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:

(click image to enlarge)

As published in 2011 Dr. James West[11] wrote the following:

(click image to enlarge)

These doctors learned a clarification of Watchtower’s blood doctrine. They learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses were free to decide for themselves whether to accept transfusion of cryosupernatant, that is without fear of Watchtower’s shunning policy. Rather than sitting on this important information, they shared it for the benefit of all. Yet to date the Watchtower organization has not published this clarification for sake of the wider community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, not to mention healthcare providers.

Only those in the innermost circles of the Watchtower organization know with certainty why it has not clearlydirectly and promptlyshared this information with the wider community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The organization has enormous publishing assets around the globe. It has a huge distribution network with outlets found in nearly every single corner of the planet. It takes time to publish all sorts of whimsical news items. But so far nothing speaking directly to the question of whether its doctrine leaves Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept transfusion of cryosupernatant.[12]

Conclusion

Given the above, with fair certainty this author can say he knows of no good reason why Watchtower restrains itself from clarifying and sharing its position on important matters in a timely fashion to the wider community of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the medical community. In this author’s opinion it is shameful that as of today Watchtower has yet to communicate in plain language its position regarding cryosupernatant beyond its own high-ranking officials who can share the information on a need-to-know basis. My best guess is that Watchtower has, so far, thought of no way to share this information with the wider community of Jehovah’s Witnesses without completely unzipping to these same adherents the façade it teaches saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses “abstain from blood”.[13]

Marvin Shilmer
______________
References: 

1. The Watchtower, June 15, 1957 p. 375.

2. Our Kingdom Ministry, published by Watchtower, September 1995 p. 6.

3. The Watchtower, June 15, 2000 pp. 29-31.

4. The Watchtower, June 15, 2004 pp. 29-31.

5. Durable Power of Attorney document published by Watchtower for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2001.

6. Durable Power of Attorney document published by Watchtower for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2004.

7. See, for example, D. John Doyle, MD, Blood Transfusions and the Jehovah’s Witness Patient, American Journal of Therapeutics 9, 417–424 (2002)

8. Awake, published by Watchtower, August, 2006 pp. 10-12.

9. For more information about cryosupernatant see the articlePlasma, Cryoprecipitate and Cryosupernatant.

10. Hill, Steven, MD, Care of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Patient Refusing Transfusion, Medically Challenging Patients Undergoing Cardiothoracic Surgery edited by Neal H. Cohan, MD, Wolters Kluwer │ Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2009, pp. 327-347.

11. West, James, MD, Informed refusal — the Jehovah’s Witness patient, Clinical Ethics in Anesthesiology: A Case-Based Textbook, Cambridge University Press, 2010 pp. 19-26.

12. When Hazel Patillo attempted to get this information directly from Watchtower she was met with stonewalling. Only after she demanded the information did she get it. See the article Watchtower’s Hospital Information Services Email

13. This is not a statement advocating that Watchtower change its blood doctrine to forbid Jehovah’s Witnesses from accepting transfusion of products like cryosupernatant. Unlike Watchtower, this author though one of Jehovah’s Witnesses does not hold a view that the Bible condemns accepting transfusion of donor blood to prevent morbidity or mortality, or donating blood for the same purpose.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *