Still, some surgical procedures (radical prostatectomy, craniofacial surgery, spinal surgery, for example) are associated with large blood losses even in the best of hands. Even then, predonation (“autologous transfusions”) can sometimes be used to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

However, in the final analysis, patients cared for by surgeons that are sloppy about hemostasis (the prevention of surgical bleeding) will, on average, require more blood transfusions than those cared for by meticulous surgeons.

QUESTION: Do Doctors make more money by ordering a blood transfusion?

ANSWER: No. At least not in Canada.

QUESTION: Doctors have substitutes for blood that work just as well, don’t they?

ANSWER: No, not in terms of oxygen transport to organs. This situation may change in 5-10 years, however, with synthetic blood made from discarded human blood.

QUESTION: I read that blood transfusions have lots of complications, especially if someone has cancer. This proves that they are bad medicine, doesn’t it?

ANSWER: I have written about the complications of blood transfusion in one of my Web pages, but these complications do not make blood transfusions to be “bad” medicine any more than the fact that general anesthesia or antibiotics have potential complications makes them “bad” treatments.

QUESTION: Doctors are unknowingly being used by Satan to test my faith. In times past they used to believe that taking blood out of a person was the best way to treat them. Now they want to transfuse blood from another person into them. Why should I believe them?

ANSWER: A good doctor will take the time to explain why a transfusion is, in their opinion, necessary. If you think your doctor is the agent of Satan, he or she would likely not be upset if you sought out another doctor instead.

QUESTION: What the Bible and the Society have to say about blood is more important, and accurate than what doctors believe about blood, isn’t it?

ANSWER: More important, possibly. More accurate, unlikely.

QUESTION: Isn’t it true that red blood cells don’t carry oxygen for the first 48 hours or so in an emergency because its foreign blood.

ANSWER: That is complete nonsense. The red cells begin transporting oxygen immediately.

QUESTION: What tests are applied to donated blood to protect against transmitting blood-borne pathogens?

ANSWER: The following information from the Canadian Red Cross Web site (http://www.redcross.ca) provides the answer:

“Blood donations are subjected to many complex tests.” “The Canadian Red Cross will test your donated blood to see if it has signs which may be associated with some diseases. It is done as part of our efforts to determine if your blood can be used for transfusion into a patient. For example, some of the routine tests which are currently done on all blood donations are: Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C; Human immunodeficiency viruses HIV-1 and HIV-2 (the viruses that cause AIDS); Human T-Cell lymphotropic viruses HTLV-1 (it can cause a rare form of leukemia in adults and chronic nervous system disease); and Syphilis”

Blood testing in the USA and the rest of the Western world is similar.

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Outrageous Omission – Blood

The following article is republished from the Blog of Marvin Shilmer and demonstrates that the Watchtower Society (WTS) is continuing to quietly back down from their once firm position on the use of blood. Sadly, individual Jehovah’s Witnesses are usually the last to know about important changes to the policy despite the WTS global publishing assets. 

Watchtower asks Jehovah’s Witnesses to treat what it says as the voice of God.[1]Watchtower asks Jehovah’s Witnesses to look to it for timely information and clarifications.[2]So why must Jehovah’s Witnesses learn important and potentially lifesaving clarifications of Watchtower’s blood doctrine fromsecularly published medical articles?What happened in 2000?

In year 2000 Watchtower presented its blood doctrine as leaving Witnesses free to accept transfusion of anything from blood so long as it is not in the form of 1) whole blood, 2) red cells, 3) white cells, 4)platelets or 5) plasma.[3]

Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is a blood product. The year 2000 presentation of information potentially left Jehovah’s Witnesses free to accept transfusion of hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers. I say potentiallybecause hemoglobin is no minor component of blood and Witnesses have been taught for years by Watchtower that it is “minor” constituents of blood that are not forbidden under Watchtower doctrine. So was hemoglobin acceptable or unacceptable based on Watchtower’s June 15, 2000 presentation?

Answering that question was complicated in year 2004 when Watchtower pushed a reprint of the 2000 presentation before the Witness community, only this second-go-round the title had been changed.

● In year 2000 Watchtower presented its blood doctrine under the article title:

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any medical products derived from blood?”[3]

● In year 2004 when Watchtower reprinted the same material, it did so under a different title reading:

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any minor fractions of blood?”.[4]

Watchtower made a similar change in presentation within the healthcare power of attorney documents it provided Witnesses between years 2000 and 2004. The documents Watchtower issued in 2000 (but dated 2001) had the option to “accept all fractions derived from any primary component of blood.”[5] The same option as presented in the document Watchtower distributed in 2004 was couched with the phrase “minor fractions”.[6]

Hemoglobin is no minor blood component. So could Jehovah’s Witnesses accept transfusion of hemoglobin oxygenation agents, or not?

Secular medical writers come to the rescue

Beginning in the early 2000s doctors became aware of an internal clarification by Watchtower officials that hemoglobin agents were no longer forbidden for Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept. Essentially this information was shared with them on a need-to-know basis. The Witness community can thank these doctors for publishing what they learned so it was available on a wider basis, at least among healthcare providers who could then share it in printed form with Witness patients.[7]

It was a full six-years later before Watchtower made this clarification widely known through its internal publications to the Witness community.[8]

Cryosupernatant

Cryosupernatant is another blood product. Does Watchtower’s blood doctrine leave members of Jehovah’s Witnesses free to accept transfusion of cryosupernatant purely as a matter of personal conscience? For all the same reasons above and more, the same question has been problematic in terms of a clear answer being communicated by Watchtower to the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Cryosupernatant is no “minor” fraction from blood.[9] Cryosupernatant is at or greater than 50% of the volume of whole blood and is about 99% of the volume of plasma. So is it acceptable or not?

Again secular medical writers come to the rescue

As published in 2009 Dr. Steven Hill[10] wrote the following:

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