(WDGR Lesson 12: “Showing Respect for Life and Blood”)
(CONTINUED FROM A PREVIOUS DIALOGUE)
CINDY: Karen, last week we talked about blood transfusions and how God’s law commands us to abstain from blood. We discussed the fact that while “Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept transfusions of whole blood or of its primary components (red cells, white cells, platelets, or plasma),” some “Jehovah’s Witnesses accept injections of a blood fraction, such as immune globulin or albumin” made from blood plasma.1.
KAREN: That’s right Cindy. Last week, I had asked if a fraction of blood is still a blood substance, why do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept these when the Bible says to abstain from blood? A person is not “abstaining…from blood” if he is taking in fractions of the blood, is he?
CINDY: Well, Karen, the “Questions From Readers” portion of the June 15, 2000 Watchtower discusses this very issue. The Society notes that “Some [Jehovah’s Witnesses]…refuse anything derived from blood (even fractions intended to provide temporary passive immunity). That is how they understand God’s command to ‘abstain from blood.’…Their sincere, conscientious stand should be respected.” Then, the Society went on to state “Other Christians decide differently.… ‘Questions From Readers’ in The Watchtower of June 1, 1990, noted that plasma proteins (fractions) move from a pregnant woman’s blood to the separate blood system of her fetus. Thus…some Christians may conclude that since blood fractions can pass to another person in this natural setting, they could accept a blood fraction derived from blood plasma or cells.” 2.
KAREN: Cindy, is the Watchtower Society reasoning that it is not a violation of God’s blood law to take small fractions of primary blood components because plasma proteins move naturally from the blood system of the mother to the child?
CINDY: Yes, that’s right, Karen. But just as the Society noted in the June 1990 Watchtower “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.”3. So while Jehovah’s Witnesses note that blood fractions “move naturally” from mother to child, primary blood components such as red and white blood cells do not. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently reject “whole blood, red cells, white cells, platelets, or blood plasma.”4.
KAREN: Cindy, did you know that white cells are in the human milk that a mother breast-feeds her baby? The book Breastfeeding—A Guide for the Medical Profession notes that “Both T- and B-lymphocytes [white blood cells5. ] are present in human milk and colostrom and are part of the immunologic system in human milk.”6. Since white blood cells “move naturally” from mother to child, why does the Watchtower Society view white blood cell transfusions as a violation of God’s Law? If Jehovah’s Witnesses take blood plasma fractions because they “move naturally” from a pregnant mother to her baby, why don’t they also take transfusions of white blood cells?
CINDY: Karen, that’s a good question. I really don’t know why.
KAREN: Cindy, as you know, the Society stated in the June 1990 Watchtower that “Formed elements (cells) from the mother’s blood do not cross the placental barrier into the fetus’ blood.” But did you know that the book A Pictorial Handbook of Anatomy and Physiology notes that “In the last weeks of pregnancy small numbers of the baby’s red cells escape through the placenta into the mother’s circulation”?7.
CINDY: Wow! I didn’t know that.
KAREN: Cindy, not only does this transfer of red blood cells from the baby to the mother occur in the last weeks of pregnancy, but Doctors Frank Oski and Lawrence Naiman note in their book Hematologic Problems In the Newborn that “Accumulated evidence indicates that leukocytes [white blood cells], platelets, and erythrocytes [red blood cells] traverse the placental barrier.…Fetal red cells can be demonstrated in the maternal circulation in approximately 50 per cent of all pregnancies.”8.
CINDY: That’s interesting, Karen. But aren’t these doctors admitting that this transfer of red blood cells from the baby to the mother only happen in 50 percent of the pregnancies? Even the Society admits that “if by some injury the mother’s and the fetus’ blood mingle, health problems can later develop.”9. This is certainly not God’s design, is it?
KAREN: Cindy, whether it is God’s design or not, I cannot judge. But one thing I do question. If it is strictly against God’s law to have a blood transfusion, why does God allow it to occur in 50 percent of the pregnancies? Don’t you think that if the transfer of blood from the blood system of one person to another is a serious violation of God’s law, He would make certain that such transmission would not occur in any pregnancy at all? While it may be true that this occurred only in 50 percent of the pregnancies spoken of by Doctors Oski and Naiman, this says nothing of what happens in the course of labor. The book Conception to Birth—Epidemiology of Prenatal Development notes that it is “common” for “fetal blood cells [to] gain access to the maternal bloodstream…in the course of labor.”10. Since the entry of fetal red blood cells into the mother’s blood stream is common during pregnancy and labor, why does the Society continue to uphold its position that a blood transfusion is a violation of God’s law?
CINDY: I’m not sure Karen.
KAREN: Cindy do you remember how last week we talked about the fact that a blood transfusion is not the same as eating blood because it does not get digested when it is transfused into the veins of the body?
CINDY: Yes, Karen, and we also discussed how the Watchtower Society admits that blood is a tissue of the body and that a blood transfusion is nothing less than a tissue transplant.11.
KAREN: That’s right, Cindy. Did you know that one of the medical ways we know that transfused blood functions as a tissue transplant and not as food for the body, is by the fact that fetal blood cells have been detected in women for several years after giving birth? The book Williams Obstetrics notes that “the failure of the placenta to maintain absolute integrity of the fetal and maternal circulations is documented by numerous findings of the passage of cells between mother and fetus in both directions.…Leukocytes [white blood cells] bearing a Y chromosome have been identified in women for up to 5 years after giving birth to a son.”12. Can you see why God’s law only condemns the physical eating of blood and does not apply to the transfer of blood from the blood system of one person to another? Otherwise, why would God allow it to occur naturally in pregnancy and labor?
CINDY: Karen, that’s a good point, but I don’t understand. If Jehovah wanted us to take blood into our bodies through transfusion, why did He command Christians at Acts 15:29 to “keep abstaining…from blood”? Doesn’t that rule out any form of taking in blood?
KAREN: Cindy, let’s look at that passage in context. At Acts 15, we read about the congregation at Antioch in which some of the brothers disputed over whether Gentile Christians should be required to comply with the Jewish law of circumcision in order to be saved. A council at Jerusalem was called to discuss this issue and verses 28 and 29 reveal the judicial decision that resulted. Would like to read it, Cindy?
CINDY: OK. “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”13.
KAREN: Cindy, in addition to abstaining from blood, this passage tells Christians to “keep abstaining…from things strangled.” How does one abstain from things that were strangled? Isn’t this talking about abstaining in the sense of not eating those things that were strangled because they were not properly bled? And what about the other command to “keep abstaining…from things sacrificed to idols”? Isn’t this talking about abstaining by not eating food that was sacrificed to idols?
CINDY: Well, I guess you’re right, Karen.
KAREN: Then, isn’t it logical to conclude from the context of Acts 15, that this passage is talking about “abstaining” in the sense of not eating blood, and does not apply to the transfer of blood from the blood system of one person to another?
CINDY: I see your point, Karen. But are blood transfusions really that safe? In the October 22, 1990 Awake, the Society noted that “the chances of getting AIDS from a blood transfusion are 1 in 28,000.…And AIDS is not the only danger from blood transfusion.…Hepatitis infects hundreds of thousands and kills many more transfusion recipients than AIDS does.…”14.
KAREN: Cindy, since 1990 when the Society came out with that article, a lot of progress has been made regarding the safety of blood transfusions. While the Society’s 1990 article noted that the possibility of contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion was 1 in 28,000, the September 1999 Consumer Reports notes that the chance has significantly decreased to 1 in a million for AIDS and 1 in a hundred thousand for hepatitis C. The 1999 Consumer Reports when on to state that “…the likelihood of infection from a two-unit blood transfusion is substantially less than the chance of being murdered or of being killed in an auto accident during the year.” Then they went on to explain that “Indeed, for a hospital patient, the greatest risk shown here is dying from an unexpected adverse reaction to some medication.…Transfusions save nearly 10,000 lives a day.…”15. So, Cindy, which risk of death is greater—death due to avoiding a blood transfusion or death due to bad blood?
Friends, There is a big difference between the respectful manner in which blood is treated as a sacred substance in saving life through transfusion, and the disgraceful manner in which pagan religions of Biblical times drank blood in an attempt to gain strength and victory. While the Bible is clear about avoiding the digestive use of blood for nourishment, nowhere does the Bible condemn the medical treatment of transfusion in replenishing the blood supply of a living human being. Just as donors offer their blood to restore physical life, so Jesus offered His blood to give us life eternally. Would you like to receive the redemption offered in the blood of Christ?
1. The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, p. 30
2. The Watchtower, June 15, 2000, pp. 30-31
3. The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, p. 31
4. How Can Blood Save Your Life?, 1990, p. 14
5. See Awake! February 8, 2001, p. 14
6. Breastfeeding—A Guide for the Medical Profession, 4th Edition, by Ruth A. Lawrence (Mosby – Year Book, Inc, 1994), p. 154
7. A Pictorial Handbook of Anatomy and Physiology, 1978, by James Brevan, p. 36
8. Hematologic Problems In the Newborn, 3rd Edition, 1982, by Frank A. Oski M.D. and J. Lawrence Naiman M.D., p. 41
9. The Watchtower, June 1, 1990, p. 31
10. Conception to Birth—Epidemiology of Prenatal Development, by Jennie Kline, Zena Stein, Mervyn Susser, (Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 98
11.See Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood, 1977, pp. 40-41; How Can Blood Save Your Life?, p. 8; Awake!, August 22, 1999, p. 31
12.Williams Obstetrics, 19th Edition (Norwalk, CT: Appleton and Lange, 1993), p. 127
13.New World Translation
14. Awake! October 22, 1990, pp. 8-9
15. Consumer Reports, September 1999, pp. 61, 63