By Don Ruhl
The Daily Courier (Grants Pass, Oregon) printed a sad, though perhaps courageous, story of a “Jehovah’s Witness” who died because he refused a living-saving blood transfusion.
SEATTLE — A few hours after a Mount Vernon judge ruled that a 14-year-old Jehovah’s Witness sick with leukemia had the right to refuse a blood transfusion, even though that refusal might kill him, the boy died in a Seattle hospital…
The judge said the eighthgrader knows “he’s basically giving himself a death sentence.”
This is a sad story because a boy died who did not have to, and sadder still because his refusal of a blood transfusion came from a false understanding of Scripture.
This is a courageous story because a 14-year-old boy, an eighthgrader, willing took a bold stand for a conviction that he knew would take his life!
Why Do the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” Refuse Blood Transfusions?
They reason in the following way in the book, “Make Sure of all Things; Hold Fast to What Is Fine.” First, they provide headings and then quotations of Scripture from the New World Translation, but here I will only provide the Scripture references.
God views blood as soul (life) of the flesh
Leviticus 17.11, 12, 13
Requirement that Christians “abstain…from blood” bars medical blood transfusions
Acts 15.19, 20
Acts 15.28, 29
Unscriptural use of blood even in emergencies is wrong
First Chronicles 11.18, 19
First Samuel 14.31–34
Violation of God’s law in effort to preserve present life leads to loss of eternal life
Matthew 16.25, 26
Sacrificial use of blood only use approved by God
Their reasoning gives the appearance of being powerful and biblically based, because they simply ask questions and then provide quoted Scriptures as the answers. However, you have to be sure of two things:
- That the question is not “loaded.”
- That the Scripture truly answers the question.
Did they misuse these passages? Most of the passages prohibited the eating of animal blood and spoke nothing of transfusing human blood into our veins.
Concerning their reference of First Chronicles 11.18, 19, why did David refuse to drink the water that his mighty men retrieved for him? Does this in any way forbid transfusing human blood into another human? No, because these are two different issues. If David had drunk of the water they brought, he believed it would be a highly selfish act on his part. Therefore, he poured out the water, showing that it was sacred. He honored those men by keeping anyone else from drinking it. He could have bottled the water and placed it on a shelf in his home, treasuring the memory of what they had done, but this act insured that no one ever drank that water because of the price those men paid.
The passage from Matthew 16 did not address blood at all, but the Watch Tower Society used that passage to teach that it is right to be willing to die for what you believe. Of course, we believe and live by that rule. Yet, the desire to live is not wrong, for God Himself instilled that within us.
It is valid to use medicine to save our lives. Isaiah 38.21 shows Isaiah prescribing a medical solution for Hezekiah.
To use Matthew 16 to say they should be willing to die instead of receiving a transfusion is to misuse the text. If they so desire to lose their lives over a wrong interpretation, that is their business, but it is all based on misunderstanding of the prohibition against eating or drinking animal blood.
What Does the Bible Forbid Concerning Blood?
- The Bible forbids the eating, or drinking of blood.
- “A blood transfusion is no more eating blood than a skin graft is cannibalism” (James D. Bales, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 30).
- Animal blood cannot be transfused into human veins and the Bible speaks of animal blood in forbidding to eat it.
- The pregnant mother feeds her baby by means of blood through the umbilical cord.
- To save a life is biblical (Mark 2.23–28). Does God ever forbid doing good or showing mercy to someone who needs help? God intends His laws for our good. Two accounts in the Gospel of Luke show that God’s law were never made to forbid helping people in need (Luke 13.10–17; 14.1–6). Matthew 12.9–14 shows conclusively that God never forbids, but always expects us to do good and that His laws were never made to keep us from helping people. The laws for the Sabbath prohibited the Jews from working, but Jesus refuted the belief that those laws prevented the Jews from helping people in need. He declared it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, because man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was made for man. Likewise, it is lawful to do good by donating or receiving blood, because man was not made for blood prohibition, but forbidding to eat animal blood was made for man.
- If it is wrong to transfuse human blood into our veins, it would be wrong to have our own blood in our veins.
- The prohibition is against blood in the digestive tract, not the circulatory system. Animal blood does not belong in human digestive tracts, but human blood belongs in the human circulatory system.