Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusion

I had forgotten that the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) forbid blood transfusions, but this article in last Sunday’s New York Times reminded me. It’s about physicians who are performing bloodless operations to accommodate the JWs who can’t receive blood.

The piece starts with the tale of Rebecca Tomczak, a JW who needed a lung transplant because her own lungs had been destroyed by the disease sarcoidosis. After shopping around, she finally found a hospital that would operate on her without giving her extra blood.

The article discusses the refusal of JWs to accept blood, a stand that is, of course, based on scripture:

The reason: Ms. Tomczak, who was baptized at age 12 as a Jehovah’s Witness, insisted for religious reasons that her transplant be performed without a blood transfusion. The Witnesses believe that Scripture prohibits the transfusion of blood, even one’s own, at the risk of forfeiting eternal life.

. . .in April, on a trip to the South Carolina coast, she found that she was too breathless to join her frolicking grandchildren on the beach. Tethered to an oxygen tank, she watched from the boardwalk, growing sad and angry and then determined to reclaim her health.

“I wanted to be around and be a part of their lives,” Ms. Tomczak recalled, dabbing at tears.

She knew there was danger in refusing to take blood. But she thought the greater peril would come from offending God.

“I know,” she said, “that if I did anything that violates Jehovah’s law, I would not make it into the new system, where he’s going to make earth into a paradise. I know there are risks. But I think I am covered.”

. . . Founded in the late 19th century and best known for door-to-door evangelism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses first published a position on transfusions in 1945, as the blood donation system expanded after World War II. It grew out of edicts in both the Old and New Testaments that forbid the consumption of blood, which is revered as a life source. The church, based in Brooklyn, takes the position that there is no distinction between oral consumption and intravenous feeding.

The Witnesses’ hard line does have its soft spots. The church declared in 2000 that it was up to members to decide whether to accept blood fractions like clotting factors that are extracted from plasma. It has also left to individual conscience whether to accept synthetic proteins that stimulate red cell production or to use mechanical techniques that conserve and salvage blood.

Here’s the scripture from Wikipeda (which has a long article about the practice), and the doctrine based on it. If you get a transfusion as a JW, you get shunned (unless you “repent”):

Based on various biblical texts, such as Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:10, and Acts 15:29, they believe:

  • Blood represents life and is sacred to God. After it has been removed from a creature, the only use of blood that God has authorized is for the atonement of sins.When a Christian abstains from blood, they are in effect expressing faith that only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can truly redeem them and save their life.
  • Blood must not be eaten or transfused, even in the case of a medical emergency.
  • Blood leaving the body of a human or animal must be disposed of, except for autologous blood transfusions considered part of a “current therapy”.
  • A baptized Witness who unrepentantly accepts a blood transfusion is deemed to have disassociated himself from the religion by abandoning its doctrines and is subsequently subject to organized shunning by other members.

Here are the sections from Acts 15 (the passages cited most often by JWs to support their position) are used to prohibit transfusion (all passages below from King James Version):

19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:

20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.

. . . 29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Leviticus 17:10:

And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.

Genesis 9:4

 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

There’s one upside to all this: because of the cost of blood, and rare negative effects of transfusion, surgeons are developing ways to operate without the need for extra blood. The Times reports:

The latest government data show that one of every 400 units transfused is associated with an adverse event like an allergic reaction, circulatory overload or sepsis [JAC: note that those reactions are probably not always fatal]. Even so, the share of hospital procedures that include a transfusion, usually of two or three units, has doubled in 12 years, to one in 10.

Yet at dozens of hospitals with programs that cater to Jehovah’s Witnesses, a million-patient market in the United States, researchers have found that surgical patients typically do just fine without transfusions.

“They are surviving things that on paper were not expected to go well at all,” said Sherri J. Ozawa, a nurse who directs the long-established bloodless medicine program at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey.

The economy is also helping the blood management movement. Processing and transfusing a single unit of blood can cost as much as $1,200, and many hospitals are trying to cut back.

Well, that’s the good part, I suppose, but the bad part is this:

Unlike other patients, Ms. Tomczak would have no backstop. Explicit in her understanding with Dr. Scheinin was that if something went terribly wrong, he would allow her to bleed to death. He had watched Witness patients die before, with a lifesaving elixir at hand.

In addition, as the National Post reports, Jehovah’s Witnesses have fought to keep their children from getting transfusions (they lose in Canada; I’m not sure about elsewhere), but many members have died because of this policy. The Independent recounts one in a story from last year called “Lawyers tell of agonizing scenes as doctors forced to let Jehovah’s Witness, who wanted to live, die.:

Robert Tobin, a partner in the London law firm Kennedy’s, was called in by an unnamed NHS Trust when the man, a Jehovah’s Witness who was critically ill with sickle cell anaemia, refused a blood transfusion which could have saved his life.

Over three weeks the man gradually deteriorated as the crisis progressed, before eventually dying.

“Medical staff were understandably upset at seeing a patient deteriorate before their eyes knowing a simple procedure could have been provided that would have saved his life,” Mr Tobin said.

The man’s mother, also a Jehovah’s Witness, was at her son’s bedside, and an elder from the man’s church also attended. The trust was concerned that they were unduly influencing him but a doctor from a neighbouring trust who was called in to assess him said he had full capacity and was making the decision on his own.

Yes, there are down sides to transfusion, but shouldn’t people have the option of weighing the risk of bleeding to death against the 1/400 chance of an adverse reaction per unit of blood? After all, at present not all surgeries can be “bloodless”, and if you die from refusing blood you leave behind grieving family and friends—all in service of a bizarre interpretation of a work of fiction.


  1. Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I suppose the doctors could just give the JWs a transfusion, and then, if the JW does indeed forego eternla life after death, they can sue?

    I had a visit from the JWs today, coincidentally, unfortunately they just stuffed a leaflet through the letter box and ran off before I could open the door and invite them in!

    Cowards! 😉


    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Keep in mind that a lot of JWs do not want to be out there every Sunday preaching, especially young ones. They are often out there under enormous peer pressure. I know when I was still forcibly in that organization, I would know softly and leave ASAP in order to avoid having to try to convince people of things I did not believe in, on pain of shunning by everyone I knew and loved.

      Be nice 🙂

    • lanceleuven
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      ‘I had a visit from the JWs today, coincidentally, unfortunately they just stuffed a leaflet through the letter box and ran off before I could open the door and invite them in!’

      That’s hilarious. Have you got yourself a bad reputation among your local JW’s or something? 🙂

      • Florian
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        I think i’m on the JW blacklist. I see them on my street and they just walk by my house without stopping. I’ve never been rude to them and when they used to call i’d just say i wasn’t interested.

        • John A
          Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:47 am | Permalink

          They have a temporary “do not call list”. If you explicitly tell them not to come to your house, they skip you for a period of a few months before trying again.

  2. John A
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I was raised in a family of JWs. I always knew that when I was about 3 years of age (late 80s), I had been in a serious accident that I barely escaped out of alive. I knew very little about it other than I had undergone some sort of surgery.

    Recently, my family and I had a falling out connected to my being an atheist. While discussing with some family whore are not JWs, I found out some very interesting things.

    Apparently, I received a blood transfusion after that accident. I only received that transfusion after my mother (a recent convert) threatened to leave my father if he did not consent. It took a lot of deliberation, I lay in a coma dying while my father refused to give me a life saving procedure. He finally conceded, and I survived.

    They hid this from me all my life for obvious reasons. My father refused to allow me to undergo a life saving procedure knowing full well I would die if it did not occur. He was under pressure from the congregation elders to not go through with it. He refused just to satisfy an incredibly selfish sense of morality. He cared more about his possible guilt than about his child’s life.

    That is what this religion does to people. It creates an environment where parents would rather their children die than face the guilt trips and shunning they would undergo otherwise. It is an evil thing.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Was that grammar mistake intentional?

      “…some family whore are not JWs…” 😀

      • John A
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        LOL, thanks for pointing it out. It was not intentional, this is the family I actually like!

        • matt
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

          this is a terrifying story.

        • Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          “Family whore” – that’s great. Should be the name of a punk rock band or something.

    • Marta
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      That would be an extremely difficult thing to learn about your father.

      Religion poisons everything.

    • Matt Bowman
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

      LOL the word “whore” threw me for a moment and then I realized you meant “who are.”

      I can’t speak about your father, but I do think that some people make this sort of decision not in a completely selfish way. I think some really are scared to death to go against what they believe to be God’s word. And they really do believe that they will both burn in Hell and be denied Heaven. If you really believe this sort of thing then you can make decisions that appear insane to the rest of us.

      • John A
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        I strongly disagree. There is a difference between making such a decision that affects yourself and imposing that decision on somebody that has no say in the matter.

        The second is an evil act.

        • Matt Bowman
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          Woh, hold on, I didn’t say that it isn’t selfish or evil.

          • John A
            Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            Then I seriously misread your post, apologies.

    • morkindie
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      I am glad that you made it out.

      “I only received that transfusion after my mother (a recent convert) threatened to leave my father if he did not consent.”

      So, did he let you go to Hell so that he wouldn’t have to get divorced? tsk tsk tsk.

    • Andres Torres
      Posted December 29, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      John A,
      I’m also an atheist raised JW. I shared your story on my FB wall, and posted a link to this article, I hope that’s ok. Also I want to thank you for speaking out, and encourage you to continue doing so every chance you get. It could save someone’s life.

  3. Alex Shuffell
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Is the idea of no blood transfusions a universal JW thing or can they cherry pick like everyone else?

    The Jehovah Witness idea of heaven always makes me laugh when I hear about it. All on Earth, everyone is a Jehovah WItness, no one can die, but, people can still breed. For the first few generations that will be horrific enough everyone being a JW, but it wont take long before everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder, unable to move.

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Oh, the cherry-picking is amazing. They do not accept full blood, red blood cells, or white blood cells, plasma, or platelets. However, many medications contain derivatives of these components. They are left up to “individual conscience” while simultaneously frowned upon.

      • lisa
        Posted March 8, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        I just have a hard time with somebody else’s lungs are okay, but not blood. It used to amaze me how many bizarre notions the various sects culled from the same book. Now nothing amazes me. I just love to listen to my Southern Baptist kin go on about the evils of alcohol and then ask them why then, for his first ‘public’ miracle did Jesus turn water into wine?

  4. @eightyc
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink


    Does this mean that the cycling sports industry should be populated with JW riders?

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 7, 2013 at 12:18 am | Permalink

      Took me a while to get that! 🙂

  5. lamacher
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I operated on many JWs without blood, usually clean spinal cases. I never did lose one of them, and you develop a reputation amongst them for this. Occasionally, the assigned anesthetist would refuse to give the anesthetic to them, necessitating some shuffling around. With the cranial ones, they had the option, and I told them I would honor their wish. If it was a child, the parents were told that, given any trouble likely to cause death from blood loss, the child would receive blood. Period. Only once did parents go elsewhere in that situation. We removed a huge vascular malformation from a JW woman’s head one day (all day!) with major blood loss, and she survived the OR. Feeling dreadful each day thereafter,on the fifth day she asked for the transfusions! Mind you, she was from Brazil, and her husband was not JW. I do agree that blood is used too freely by some surgeons.

    • morkindie
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Finding ways to save blood is laudable, so long as it is practical.

  6. still learning
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    When I was a student nurse doing a pediatrics course, there was a very young child who needed a transfusion. The parents refused, citing their JW beliefs. The child died, the parents cried, then threatened to sue for malpractice!! It was disgusting.

    Also, eating meat means ingesting blood cells. How the heck do the JWs get around that?

    • pktom64
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Good point but if logic had any effect on the retaining of beliefs, we would know it by now.

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

      If you ask them about the meat thing, they’ll just get upset and ignore you. I know, I’ve tried.

  7. pktom64
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Wait a minute… isn’t there a case here for the right to choose how one’s life ends? How could you refuse the right to die to someone if they say that it is their personal belief that they have that right?
    Or do we actually only grant those kind of rights if they’re tied to some deity or another?

    • Sastra
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Sure, people have the right choose how their life ends. We’re not arguing against people having that legal right.

      We’re pointing out that this particular choice is a stupid one, done for stupid reasons. One could also argue that these people aren’t really choosing to die rather than live: they are choosing to die rather than violate one of their religious beliefs. It’s not euthanasia or suicide we’re dealing with here: it’s voluntary martyrdom for a pointless cause.

      • pktom64
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Oh, it appears I have made myself very confusing.

        I agree completely with what you said. Refusing a blood transfusion for religious “reasons” (those 2 words don’t really work well together) is stupid.

        I was arguing that since we seem to allow JW to refuse blood transfusion based on their faith, even if this can lead to their death, how come euthanasia is such a contentious issue? Seems hypocritical to me… that’s what I meant by my last sentence: choosing your own death seems only acceptable if it is based on some stupid religious beliefs. How come?

        • Posted March 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the first post was very confusing, but now that you’ve explained it, it appears to be a very good point. Next time someone wants to “pull the plug” can they claim electricity is against their religious beliefs? Or just convert to Judaism, wait for a Saturday, and say the doctor is not allowed to do “work” on the patient on the Sabbath. Must withhold all treatment and leave it to god.

          • AndiK
            Posted April 3, 2013 at 2:55 am | Permalink

            I think there is a slight difference between someone taking their own life and someone refusing blood because they are a JW.
            Euthanasia means that someone has to help you die, by administering drugs or the like – refusing something that could help you means you are going to die out of someone else NOT doing something to help.

  8. bleikind
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Could a Jehovah’s Witness physician refuse a transfusion to a patient on the grounds that transfusions violate his religious beliefs?

    If Jehovah’s Witnesses run a hospital would we accept their refusal to provide transfusions to patients on the grounds of the Witnesses’ religious freedom? Even if the patient were a Catholic who thought that transfusion were just fine by God?

  9. Marta
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I almost regret to say that I simply can’t be bothered to care about JW adults who refuse blood that could have saved their lives, and die because of their choice.

    But JW adults who refuse to permit a transfusion which would have saved their child’s life? Prosecute them for homicide.

    • Marta
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      I wrote this before I read John A’s comment above. I apologize for my insensitivity.

      • John A
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Don’t apologize, I agree with you.

        Doing this to your child should land you in jail for murder, or at least gross negligence.

    • Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      In the UK the doctors would usually get an emergency court order to overrule the parents.

      Are there countries where the doctors would not do this and allow the child to die?

      • Marta
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        I don’t know the truth of it, but hospital/court order vs. JW parents is a staple of American television. The plot is, the JW parents refuse to permit their children to receive blood products; the hospital goes to court to get a guardian appointed for the child, but they’re always too late and the child either survives without the transfusion, or dies. Alternately, the hospital goes to court to get a court-ordered transfusion, and the hospital is denied on the basis of the First Amendment.

        As a factual matter, in the US, what the hospital can do no doubt differs from state to state.

      • Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        In the U.S. the children almost always get the blood. The doctor will not sit back and let a child die because the parents are delusional. The courts will uphold the decision to give blood against the parents wishes. It would be a very rare case where the child would not get the blood.

    • morkindie
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink


      I don’t see how anyone can “respect” the parents wishes in this matter.

  10. gbjames
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink


  11. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    The horror! I imagine JWs are not allowed to eat blood sausage either.

  12. Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Deluded Students.

  13. Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Jehovah’s Witnesses *blood transfusion confusion*.

    In 2013 God’s will and scripture has little to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses position on use of blood products.
    The JW leadership is foremost concerned what will play out in a secular court of law as to the parent Watchtower being held liable for wrongful deaths.
    Most Jehovah’s Witnesses rushed to the ER with massive blood loss will cry NO BLOOD right up to their last breath.

    The shocker is they can now have most of the blood components that will pull them through,but they are so indoctrinated that blood is forbidden that they can’t comprehend the loopholes.
    The Watchtower has drilled and grilled us that our stand on blood is NON NEGOTIABLE.
    The loopholes that allow blood usage is to save the Watchtower corporation money from blood death liability suits.
    This is a truly evil organization that would sacrifice tens of thousands of men,women,children for the almighty dollar.
    The blood products ban has been in force since 1945 the buzz today about it being a *personal conscience matter* and the hope of new medical advances like artificial blood don’t undo all those who have past perished.
    The New York city based Watchtower sect is concerned foremost with liability lawsuits for wrongful death.They know that if they repeal the ban on *whole* blood transfusion,that it will open the door for legal examination of all the thousands who have died since 1945.

    Cults do get people killed!
    50-100 times as many men,women,children have been killed by the Watchtower society ban on *whole* blood transfusions than at Jonestown kool-aid mass murders.
    *tell the truth don’t be afraid*

    Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

  14. Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Don’t some of them keep (selectively) kosher for this reason? Or am I thinking of the 7th Day Adventists (who IIRC are vegetarians)?

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Definitely not JWs. They only abstain from blood products, nothing else.

  15. eric
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I was glad to read lamacher’s @5 post and hear that surgery without blood is less risky than I’d expected.

    Having said that, isn’t there an ethical issue in giving a transplant organ to someone you know will engage in higly risky behavior, when there are others on the list who won’t? Presumably we wouldn’t give a lung to someone who declared they had every intention of continuing to smoke after the transplant. There are lots of other people on the transplant list waiting for a lung; if you’re going to destroy it in short order, you arguably shouldn’t get one in the first place. When a JW declares ‘no blood during transplantation surgery,’ they are declaring a highly risky behavior where the lung might go to waste mere seconds after its transplanted. Which is far, far worse than getting one and then smoking. Seems to me there’s a credible argument for shifting a person like that to lower down on the transplant list.

    • Catherine
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      That is just such an excellent point. Organs are such a valuable resource. It should be a requirement for surgery.

    • Marta
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 2, 2013 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      I would have thought that, if blood is a no-no (since it represents life or something, notwithstanding it can in modern times be donated with no ill-effects and the body replaces it pronto), then organs would be an even bigger no-no since they’re not generally replaceable by the donor. But that just throws the arbitrary nature of JW religious beliefs into even greater contrast.

    • lisa
      Posted March 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I had never thought of it that way. You are absolutely right. My cousin died of a heart defect when he was refused a transplant because his chances of survival were not high enough. It makes me wonder how any JW gets on a transplant list, much less to the top.

  16. Catherine
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I am a neonatologist, I take care of the premature and sick babies in neonatal intensive care. Many preemies (most ❤ lbs or 1200 g or thereabouts) need several blood transfusions at some point in their extended NICU stay; many who are bigger but sick for multiple other reasons also do. In my history with JW parents, they won't consent to the transfusions–but understand that the baby will need them to survive. So we go through the well-oiled process of getting a court order–and giving the baby what she needs. The parents generally breathe a sigh of relief. This is a medical ethics 101 problem in the NICU of how far parental autonomy extends when it conflicts with the best interests of the child. I am certain that the same process takes place with older children in the US (unless there are JW hospitals)–parents can't refuse lifesaving care in the hospital for their children. The medical team becomes the child's advocate and the ethics committees and the hospital attorneys go to work.

    • Matt Bowman
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      that is good to hear

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Fortunately, no such thing as a JW hospital exists.

      • tinybluedot
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        Of course not. All resources are focussed on gaining new converts, none are spent on good works. As it is, their resources appear to be severely limited at the moment. They’re selling all their property in New York, they have had huge court judgements awarded against them for their complicity in child abuse- google Candace Conti to learn more. Like most publishing organisations, they are moving to virtual publishing to avoid collapse, although they tell the faithful the magazines are shrinking physically for reasons other than their inability to afford the paper. May their demise be swift.

        • John A
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

          Not to mention that they actively discourage higher education, meaning they have very few physicians, etc.

          I was not aware of the judgement against them. But yeah, they give really dumb excuses for the cutbacks they have to make, and adherents do not question, seeing as they believe the Ruling Council speak directly for Jehovah.

          • Sines
            Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

            I’ll never forget the one time I went to a JW meeting.

            I had lost power that day, and didn’t have anything else to do, so I went to campus to wander around and relax. I saw a religious gathering in the Center for the Arts auditorium. I figured I’d go because it might be interesting, and I didn’t have anything particularly noteworthy to do.

            As I sat there, on a college campus, listening to this… *ahem* individual rail against college education, it took some effort to not make a scene, or even to face him down after his… *ahem* sermon.

            Just thinking about about it pisses me off again.

            • John A
              Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink

              It’s one of the most infuriating things about them. I have a younger brother ans sister who are still stuck in that environment. Both of them are brilliant. My sister wants to be an artists, my brother is a genius (like myself he taught himself to read and write at age 3). They were taken out of public school and are being taught at home. They are being denied the opportunity to be educated.

              This is the largest point of contention between me and my family. I hope I can convince them to come live with me when they turn 18, so I can help them get to college.

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

          …and what’s the point of working so hard to get more converts? I thought that the JWs only think 144,000 of ’em are going to heaven anyway, right? Or is there a workaround for that too?

          • John A
            Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:43 am | Permalink

            Only 144,000 go to heaven, but going to heaven is not as big a deal as for other religions. In heaven you get to be Jesus’ helper in reshaping the world and such. Most believers go to Paradise on Earth. After the battle of Armageddon, there is a probation period of 1000 years for those that survive (believers and those who never had a chance to be preached to). After 1000 years, Jesus sets Stan free again to roam the earth for a period of time. Any who join him will die in the Final Tribulation. All who resist will live in Eternal Paradise on Earth.

            I couldn’t make this shit up!

            • Diane G.
              Posted March 7, 2013 at 12:29 am | Permalink

              Stan doesn’t sound too threatening…


  17. Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I won’t weigh in on decisions by JW adults to refuse blood transfusions; it is their life after all. Refusing blood transfusions for their children should be criminal; they owe that much to them, especially if all that is needed is some formal “repentance”. Don’t JW’s sin anyway? They all need to “repent” for something (as would the rest of us). We all have sin, the Bible’s clear on that point.

    As for bloodless surgery, it wouldn’t be so critical if more people donated blood. I do, regularly. Everyone who can, should.

    • SA Gould
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      Of course, there was that Red Cross scandal awhile ago where they ended up giving AIDS along with transfusions. Something that never should have happened.

  18. Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Homo economicus' Weblog and commented:
    Good blog on recent coverage of the issue in last Sunday’s Mew York Times. There are many reasons to doubt the Jehovah’s Witnesses claims to know anything – see

  19. Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    One of the most read blogs (I often wrote as an ex student of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) was on the case of Jose Mestre who because of blood transfusions let a face tumour grow to cover his entire face (not for the squeamish)

  20. Barney
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    How do you perform a lung transplant without some of the donor’s blood making it across to the recipient? Surely you can’t clean a lung of every last drop of blood without completely drying it out – which would surely ruin it?

    • Marta
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      That’s an excellent question.

      Further to that, would JW’s object to a process where, anticipating a necessary but non-emergency procedure, they were transfused with their own blood which had been collected and stored for the occasion?

      • Sines
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        That is an idea that makes perfect sense, and doesn’t appear to violate the idea behind the proclamation.

        Needless to say, they’d think it a damnable offense.

        • Marella
          Posted March 1, 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

          No no, the only acceptable purpose for blood is to pour on an alter as a sacrifice to god!! Surely that’s obvious?!

          These people are so nuts.

      • Barney
        Posted March 2, 2013 at 4:09 am | Permalink

        No, storing your own blood is just as much of a sin, it seems. They base this on the Old Testament rules for draining blood from slaughtered animals. Though they point out that transfusions were unknown at that time, their idea is that, if you want to know what to do about blood (or, I guess, anything), is look for the word in the Bible, and extrapolate wildly from whatever it says there.

        If the whole human race were like these people, I think we’d have lost the knowledge of how to create fire by now.

  21. angst the ontological oddity
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    As an exJw, I too was under that delusion(even had a noblood card)But the thing that strikes me odd about the whole thing is this, Jw’s accept the christian claim that Jesus “blood” was shed for forgiveness of sins! So they oddly enough do accept blood sacrifice as a condition for eternal life? But they reject a blood transfusion to sustain temporal life? For those that care?Read Raymond Franz “In search of christian freedom” for a good old fashion ass kicking of the WTBTS.

  22. Charles Minus
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Sorry I can’t find the original source, but I distinctly recall reading that women JWs have a 400% higher chance of dieing in childbirth than the general population. These are women who have been intimidated into sacrificing themselves, and their newborn children, to a stupid superstition. What a despicable religion.

  23. dev41
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    As a now-retired hospital official, I was called upon numerous times to contact the local courts to make a child of JW parents a ward of the court so that a judge could then order that blood transfusions be administered to save the child’s life.

    The option was to let the child die. I often believed that the parents let their child approach death so that the court would intervene to save the child’s life while the parent’s could claim that they were not responsible and thus retain their standing in their church and a place in the “paradise” to come.

    • Catherine
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      That was my experience as a physician too. If they refuse (knowing that we will go over their heads) and get a court order, they can have a “clean conscience” with regard to the JW church community. Children IN THE HOSPITAL have the medical team as advocates. It it the ones outside of the hospital….those who pray over children dying of appendicitis, etc (as in a christian cult in Oregon or Washington in recent lawmaking news) that have no protection from these lunatic ideas.

      • eric
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        IMO, that is extroadinarily unethical behavior on the part of the parents. They are essentially raising the cost of everyone’s medical care, delaying their child’s care, and pulling hospital staff away from more important work to do unnecessary administrivia – just so they can maintain standing in their private club.

        To be clear, none of ‘unethicalness’ accrues to the medical staff. Making every legal effort to save the child is the right thing to do. Its the person who puts you in the position of having to go to that effort who is acting unethically.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 2, 2013 at 12:55 am | Permalink

      One wonders what the parents’ reaction would be if the hospital staff called their bluff and just said “Okay, it’s your decision”.

      (As, I think, the hospital staff damn well should – why should they waste their time getting the parents off the hook of their own stupidity when there are other more deserving patients needing treatment?)

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 2, 2013 at 1:07 am | Permalink

        Sorry, that sounds incredibly callous towards the children, which was not my intent, they are innocent hostages to their parents’ religious beliefs – or the parents cynicism in expecting the hospital to overrule them.

  24. Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Jehovah’s Witnesses *blood transfusion confusion*.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine allows a liver transplant but not the blood that is in it.
    Jehovahs Witnesses DO take blood products now in 2013.

    They take all fractions of blood.This includes hemoglobin, albumin, clotting factors, cryosupernatant and cryo-poor too, and many, many, others.
    If one adds up all the blood fractions the JWs takes, it equals a whole unit of blood. Any, many of these fractions are made from thousands upon thousands of units of donated blood.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses now accept every fraction of blood except the membrane of the red blood cell. JWs now accept blood transfusions.
    The fact that the JW blood issue is so unclear is downright dangerous in the emergency room.
    More than 50,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses dead from Watchtowers deadly arbitrary blood ban, some estimates run as high as 100,000 dead.

    Danny Haszard

  25. Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Stonyground says:

    We had a visit from the JWs on the run up to a UK general election. Their opening gambit was to talk about politics. I said that if they represented a political party, I would accept one of their leaflets, I promised that I would read it and give them due consideration on election day. It was at this point that they admitted to being JWs. So I said, “So you represent the cancel Christmas and watch your children die of preventable diseases party, good luck with getting people to vote for you.”

    Obviously I said that I was not interested and closed the door on them. I thought of the much better answer later.

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Since JWs are forbidden from voting, holding public office, or engaging in politics at all … your commend confuses me very much.

  26. Maverick
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Considering that the Bible clearly states that a property of blood is that it is life giving to its creature (“blood thereof which is the life thereof”) it follows that blood which is no longer life-giving to its source is not biblically blood. Therefore, if a donors blood is changed so that it is no longer life-giving to the donor (eg. it is mixed with antigens from the recipient) it is no longer blood and can be administered without religious complication. Problem solved…if JW’s would heed reasoned argument (although I suppose if they did, they wouldn’t be JW’s or, for that matter, religious).

    (One of the few advantages of my religious Jewish upbringing is being able to parse the hell out of Bible verses.)

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      “(One of the few advantages of my religious Jewish upbringing is being able to parse the hell out of Bible verses.)”

      That really made me laugh!

  27. Anne Johnson
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Planned surgical procedures are usually safely done without need for transfusions. I would like to see a study of the length of stay for JW medical patients and the comparative costs of care. Often patients stay for many extra days before their hemoglobin or platelet count allows a procedure or they are safe to discharge to a lower level of care. And for the blood products they do accept, and most do accept some, who replaces those units that the products are obtained from? They refuse to donate their blood but they don’t mind using yours.

  28. angst the ontological oddity
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Jw’s are all about mind control! Being a former WTBTS droid, I wish I could articulate how bad they F–ed with my head. F–ck them, all that endtimes BS they scared me with as a kid had such a profound effect on my mental health for years! But I endured,pushed through and can safely say that Im outta that delusion…;)

    • John A
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      I am likewise out of the delusion, but I am afraid that the psychological scars they left me with will last forever. There is no making up for a lost childhood.

      • Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

        I see what Dawkins means when he says that it can be worse than sexual abuse.

    • still learning
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Good job!

  29. darrelle
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    So, it is illegal for medical professionals to allow someone who is chronically ill to die if they wish to, but it is legal to help kill someone if the inspiration is religious belief? That hardly seems fair, let alone rational.

    So, “consuming” blood is bad, but drinking the blood of Jesus is just swell? Because he gave to you the gift of expiation of your sins? With a transfusion, which is blood that has been freely given expressly for the purpose of saving lives, you are gifted with life! Much more practical and with actual tangible benefits.

    JWs are idiots with no imagination. I don’t understand how people can hold such stupid beliefs in such high esteem that they are willing to take such acute risks with their lives, and even their children’s.

    • eric
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      “So, it is illegal for medical professionals to allow someone who is chronically ill to die if they wish to…”

      Not quite. AIUI, a lucid patient can certainly refuse treatment, and give a DNR/no extraodinary measures order. But a doctor will not “allow someone to die” if by that you mean: give a drug they know will hasten death. That’s a pretty big stretch on the word ‘allow’ though, don’t you think? Such a caregiver is clearly doing more than just allowing death to happen.

    • Gary W
      Posted March 2, 2013 at 1:57 am | Permalink

      So, it is illegal for medical professionals to allow someone who is chronically ill to die if they wish to,

      No, that’s not illegal. It’s legal for doctors to comply with a patient’s refusal of life-saving treatment, and thereby “allow them to die.”

      but it is legal to help kill someone if the inspiration is religious belief?

      I don’t know what this means. What action are you referring to by the phrase “help kill someone?”

  30. pktom64
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Ummm stupid question:

    Do JWs drink the “blood of Christ” then?

    • madscientist
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Maybe they do – and eat his flesh too. It’s a cannibal zombie thing which their scriptures told them must be true – but of course all other zombies are evil.

      • Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        No need to speculate, the reality is weird enough. They go into the meaning of the word in the scriptures for “is” and conclude that Jesus only mean to drink his blood symbolically. But only the 144,000 actually get to do it, and then only once a year after sunset on 14 Nisan, at a “memorial ceremony”. The others “pass”.

  31. madscientist
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Ah, Jehovah’s Witless – 200 years and still stupid. At least she believed that the lungs she was receiving didn’t have any blood in them. Even Shakespeare would have known better – Shylock was told that he could have his pound of flesh but not a drop of blood.

    • SA Gould
      Posted March 1, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Getting blood, not OK. Getting a lung, OK? Who writes this stuff, anyway?

      • gbjames
        Posted March 1, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        God, they say.

  32. Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    A friend is a paediatric oncologist. When a JWs’ child needs a blood transfusion, she says it’s routine to get a court order making the child a ward of the state for as long as the transfusion takes. Parents are usually very happy for this convenient legal fiction – briefly not “their” child – to override their religious fiction.

    • Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Ah I see the earlier post about this. “Ward of the court” is more likely to be the correct term in the US, with its chronic cratophobia.

  33. JT
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I think it was Bart Ehrmann who wrote that the passages in the New Testament which are used by JWs to defend their stance on blood transfusions are scribal insertions and do not exist in our earliest and best copies.

  34. bacopa
    Posted March 1, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    So sad, because in many ways I understand that JW’s are quite sensible. They reject the Trinity, and they do not believe in an immortal soul. God resurrects people from data stored in his Heavenly Hard Drive. Hell is not eternal, it’s just God deleting files.

    My paternal grandmother became a JW after her husband died. I got lots of JW material from her. I think she converted because she didn’t want to believe my grandpa was in eternal Hell.

    While I was always an atheist, I used to somewhat respect the JW’s. At least they were trying, and they were no threat as they were so apolitical. And I didn’t really care their kids were dying because of lack of blood transfusions. Have I given all I can to malaria prevention and famine relief? I have given some, but I could give more. And why don’t I put a couple hundred more into Kiva? Putting a couple hundred more into Kiva would probably prevent more deaths than worrying about JW’s.

    I have recently learned that the JW’s are into all this demon shit and practice abusive exorcisms. There is also a lot of hidden sexual abuse in the JW community. I don’t like that, but at least they don’t have the political influence to protect themselves when the hammer of the law eventually falls.

    • John A
      Posted March 2, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      You make a very good point. In a way, the relative sensibility of JWs made it easier for me to come to the conclusion that there is no god. Once you don’t believe in eternal souls, or eternal damnation, it actually is quite easy to make the leap.

    • madscientist
      Posted March 2, 2013 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      But by that logic the catlicks are equally sensible – they don’t believe in the vast number of gods.

  35. Diego
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I used to work with a Jehovah’s Witness and she always had entertainingly odd ideas to share with me. Admittedly not all of them came from her religion. She was very down on all the other misguided religions (and I agreed with her there at least) but then she’d return to her own, which would make for some really surreal conversations.

  36. Jack
    Posted March 4, 2013 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    No one has mentioned the fact that the Bible doesn’t forbid blood transfusions! The Bible forbids eating the meat of slaughtered animals without first draining the blood. The Bible doesn’t forbid transfusing donor blood to save life.

    The JW religion use to forbid organ transplants. From 1967-1980 JW’s taught that organ transplants were cannibalism. Since 1980 JW’s have been free to have an organ transplant. JW leaders view blood as an organ and a blood transfusion as an organ transplant yet they forbid blood transfusions! This makes absolutely no sense.

    Also, JW’s can have their own blood removed and transfused back into them if it is done within a day or two but they are forbidden from pre-donating their blood a few weeks in advance for a pending operation. This is illogical and not based on the Bible.

  37. Posted March 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

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