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Jehovah's Witnesses (WTS) opposition to blood transfusions

Biblical passages.
Opposition to WTS policies.

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Jehovah's Witness' beliefs and teachings about blood:

The Jehovah's Witnesses urges its members to refuse to accept blood transfusions and to not allow them to be given to their children. This is primarily based upon four passages in the Bible which they interpret as prohibiting the consuming of blood:

  • Genesis 9:4 "But flesh (meat) shall not eat"
  • Leviticus 17:12-14 "...No soul of you shall eat blood...whosoever eateth it shall be cut off"
  • Acts 15:29 "That ye abstain...from blood..."
  • Acts 21:25 "...Gentiles...keep themselves from things offered to idols and from blood..."

The faith group once interpreted "eating" of blood in its most general form to include accepting "transfusion of whole blood, packed [red blood cells] RBCs, and plasma, as well as [white blood cells] WBC and platelet administration."

L.C. Cotton, associate director of Jehovah's Witnesses hospital information services, said:

"We feel that the Bible clearly indicates that blood is sacred and it is not to be used for human consumption. Though it doesn't discuss it in medical terms, Jehovah's Witnesses feel that would preclude the acceptance of it in a blood transfusion." 1

All or essentially all other Christian and Jewish faith groups interpret these same passages as referring to dietary laws; i.e. to the actual eating of meat containing blood.

Witnesses are also urged to "discontinue their chemotherapy treatments when platelet transfusions are needed." 2

Because Witnesses believe that any blood that leaves the body must be destroyed, they do not approve of an individual storing his own blood for a later auto-transfusion. 2 J.R. Brown, a spokesperson for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, said: "Blood removed from an individual is to be poured out or discarded."

There appears to be a significant movement within the medical community to minimize or eliminate blood transfusions during surgery. 3,4,5 According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Doctors say the faith's fundamentalism has encouraged the advances by showing how patients can survive with less blood than previously thought. More than 100 hospitals around the nation, as well as Duke and Johns Hopkins universities, have bloodless medical programs that train everyone from technicians to nurses to doctors." 6

The refusal by Jehovah's Witnesses to accept blood transfusions appears to be motivated by faith and not by a death wish. LeRoy Grant of San Francisco, CA was told that he needed to have surgery or die. He believes in the Jehovah's Witness interpretation of the above key biblical passages. He holds this belief even though the faith groups followed by over 99.5% of Christians in the U.S. do not consider blood transfusions to be a problem. He felt that he could not compromise his beliefs. He said:

"If I violate God's law on blood simply to gain a few more days -- or years -- of life, I would be dead spiritually, and my relationship with God would be damaged beyond repair." 6

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Reform group:

The "Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood" [AJWRB] describes themselves as

"a diverse group of Witnesses from many countries, including elders and other organization officials, Hospital Liaison Committee members, Doctors, and  members of the general public who have volunteered their time and energies in an effort to bring about an end to a tragic and misguided policy that has claimed thousands of lives, many of them children. promoting change within the WTS on the topic of blood transfusions." 7

The AJWRB notes that, over time, the Jehovah's Witnesses "has gradually permitted each component [of blood] to be used, first globulin, then the clotting factors, plasma proteins." 2 Hemoglobin was finally allowed in 2000-JUN when the leadership of the group modified:

"...the prohibition on transfusions by deeming that God had revealed to them that transfusions of some blood components might be acceptable, providing there was later repentance, has come too late for many hundreds of followers known to have died because they refused blood." 8

As of 2002-JAN, Jehovah's Witnesses were urged to not accept whole blood transfusions. However, according to the AJWRB:

"...if you discount the membranes of the red cells, white cells and platelets, they are allowing somewhere between 97 and 98% of the blood. However, the membrane is stroma (protein/enzyme) and as a fraction it too would be permitted. So technically the WTS permits 100% of the blood in fractionated form." 9

Still, believers die because they are urged by the WTS to refuse blood transfusions, while fellow Christians wonder at such a needless loss of life.

Statement by a Roman Catholic bishop:

Edith Morales died in Rancagua, Chile during 2008-JUL. She suffered from leukemia and refused to receive blood transfusions because they went against her religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. Members of her family tried to persuade her to accept the transfusions, but were not successful.

Bishop Alejandro Goic of Rancagua wrote that: "... respecting the conscience of each person [does not override the duty] to safeguard respect for life."

He said:

"What do we say about these interpretations? Jesus Christ taught us that the old prohibitions of food have no meaning in the New Covenant. 'The Kingdom of God is not a matter of food or drink, but of justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' (Romans 14:17). It is not clear how the Jehovahİs Witnesses deduce from the prohibition against eating the blood of animals in the Old Testament the prohibition against blood transfusions that are precisely aimed to save human life," the bishop said.

"The Catholic Church accepts transfusions," he emphasized. "The Sacred Scriptures are not opposed to this kind of therapy that, on the other hand, was unknown in the times of Jesus.  Jesus Christ teaches us that giving oneİs life for others is the greatest show of love," Bishop Goic said.

"In the vision of the Jehovahİs Witnesses, there are three important elements to consider: religious freedoms, respect for consciences and laws," he added.

"For the Catholic Church, the position of the Jehovahİs Witnesses is what we call one of an erroneous conscience.  That is, they believe something that is mistaken.  This is part of their profound convictions, and therefore it merits respect in their decision making.  Religious freedom invites us to respect the conscience of each person.  What we must safeguard is the respect for life. In response to this, many laws dealing with minors in danger of death allow for the will of the parents to be overridden, not because children have more rights than parents, but because their lives are in jeopardy (Spain, Canada, to name of few)."

"God is the God of life. For Jesus life is something precious and İsaving a lifeİ prevails over the law of the Sabbath (Mark 3:4), because İGod is not a God of the dead but of the livingİ(Mark 12:27)," Bishop Goic stressed.  "We are followers of Jesus Christ. In the example of Christ, we can give our lives out of love of neighbor.  İNo one has greater love than he who lays down his life for his friendsİ (John 15:13).  Therefore, we strongly affirm İlife, alwaysİ," the bishop said. 10

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Carol Harrington, "Father shunned by family for defying faith to save child," Canadian Press. Published in the Toronto Star, Toronto ON, 2002-MAR-11, Page A7.
  2. "Jehovah's Witnesses: Witness Position on Therapy," at:
  3. "No Blood: The Bloodless Medicine & Surgery Network" advocates alternatives to the use of blood transfusions. See:
  4. D.J. Doyle, "The Bloodless Survey Web Page:Clinical strategies for avoiding and controlling hemorrhage and anemia without blood transfusion," at: 
  5. A.L. Harris, et. al. "Anesthetic challenges and considerations presented by the Jehovah's Witness patient," at: 
  6. Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, "Faith's ban on tranfusions [sic] spurs 'bloodless' surgeries," San Francisco Chronicle, 2007-JUL-20, at:
  7. The Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood is promoting change within the Jehovah's Witnesses on the topic of blood transfusions. See:  
  8. Stephen Bates, "Jehovah's Witness link to UN queried," The Guardian, 2001-OCT-8, at:
  9. "What is forbidden?," at:
  10. "Bishop explains Catholic position in response to death of Chilean woman who refused blood transfusion," Catholic News Agency, 2008-JUL-26, at:

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Home > Christianity > Denominations Witnesses > Blood transfusions > here

Copyright İ 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original version written on: 1996-SEP-29

Last updated on: 2008-JUL-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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