While continuing to forbid transfusions of whole blood, the Watchtower currently allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to transfuse into their veins what they call “blood fractions.” By this they mean blood “components” (red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma) that have been “fractionated” into still smaller units.
It hasn’t always been so. The Watchtower’s original blood-ban forbade any such “fractions”:
“Is it wrong to sustain life by administering a transfusion of blood or plasma or red cells or others of the component parts of the blood? Yes!…The prohibition includes “any blood at all.” (Leviticus 3:17)
– Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, pp. 13, 14
Jehovah evidently changed his mind regarding his “everlasting covenant” in the year 2000. Or, at least, he waited until that year to inform his “organization on earth” of how he really felt about the matter (callously disregarding the lives of his “name people” prior to that time whose lives could’ve been saved by blood fractions.)
Questions From Readers
Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any minor fractions of blood?
The following answer is reprinted from the issue of June 15, 2000.
As transfusions of whole blood became common after World War II, Jehovah’s Witnesses saw that this was contrary to God’s law—and we still believe that. Yet, medicine has changed over time. Today, most transfusions are not of whole blood but of one of its primary components: (1) red cells; (2) white cells; (3) platelets; (4) plasma (serum), the fluid part. Depending on the condition of the patient, physicians might prescribe red cells, white cells, platelets, or plasma. Transfusing these major components allows a single unit of blood to be divided among more patients. Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that accepting whole blood or any of those four primary components violates God’s law.
However, since blood can be processed beyond those primary components, questions arise about fractions derived from the primary blood components. How are such fractions used, and what should a Christian consider when deciding on them? Should Christians accept these fractions in medical treatment? We cannot say. The Bible does not give details, so a Christian must make his own conscientious decision before God.
The above material shows that Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse transfusions of both whole blood and its primary blood components. The Bible directs Christians to ‘abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from fornication.’ (Acts 15:29) Beyond that, when it comes to fractions of any of the primary components, each Christian, after careful and prayerful meditation, must conscientiously decide for himself.
So Witnesses are now faced with an odd situation where whole blood and its “major components” are strictly prohibited by the Watchtower, but at the same time the Watchtower permits them to transfuse every component of blood so long as it is first fractionated! Huh?
Smoking cigarettes is another activity that the Watchtower forbids its members. But, given the logic they use when it comes to blood, I guess it must be alright to smoke fractionated cigarettes.
To help make it clear to Witnesses exactly what the Watchtower prohibits and allows, please see the following chart (based on Keep Yourselves in God’s Love (WBTS, 2008) p.216):
Let’s see if we can apply this same logic to something else and see if it makes sense.
I’m a vegan. This means that I don’t eat animals or animal byproducts such as milk or eggs. When presented with a cheese pizza I politely decline. I will explain the reasoning behind this in a moment, but first let’s apply Watchtower logic and see how it looks.
Following the logic of this chart (i.e. the Watchtower’s blood logic), I would refuse to eat not only the pizza itself, but pizza dough, pizza sauce, cheese, and the spices. However, I could eat everything that made up the dough, the sauce, the cheese, and the spices!
In reality I would readily eat the dough, the sauce, and the spice, while declining to eat not only the cheese but also its “fractions”: the milk, culture, and rennet. Why? Because my refusal to eat the cheese pizza is based on the cheese ingredient (which, naturally includes everything that makes up cheese.)
My refusal to eat cheese isn’t because I’m worried that it will defile me in some way, or because I have some sort of religious scruple. No; eating cheese is actually inconsequential to me. My issue is with the ethics involved in producing cheese. My concern is for the suffering it causes the animals. It has nothing to do with me. I just don’t want anyone making a cheese pizza for me due to the chain of events that can be traced back to animal suffering. Once such a pizza has been made it little matters whether I eat it or not.
The Bible’s admonition to pour the blood of an animal onto the ground was not to keep us from defiling ourselves. It had nothing to do with us; it was all about the animal. It was a symbol used to show that the animal’s life did not belong to us. That is, in fact, exactly how the Bible explains the ritual.
The Watchtower’s Pharisaical hair-splitting over what size of a blood component is acceptable misses the point entirely. The point was to show respect for the animal’s life.
A Biblical Example
In case you couldn’t relate to my cheese pizza example, the Watchtower itself has provided us with an example from the Bible, which inadvertently demonstrates just how ridiculous their “fractionation” rule is.
In the September 15, 1961 Watchtower (photocopy shown near the top of this page) you can read where the article went on to describe an incident where King David refused to drink water that his soldiers had obtained at risk of their very lives, stating: “It is unthinkable on my part, O Jehovah, that I should do this! Should I drink the blood of the men going at the risk of their lives?” (2Sam 23:17) The article erroneously concludes from this:
“Not only did he abstain from animal blood; he avoided the far more gross wrong of consuming human blood.”
Funny how the Bible doesn’t say anything about consuming human blood, much less that it’s a “far more gross wrong.” And it’s also funny that the incident referred to had nothing to do with David avoiding consuming literal human blood.
David refused the water not because drinking it would defile him somehow, but in recognition of the risk that the men had run for him. In effect he was showing his soldiers that he did not expect them to risk their lives just to save his, and that he was refusing this and all such future recklessness on the part of his men. David poured the water out on the ground, using the same ritual as was used with animal blood, to show that he did not own the sacrificed (or potentially sacrificed) lives of his men. In both cases, the fluid poured out onto the ground — whether water or blood — symbolized life. This is why the Bible states that:
For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life.
— Leviticus 17:14 (NASB)
In other words, an animal’s life is symbolized by its blood. Just as in David’s case water symbolized the lives that were risked. In neither case is the consuming of these fluids harmful or sinful. Refusing to drink them is just a sign of respect for their source.
But, if we were to accept the Watchtower’s interpretation, then David wouldn’t have cared about how the water was obtained, but rather about how he could sinlessly consume the water a drop at a time (after cutting each drop in half in order to “fractionate” it, of course)!
Jesus clinches the matter with the following quote:
Nothing from outside a man that enters into him can defile him; but the things that come out of a man are the things that defile him.
— Mark 7:15 (NWT)
“Nothing” is all-encompassing, and includes blood.
If you believe that cutting up something that is prohibited renders it acceptable, then you believe that its source is irrelevant (since cutting it up doesn’t affect its source.) It follows that the prohibition is based on the defiling property of the thing itself — in direct contradiction to Jesus’ words above. So, the Watchtower’s delving into fractions serves to reveal in still another way that their blood prohibition is anti-biblical.
As promised in our title, here’s where the cows come meandering in.
In addition to allowing the transfusion of fractionated human blood, the Watchtower also now allows the transfusion of fractionated cow’s blood!
There is a product on the market known as HEMOPURE®, which consists of fractionated cow’s blood. In at least one instance that we know of, a Watchtower “Hospital Liaison Committee” approved its transfusion into the veins of a Jehovah’s Witness.
This completely contradicts what Jehovah told the Governing Body to publish in the Watchtower as recently as 1992:
Early in man’s history, our Creator ruled that humans should not eat blood. (Genesis 9:3, 4) He stated that blood represents life, which is a gift from him. Blood removed from a creature could be used only in sacrifice, such as on the altar. Otherwise, blood from a creature was to be poured on the ground, in a sense giving it back to God. His people were to avoid sustaining life by taking in blood… It would be right, of course, to avoid products that listed things such as blood, blood plasma, plasma, globin (or globulin) protein, or hemoglobin (or globin) iron.”
— The Watchtower, 10/15/92 p. 30
It’s also interesting to note that the former ban on vaccinations may have been largely due to the Watchtower’s erroneous belief that the vaccination serum was made from cow’s blood. Yet now they are transfusing cow’s blood directly into their veins!
And what about the cow’s blood that regularly appears on the dining plates at Bethel and in the homes of Jehovah’s Witnesses all around the world? Meat always contains some amount of blood.
The Watchtower has never advocated vegetarianism or even limiting consumption of meat to kosher products which are bled prior to slaughter and then are soaked and salted to further draw out as much blood as possible prior to eating.
Since Witnesses are not instructed to take any such precautions with regard to their meat consumption, it has rightly been said that, like the Pharisees of old whom Jesus accused of “straining the gnat and swallowing the camel,” they have strained the fraction and swallowed the steak.
I guess going vegetarian doesn’t garner the free publicity of such headlines as: “Parents Watch Child Die for Want of Transfusion.”