Take the blood

Skeptics CircleThis article reports on a 14 year old BC girl who was refusing blood transfusions on religious grounds. She’s a Jehovah’s Witness. Two judges have ruled that she is too young to make that decision so she must have the transfusions.

I’m in two minds about the decision. I’m a firm believer in individual rights and individual choice. If she really doesn’t want transfusions then she should be able to choose that option. It has to be an educated choice though, so I hope that someone other than her fellow JWs has sat her down and explained everything to her. Sadly, JWs aren’t allowed to associate with non-JWs, so even talking to a doctor about her options is against the rules and could have her disfellowed.

This article spurred me into examining some of the JW beliefs. They may seem harmless enough, but they are actually quite an insidious organisation. They control their members through guilt and fear. Members are actively encouraged to turn each other in for rule violations. Violations can be anything from smoking to reading religious material not published by JW. An unrepentant follower can be shunned and disowned by his fellow JWs.

That kind of environment can only result in massive indoctrination for anyone growing up in it. That 14 year old girl, and others like her, have effectively been completely brainwashed. They are under complete control by their cult and that control must be incredibly difficult to break.

So what about the blood thing? The JWs most controversial rule is based on a few lines from the bible which state that we should not eat blood. Back in the ’60s the JW ruling based on these scriptural references was that blood transfusions, organ transplants and vaccinations were not allowed. Since then the rule has been relaxed to the point now where everything up to partial plasma blood transfusions is allowed. Nobody has managed to explain why it’s ok to receive partial plasma but it’s not ok to receive full plasma.

Science tells us that a blood transfusion provides no nourishment. The blood is not digested by the body. So how does a blood transfusion break the scriptural rule that we may not eat blood? That’s another question the governing body of JW has failed to answer. This site has all the information you need on the blood transfusion controversy.

Featured on the cover of an Awake! magazine from 1994 are the photos of 26 children, ages varying up to 17 years, with the caption: “Youths Who Put God First.” Inside the magazine proclaims: “In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue.”. The main article, ‘Youths Who Have “Power Beyond What Is Normal”‘ tells the stories of three of these children who died after refusing blood treatment. This to me is a callous disregard for human life. The magazine is treating these children as martyrs when in fact they are innocent victims of a cult of guilt and fear.

Should religious freedom stretch this far? Should an organised religion be allowed to endanger the lives of it’s followers? Barbaric practices like the hindu sutee (widows being burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyre) have been outlawed for many years, so banning a dangerous religious practice would not be setting any precedents. Telling people to refuse blood transfusions is life threatening. It should not be allowed.

8 thoughts on “Take the blood”

  1. Your last comment spurred me to think of something a little off topic:
    “Telling people to refuse blood transfusions is life threatening. It should not be allowed.”

    The Devil’s advocate says: “Smoking is life threatening. It should not be allowed”.
    Of course it is more complicated than that, but is it really?

  2. Yes it’s definitely more complicated than that. I doubt many people indoctrinate their children into believing that smoking is ok. Choosing to smoke is more of a choice (admittedly driven by peer pressure usually) than “choosing” not to have a transfusion.

    The former is usually something like “Hey, you should have a cigarette, it’s cool to smoke” whereas the latter is more like “You must choose not to have a transfusion otherwise your friends and family will stop talking to you and you will never achieve eternal peace.”

  3. I have to say, as a former (yes, disfellowshipped) JW, that you are wrong about a couple of things.

    1) “Sadly, JWs arenít allowed to associate with non-JWs, so even talking to a doctor about her options is against the rules and could have her disfellowed.” Incredibly wrong. Are there special Jehovah’s Witness schools? Workplaces? Markets? No. Talking to your doctor about your options is encouraged.

    2) Partial plasma is not expressly allowed. It’s a personal decision that if it becomes public and stumbles someone it can lead to consequences. There is, of course, more to the “stumbling” effect that I’m not going into here.

    3) How is one person’s decision to abide by what they believe to be true any concern of yours? If a 14 year old girl can decide to have sex and possibly contract HIV, she can certainly decide to refuse a medical procedure that she believes will kill her in the long run.

    Sometimes, especially with the terminally ill, faith is all they have left. We should respect that.

  4. As I understand it, talking to a “worldly person” (a non JW) could result in you being “marked”. I’m guessing that rule is deliberately vague so as to allow day-to-day interaction but give the option of marking at the least provocation.

    Hemoglobin transfusions have been allowed by the JW governing body since June last year. What is and is not allowed to be transfused seems ridiculously complicated and completely arbitary. As far as I can see there is absolutely no scriptural reasoning behind it.

    What that girl chooses is not really my concern. My concern is with the extreme indoctrination and bad practices of the JW cult. I’m glad you got out. I’m sorry for the pain I’m sure it caused.

  5. Sadly, I have cared fro JW patients when the main part of their treatment is blood trandfusions. Sometimes, one feels helpless as you know that without blood death is almost certain.

    Most of the patients I’ve encountered have elected to recieve the blood, even though they are JW. They usualy do this after consulting with doctors.

    although, as a general rule, caring for a JW becomes extremely complicated. Interestingly, there are now surgeons who’s “specialty” has become operating on JW. Especially in operations where a large amount of blood is expected to be lost.

  6. It is incredible to me that folks who are not associated with Witnesses know so much about us. You call us a cult with “extreme indoctrination and bad practices” yet you know the papparazzi’s version of what the Bible says.

    We do not shun members who talk to non believers, if that were the case we would ALL be shunned, because as i am sure you know, we preach (talk to about the Bible) to non believers everyday Mat 24:14.

    Also, Jehovah (Psalms 83:18) has given all of us, you included, the right to choose how to live your life. No one is obligated to do anything we do not want to do. That same thought is prevelant in our organization.

    Maybe, instead of trying to ban our practices, why dont you read (from your own Bible) read about the wonderful things God is going to do for us.

    Isaiah 33:24; Rev 21:3,4 are perfect examples. At that point, there will be no point for this discussion.

  7. There is so many things wrong with this article. You’ve done a miserable job of researching us…

    I’m sorry, but you’re totally incorrect about shunning members who talk to non believers. We’re encouraged not to develop long-term friendships, but we work alongside non-JW’s all day, and treat them with kindness and respect.

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