Two articles about blood transfusions from Investigator #12


(Investigator 12, 1990 May p. 8)

Vic Chambers was baptized by the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1957 and Lance Garvie in 1971. Both belong to the Woodville Congregation. Recently they called at my house and told me about their views on blood transfusions

Said Mr Chambers:
"The life is in the blood. The blood carries oxygen and removes poisons. To take blood is like taking some one else's life. Therefore early in man's history, long before the Law of Moses, God said: 'Only flesh with its soul its blood, you must not eat.' That's in Genesis 9.4."

"So much can go wrong with a blood transfusion. Even doctors won't take them nowadays. There's the risk of hepatitis and AIDS. Your body destroys foreign blood anyway.

"Leviticus 17:10 says: 'As for any man of the house of Israel or some alien resident who is residing as an alien in their midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly…cut him off from among his people.' To be 'cut off' means they were to be put to death. We're not under the old Law so of course, Jehovah's Witnesses don't put people to death if they take blood.

"Deuteronomy 12:23-24 says: 'Simply be firmly resolved not to eat blood, because the blood is the soul and you not east the soul along with the flesh. You must not eat it. You should pour it out upon the ground as water.

"The fact that God's command to Noah was incorporated into the Law of Moses shows that God wasn't changing.  It applies to Christians too as revealed in Acts chapter 15.

"Acts 15 explains that the elders in Jerusalem met together to decide whether Gentile Christians had to be circumcised. The conclusion was: 'For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols end from blood end from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper.  Good health to you.'

"The words 'no further burden' show that circumcision was not necessary for Christians. The words 'good health to you' show that abstaining from blood and these other things would promote good health."

I asked Mr Chambers whether the following paragraph from their 1961 booklet, BLOOD MEDICINE AND THE LAW OF GOD, was still taken as accurate:
And what is involved in loving God with our whole soul? Remember that in his post-Flood statement of the law to Noah, God equated the soul with the blood, saying: "Only flesh with its soul — its blood — you must not eat." (Genesis 9:3, 4) Later he restated the principle to the Israelites: "The blood is the soul."  (Deuteronomy 12:23)  We cannot drain from our body part of that blood, which represents our life, and still love God with our whole soul, because we have taken away part of  'our soul — our blood' — and given it to someone else. Nor would it be sound to argue that loving one's neighbour as oneself would warrant such giving of blood to another person. Love of neighbor is the second commandment and is limited by the first one, which requires complete love of God, consequently obedience to his commandments.—John 5:3.
Mr Chambers replied:
"We still accept that. If you give your blood to someone else by transfusion then you can't love God with 'all your soul'. To take blood from another or to give your own blood to another person is to reject Jesus' sacrifice when he gave his own blood for mankind."

I told the two visitors:
"Your religion used to claim that vaccinations were against the Bible. You also taught that transplants of human tissue are against the Scriptures and it's better to go blind than have a cornea transplant. You used to teach that thinking is done not in the brain but in the literal heart, the muscle that pumps blood. Christians, whom you call false Christians, all along taught the truth on these things. Therefore I will have to get your interpretation about blood checked just in case you're wrong again."

Mr Garvie spoke up for the first time:
"Transplants are now up to the individual conscience but I still wouldn't have one. You risk transferring the other person's attitudes into yourself. One man who had a child's heart transplanted into him took up skipping just like a child."
"I haven't heard of that. You're wrong, however, in teaching that the Bible is against organ transplants. Therefore I'll have to get your interpretation about blood checked."

Mr Chambers continued:
"The Bible is consistent. It's against blood before the Mosaic Law, during and after. Blood transfusion is never necessary anyway. Surgeons just have to work with precision and not like butchers. Also there are alternatives to blood like dextran and saline solutions."
I replied: "Alternatives are OK when the patient loses only a litre or two of blood, but not when he's lost say 60% or more."
Chambers: "No, some Jehovah's Witnesses have had very low blood counts and survived without blood transfusion."

Me:  "I've checked some medical journals and found examples of doctors doing all they could but the JW still was about to die and then accepted blood and was saved."*

Chambers: "They couldn't have been real Jehovah's Witnesses."

Me: "The value of blood transfusions was scientifically proved during the World Wars. Debate about their worth was settled then."

Chambers: "Well, there's a clear cut Bible command to abstain."

* The following newspapers and journals demonstrate there are limits to how much blood a patient can lose and still survive without blood transfusion:

Blood rejected, Woman, 27, Dies (The News, 1996 March 16)
Victim said no to blood (The Advertiser, 1979 January 8)
'Defence needed' on transfusions (The Advertiser, 1975 January 9)

Journal of the American Medical Association 1974 May 20 discussed three JW patients given hyperbaric oxygen in addition to having their blood volume restored with non-blood products. One patient still required a blood transfusion to avoid death.

Journal of the American Medical Association 1977 September 19 discussed "Cardiovascular Surgery in Jehovah's Witnesses — Report of 542 Operations Without Blood transfusions." It said: "…anemia was a contributing factor in 12 deaths, and loss of blood was the direct cause of three deaths."


(Investigator 12, p. 20)

Around l940 the JW leaders believed: "…blood transfusion has saved many lives." (Consolation 1940, October l6, p.11 Australian edition) Their own magazine recorded experiences like this one:
The Mending of a Heart
In New York city a housewife in moving a boarder's things accidentally shot herself through the heart with his revolver. She was rushed to a hospital, her left breast was cut around, four ribs were cut away, the heart was lifted out, three stitches were taken, one of the attending physicians in the great emergency gave a quart of his blood for transfusion, and today the woman lives and smiles gaily over what happened to her in the busiest 23 minutes of her life. (Consolation Volume XXII, 1940, December 25)
In 1945 the Dutch edition of CONSOLATION stated:
"God has never published a decree which forbids employing medicine, injections and blood transfusions. It is a human invention like the Pharisees' disregard for mercy and grace. To serve Jehovah with all the mind does not mean to put our intelligence in a box. The life being of great value is holy to Jehovah." (September, p. 29)
However, at that time the JW leaders opposed vaccinations:
"…vaccination is a direct violation of the ever lasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood." (The Golden Age 1931 February 4, p. 293, USA edition)

"As vaccination is a direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream vaccination is a direct violation of the law of Jehovah God." (1935 April 24, p. 471)
By 1945 the leaders, especially F.W. Franz* (vice-president, at the time, of the Watchtower Society), realized that blood transfusions can also be described as " direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream". Opposition to transfusions originated in this way as a spin-off doctrine from the vaccination issue.

[* Frederick Franz, b. 1893 became a colporteur for JWs in 1914, vice president of the sect in 1945, and president in 1977. He was the chief architect of such "Bible truths" as transfusions being against the Bible; Armageddon occurring in 1975; organ transplants being "cannibalism"; the literal heart and not the brain being involved in thinking; ex JWs to be shunned; Adam and eve created in 4026 BC; and paradise to be on earth within the twentieth century.]

The JW leaders enforced the new doctrine (as they enforce most of their new "light") by threatening death at Armageddon:

"… it behooves all worshippers of Jehovah who seek eternal life in this new world of righteousness to respect the sanctity of blood  and to conform to God's righteous rulings concerning this vital matter." (w1945 July 1, p. 201)

In 1952 the "law of Jehovah" against vaccinations was booted aside. It had restricted the international travels of the JW leaders and their missionaries. It had also resulted in thousands of JWs being quarantined. The spin-off doctrine — opposition to blood — should reasonably have been shoved aside also. But the leaders, at that stage N. Knorr, F. Franz and M. Henschel, would have lost face.

Perhaps 100 followers had died already from blood loss. Certain prophecies had recently failed. One prophecy was that: "Israel will never be restored as a nation." (Consolation 1939, 11/29, p.17, Australian edition) Another prophecy made in the mid 1920s concerned the resurrection of ancient Jews in about 1950. And there were other major changes in doctrine. To dump both the anti-vaccination and the anti-transfusion commands at the same time, while other serious things were failing as well, might have hurt the prestige of the leaders just too much.

Frederick W. Franz had five main arguments which I'll now proceed to refute:

1    Franz argued that blood is the soul Christians must love God with "all your soul". Blood donors lose some blood and therefore can't love "with all your soul". (Blood, Medicine and the Law of God 1961 p. 8)

Franz is wrong in this argument because love does not depend on blood volume. God has no blood at all because God, the Bible says, is a "spirit". And yet, though being bloodless, "God is love".  (1 John 4:7-19)

2    Franz claimed that Genesis 9:4 "blood you must not eat" is a command to all mankind.  (w1945 12/1)

Franz is wrong again since Deuteronomy 14:21 (please check it up) clearly shows that Genesis 9:4 did not apply to all mankind. Furthermore, Genesis 9: 4 refers to the blood of those animals which "may serve as food for you". (9:3) Humans are not "animals"…which may serve as food".

3    Franz used Leviticus 17:10-14 which commanded ancient Jews not to eat blood.

That command, however, was part of the Law of Moses which JWs believe does not apply to Christians. (Ephesians 2:14-16; Psalm 147:l9-20) Obviously, if the command doesn't apply then Franz and his JW followers shouldn't quote it [to support their anti blood doctrine].

4    Franz cites Acts 15:28-29 which gives four "necessary things" that should be "abstained" from.

The Watchtower
for 1909 April 14, pp 116-117, which JW leaders have never declared wrong, states that the four "necessary things" were not a law. The four "necessary things" were not addressed to the whole Christian church but to: "the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia." (Acts 15:23) The four "necessary things" were necessary for Jews and Christians to be at peace with each other.

5    Franz counter argues that one of the "necessary things" was to abstain from "fornication". And that is something that still applies to all Christians! (Revelation 21:8)

However, in Acts 15 "fornication" referred to ignoring Jewish laws and arrangements regarding marriage. Technically that was "fornication" in Israel. (Bruce, F. B. 1982 Bible Study Commentary, p. 67) So, "fornication", in this instance (Acts 15), did not refer to sexual deviancy or to premarital sexual intercourse but to getting married other than by the Jewish means.

The four "necessary things" were temporary measures to maintain peaceful relations between Jews and Christians in and around Israel.

Franz's biblical arguments have now been demolished.


Franz liked to cite statistics of blood transfusions killing people. In the USA between 3,000 and 30,000 people are killed annually from blood transfusions. If all transfusions were banned then all those people would live is what Franz and JWs imply. 

However, in the USA about 4 million people receive transfusions each year. Many of them get only 1 or 2 units of blood. Many of the people who get 1 or 2 units would also recover from their illnesses if, instead of blood, they had one of the many available non-blood alternative mixtures transfused into them.

However, of the 4 million blood recipients the majority suffered major blood loss of 3 or 4 or more pints. Alternatives to blood would be inadequate in such cases of major blood loss because they do not transport oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body. One can't be precise due to human variability in ability to survive and recover. But If we banned all blood transfusions and in this way tried to save those 3000 - 30,000 who died from blood transfusion the new death toll would he over 2 million!

In the 1930s the JW magazines presented regular examples of people who suffered adverse reactions from vaccinations. Citing isolated ill effects ignored that smallpox, for example, which killed or disfigured 50 million Europeans in the 18th century was conquered by vaccination. Had the world listened to "Jehovah" and banned vaccinations we might again have small pox cases (and other now-conquered diseases) by the hundreds of millions! 

When Franz cites examples of unfortunates who died from blood transfusions he makes the same sort of statistical mistake that he previously made when opposing vaccinations! There may be JWs still alive who are disfigured from polio because Franz opposed vaccinations. For about 15 years until l980 Franz also opposed tissue transplants as "unscriptural" and JWs were required to choose blindness to a cornea transplant.

How many JWs have died needlessly for lack of blood transfusion?  I am aware of four unnecessary JW deaths in South Australia occurring in 1965, 1974, 1978 and 1985. There might however be others that I don't know about. Of all JWs worldwide about 1/700 live in South Australia. A rough estimate of worldwide needless JW deaths is therefore 700x4 = 2,800.

This, however, should be checked by uncovering total JW deaths from blood loss in other countries, states, or cities and making similar calculations.

Another approach is to base estimates on hospital records and reports in medical journals. Apparently about one JW in 10,000 died annually, unnecessarily, from blood loss. If one adds up all JW preachers for each year from 1946-1981 the total is 40,000,000.

1/10,000 of this is 4000. 4000 JW deaths! Both estimates, however, are just estimates.

Why Retain the Doctrine?

Why don't JW leaders admit their error, permit blood transfusions, and let their people live?

One reason is that scientists may soon have an "artificial blood" which safely performs the major functions of real blood, such as transport oxygen and carbon dioxide, long enough for the body to replenish its own blood supply. (J. American Medical Association 1980, February 22)

Another reason is the upheaval resulting from false prophecies for 1975 which contributed to 1 million defections. Admitting to 4000 needless deaths would obviously cause further spiritual devastation. Scholar Jerry Bergman writes:
"The writer was informed by a member of the writing staff of Awake! magazine, that the Society clearly recognizes their error  relative to the prohibition against blood transfusions, but hesitates to alter the rule because they feel that a change would create more problems than continuing to teach an incorrect position. All of those who lost children, husbands, loved ones, or relatives because of the ban on blood transfusions would no doubt feel, to some extent that their loss was in vain.

Rather than create the chance of causing a large upheaval by changing this doctrine, it was felt best to continue the previous teaching. It was reasoned that a change in this official teaching would 'stumble' many, and thus they would lose out on their 'everlasting life'. On the other hand, continuation of the doctrine may cause several hundred or even thousands of people to die, but because they have died 'in faith', will be resurrected according to the Society's teachings and, in the end, nothing will be lost."
(The Mental Health of Jehovah's Witnesses 1967 p.156)

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: