B Stett (Assisted by B J Kotwall & R Beharrell)

(Investigator 61, 1998 July)

The Watchtower Society (WTS) seemingly backed down to the government of Bulgaria in a conflict over blood transfusions!

In 1961 the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses which controls the WTS – the corporation managing J W legal matters – made the giving or taking of blood for transfusion an excommunication offense:

According to the law of Moses...the receiver of a blood transfusion must be cut off from God’s people by excommunication or disfellowshipping… As a rebellious opposer and unfaithful example to fellow members of the Christian congregation he must be cut off therefrom by disfellowshipping.
(The Watchtower 1961 January 15 pp. 63, 64)

On June 28, 1994 the Bulgarian Council of Ministers refused to renew the registration of J Ws as a religion. In 1995 the WTS lost an appeal in the Bulgarian Supreme Court for legal status. The religious activities of J Ws in Bulgaria were restricted. The main reason for the restrictions was the anti blood doctrine enforced by excommunication.

Complaint on the matter went before the European Commission of Human Rights located at Strasbourg.

In March 1998 the Bulgarian government granted J Ws recognition as a religion and the WTS agreed to allow J Ws free choice regarding transfusions.

The Commission accepted this and its website said:

The applicant undertook with regard to its stance on blood transfusions to draft a statement for inclusion in its statute providing that members should have free choice in the matter for themselves and their children, without any control or sanction on the part of the association.

The Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood is an international group of eight anonymous J Ws some serving as "Elders and hospital Liaison Committee Members". Their goal is to make the Governing Body permit blood therapy to J Ws and to concede that this does not violate any Bible commands. Their website had a letter (dated April 23) to the Governing Body requesting clarification of the Bulgarian situation but got no response.

A WTS press release dated April 27 said:

Bulgaria has agreed to grant the Christian Association of Jehovah's Witnesses recognition as a religion. Bulgaria also agreed to create without delay a bill that will allow alternate civilian service for those whose conscience will not allow them to engage in military service. The agreement also includes an acknowledgment that each individual has the freedom to choose the type of medical treatment he receives. With the amicable settlement the Witnesses agreed to withdraw their complaint against Bulgaria.

Many anti J W ministries speculated that the WTS could not maintain different blood policies in Bulgaria and the rest of the world and that therefore the anti-transfusion doctrine would soon be defunct.

The WTS, however, denies any compromise. Frank Russo, a subscriber to Investigator, phoned the J W headquarters in New York and got the comment:

The wording left a lot to be desired of the Bulgarian brothers. We haven't disfellowshipped anyone for years for taking blood if they repent.

A radio discussion in Finland involving a WTS Branch-office committee member suggested nothing has changed: "Everybody freely chooses not to take transfusions."

An article titled Living up to Christian Dedication in Freedom in The Watchtower of March 15, 1998, says that J Ws have freedom of choice as "free moral agents".

Apparently the Governing Body strategy is to get every J W to say he independently follows his Bible-trained conscience. Each will then reject blood supposedly on his own initiative!

If any J W does take blood he presumably won’t be disfellowshipped because of the clause which forbids "control or sanction". That part of the doctrine therefore has to change. However, there could still be unofficial sanction expressed as disapproval from fellow J Ws.

Previous Investigator analysis estimated that 4,000 J Ws have died needlessly by rejecting blood. This estimate excluded J Ws who were involved in the needless deaths of relatives and subsequently committed suicide.

On August 3 1996 Sam Perrota of Aukland New Zealand, for example, rejected blood on behalf of his wife and three-year-old daughter after a car accident. The daughter died needlessly. Sam subsequently studied the doctrine, found it to be erroneous, and was therefore excommunicated. The wife, Simone Perrota, then committed suicide. (Outreach Tidbits 1998 April)

Investigator No. 8 suggested the Governing Body hangs on to their "bloody doctrine" in the hope that "artificial blood", which can transport both oxygen and carbon dioxide, will come to the rescue. Trials with J Ws started in 1979. But to date artificial blood remains only a partial answer:

Test of blood substitute canceled due to deaths
HOUSTON—A test of a blood substitute in emergency room patients has been halted because more patients died than expected… Baxter Healthcare Corp. of Deerfield, Ill., ended the trauma patients test on Tuesday after a review of the first 100 study enrollees showed that people given the artificial blood HemAssist died at a greater rate than those who did not receive it...  (Dayton Daily News 1998 April 2)

Theological evidence provided in Investigator has shown that the anti-blood doctrine has no more support in the Bible than the WTS’s former bans on vaccinations and tissue transplants had!

Examine your beliefs:

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: