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Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses reject blood transfusions?

Ulcers, major surgeries, infections, Leukemia, Cancers, Blood Disorders, Liver Problems ... the list of conditions that require, or may require a blood transfusion are endless. So why is there a group of people who famously object to this kind of medical treatment?

According to HFA, four hundred babies are born with Hemophilia A each year, a condition requiring blood transfusion therapy in order to “have a normal life expectancy and [be] able to lead a fairly normal life.”

According to WHO, “42% of children less than 5 years of age and 40% of pregnant women worldwide are anaemic.” According to MayoClinic, treatments include “oxygen, pain relievers, and oral and intravenous fluids … also … blood transfusions

Ulcers, major surgeries, infections, Leukemia, Cancers, Blood Disorders, Liver Problems … the list of conditions that require, or may require a blood transfusion are endless. So why is there a group of people who famously object to this kind of medical treatment? A kind that has saved countless lives over the years? To them, it’s simple, the(ir) Bible says not to.

Growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness I had the “No Blood Card” in my wallet, and if I ever got any sort of disease or condition that required a Blood Transfusion, I wouldn’t have gotten one. That scared me, a lot, even when I was young and I didn’t fully understand what life meant to me. The philosophy they explained to me was that even if you died – you did it in the name of Jehovah. You died a “good death,” in one of the most honorable ways. This way you could make it into the Paradise that Jehovah promises to all of his devout followers, and live forever after the resurrection.

Now, if you were on the other side of the coin, and you chose to get the transfusion (to save your life), you would be shunned, if not Disfellowshipped. That action is seen to your congregation as a blatant act against God, and depicts you as a weak and fearful person, with no trust in Jehovah. Every year, the Jehovah’s Witnesses released a Yearbook of all the sacrifices their “brothers and sisters” have made all over the world. These “sacrifices” not only included acts that were mentally detrimental, but many of the ones I personally remember involved physical persecution, some ending in death. Even though they recently ceased publication of the Yearbook (for other reasons), you can see examples here.

The act of refusing blood transfusions is one of the core beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and has been a proper way of conducting yourself as a Witness since their very founding. If you were to ask them why they refuse transfusions, they would explain that there are “other methods” and “blood is sacred.” They might even throw in, “Did you know you can get Aids from a blood transfusion?” My Grandmother personally told me that I could just get a coconut water transfusion instead, an example of the “other methods” they believe will save them from using blood instead.

In reality, it all boils down to one scripture they base their belief upon:

“to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”

Acts 15: 29 , New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

They explain that blood is sacred to Jehovah, it is the fuel of life, and it should never be “misused.” Whether that be eating it, using it in some sort of Pagan ritual, or (as they have translated it) having a transfusion.

When it comes down to a life or death decision, for them it is a necessary sacrifice, a “meaningful one,” if you will. This is important, because people are dying. The Jehovah’s Witness’ Bible has been re-translated more than twice, but the refusal of blood transfusions has remained in print. Why? So that they don’t lose followers. Imagine the anger their followers would feel if the Governing Body, one day, proclaimed that blood transfusions were okay? It’s unimaginable how many loved family members sacrificed their lives for this cause, and altering this core belief would cause an uprising in the organization.

So why do Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions? Because they cannot risk their followers leaving. Even though many other rules in the organization have changed, even since the time I left years ago, this one has held strong, due to the amount of people it has killed.


I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

Richard Dawkins

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