Jehovah's Witnesses (WTS) opposition to blood transfusions
Stance on other medical procedures
Transfusions of PolyHeme©:
Northfield Laboratories, Inc. produce a material called PolyHeme©. 9 It:
"is a human
hemoglobin-based temporary oxygen-carrying red blood cell substitute in
development for the treatment of life-threatening blood loss when an
oxygen-carrying fluid is required and red blood cells are not available."
PolyHeme is not whole
blood, but is derived from it. Some Jehovah's Witnesses have accepted
it. L.C. Cotton, the associate director of Jehovah's Witnesses' hospital
information services, indicates that members
must decide for themselves whether to accept this product. He said:
blood is fractionated beyond those primary components and other blood
derivatives, we feel that it is an individual decision. If an individual's
conscience will allow him to accept the product, then that would be up to
that individual. That is between himself and his God...The understanding
is that each person stands before God and is judged according to his own
conscience. The other Witnesses would not criticize any decisions he
The 2006-AUG issue of Awake! magazine contained an
article on the value of blood, with a sidebar on hemoglobin-based oxygen
carriers [HBOC]. The article states, in part that Jehovah's Witnesses:
"...reject all transfusions involving whole blood or the four primary
blood components - read cells, plasma, white cells, and platelets. As for
the various fractions derived from those components - and products that
contain such fractions - the Bible does not comment on these. Therefore,
each Witness makes his own personal decision on such matters."
The sidebar states:
"Regarding this [HBOC] and similar products, then, Christians face a very
serious decision. They must carefully and prayerfully meditate on Bible
principles concerning the sacredness of blood. With a keen desire to
maintain a good relationship with Jehovah,
each must be guided by his Bible-trained conscience." 11
The sidebar contains a citation of Galatians 6:5. This and the previous verse
"But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have
rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his
own burden." King James Version.
"But let him prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for
exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other
person. For each one will carry his own load." New World Translation.
These statements contain an unusual departure from normal teaching of the
Jehovah's Witnesses organization. Usually only the Governing Body is given the
responsibility to interpret biblical passages. Some might interpret this article
and sidebar as an admission that the organization does not have a definitive
answer for the membership, and that the responsibility lies with the individual
In 1967, the WTS said that organ transplants are a form of cannibalism and are to be shunned.
12 They reversed this decision in 1980 and made transplants a
matter of personal conscience. 13 Unfortunately, an
unknown number of
Jehovah's Witnesses had died between 1967 and 1980 because they had refused available
Bone marrow transplants:
In 1963, they considered that any fraction of blood was a nutrient and not to be used in
medical treatment. 14 In 1978, they reversed this decision for
certain blood fractions used for the treatment of hemophiliacs. 15
In 1984, they declared that accepting a bone marrow transplant was up to the individual
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Product description," Northfield Laboratories, at:
- Annette Wells, "Church lets faithful opt for PolyHeme. Blood substitute's
use an individual's choice," San Bernadino Sun, 2003-MAR-08, at:
- "The Real Value of Blood," pp 10-12, Awake! magazine, 2006-AUG, Pages
10 to 12.
- "What Are Hemoglobin-Based Oxygen Carriers?" Sidebar, Awake!
magazine, 2006-AUG, Page 10
- Article on organ transplants, Watch Tower, 1967-NOV-15.
- Subsequent article on organ transplants, Watch Tower, 1980-MAR-15.
- Article on blood fractions, Watch Tower, 1963-FEB-15.
- Article on blood fractions for Hemophiliacs, Watch Tower, 1978-JUN-15.
- Article on bone marrow transplants, Watch Tower, 1984-MAY-15.
How you got here:
Copyright © 1996 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on
Original version written on: 1996-SEP-29
Last updated on: 2007-JUL-23
Author: B.A. Robinson