Why Do “Jehovah’s Witnesses” Refuse Blood Transfusions?

English: An animation of a typical human red b...

English: An animation of a typical human red blood cell cycle in the circulatory system. This animation occurs at real time (20 seconds of cycle) and shows the red blood cell deform as it enters capillaries, as well as changing color as it alternates in states of oxygenation along the circulatory system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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
Deuteronomy 12.23
Genesis 9.4

Requirement that Christians “abstain…from blood” bars medical blood transfusions
Acts 15.19, 20
Acts 15.28, 29
Acts 21.25

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
Hebrews 9.22
Leviticus 17.11

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? 

  1. The Bible forbids the eating, or drinking of blood.
  2. “A blood transfusion is no more eating blood than a skin graft is cannibalism” (James D. Bales, Jehovah’s Witnesses, p. 30).
  3. Animal blood cannot be transfused into human veins and the Bible speaks of animal blood in forbidding to eat it.
  4. The pregnant mother feeds her baby by means of blood through the umbilical cord.
  5. 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.
  6. If it is wrong to transfuse human blood into our veins, it would be wrong to have our own blood in our veins.
  7. 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.
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18 thoughts on “Why Do “Jehovah’s Witnesses” Refuse Blood Transfusions?

    • That would be eating or drinking…there was no such thing as intravenous back then….that meant by mouth…

      • That would be eating or drinking…there was no such thing as intravenous back then….that meant by mouth…I think the JW’s should sit with a Hasidic Jew and have a midrash on the subject. They think it is ok because saving a life is the most important commandment.

  1. Don very well spoken. I loved this information and believe as you do. I only wish I could get my son and daughter-in-law to believe this as they are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  2. Cults do get people killed!

    50 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.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses *blood transfusion confusion*.
    In 2012 God’s will and scripture got nothing to do with the Jehovah’s Witnesses position on use of blood products.
    It is 100 percent what will play out in a secular court of law as to the parent Watchtower being held liable for deaths.
    Most Jehovah’s Witnesses rushed to the ER with massive blood loss will scream 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.
    *tell the truth don’t be afraid*

    Danny Haszard http://www.ajwrb.org
    JW blood reform site

  3. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that life is sacred to God therefore blood is sacred because it represents and symbolizes life. Jehovah’s Witnesses put a higher value on blood than they do life. Which is more sacred? The symbol or that which it symbolizes?

    *tell the truth don’t be afraid*

    Danny Haszard

  4. Violation of God’s law in effort to preserve present life leads to loss of eternal life Matthew 16.25, 26″

    I wonder if this extends to not giving a defense of one’s belief that could lead to one’s death or release (i.e. Paul before Fetus, Felix, Agrippa, and the people who tried to kill him numerous times before finding himself before these goverment representatives)?

    Along with the reference you made about Hezekiah, it makes me also wonder about the jailor cleaning Paul and Silas’ wounds…after all, to be 100% fair with the made assumption, cleaning and bandaging any wound could be seen as a effort to preserve present life.

    Just wondering out loud.

    • We must especially do what we can to save others, as Solomon said (Pro 24.10–12), but concerning our own lives, while we do what we can to preserve our lives, it is also true that we have to be willing to lay down our lives.

  5. Recent research coming out of the National Anemia Action Council (NAAC) has found that the common practice of administering blood transfusion to traumatic brain injury patients may actually be increasing the risk of mortality as well as “composite complication including multi-organ failure.”The study, which lasted over a seven-year period, found that of the 1,150 TBI patients, approximately 76 percent were found to be anemic at some time period during their first week after administration to the hospital because of their TBI incident. The anemic group was said to have increased complications compared to non-anemic patients and of the “anemic group, 76 percent received blood transfusions during their first week and the transfusion in this group was associated with more complications and a higher mortality rate than patients who were not transfused.”;

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  6. God owns everything in the seen and unseen universes. Everything…The only thing I am not sure he owns is your soul….He gave you a soul and allows you to decide …now that’s love….I wish i had the magic words for a daugher-in-law who converted from Catholic to JW when she married one…She is in dire straits right now in MD Anderson over a refusal for a transfusion….To me It’s like proving your faith….If only 144 K is going to heaven i’m sure a transfusion is NOT gonna interfere with your qualifying application….Seems it’s full already….It’s the equivalent of tempting God….W’well if God wants me to live he will allow it…and if you don’t make it …well they didn’t make the cut”….It’s starting to peace me off….Someone needs to startdoing some accounting on the 144K and if the slots are all full….Go ahead and get the transfusion i say…If God is the forgiving God all religions say I’m sure a blood transfusion is not gonna keep ya out….

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