Chicago Med – Raising Awareness of Watchtower on TV
A popular television show, Chicago Med, has recently made reference to Watchtowers doctrine on blood. You can find a brief clip and some further information regarding the episode here:
If you are not a Jehovah’s Witness, or freshly joined, or even a veteran – you may be surprised to learn a bit more about the history of this doctrine and consider a few scriptures that indicate it may be wrong…
Until 1945, accepting whole blood was actually allowed. After this, it was disallowed and continues to be disallowed today. Most recently, Watchtower’s doctrine changed to allow minor blood fractions. More than this, there was a time they didn’t even allow organ transplants.
Sustaining one’s life by means of the body or part of the body of another human… would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people. … It is not our place to decide whether such operations are advisable from a scientific or medical standpoint. … Christians who have been enlightened by God’s Word do not need to make these decisions based simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles and use these in making personal decisions as they look to God for direction, trusting him and putting their confidence in the future that he has in store for those who love him. – Watchtower 1967 November 15 pp.702-704
As odd as this reasoning may seem to you, they also used a very different and far more illogical reasoning than this.
A peculiar factor sometimes noted is a so-called ‘personality transplant.’ That is, the recipient in some cases has seemed to adopt certain personality factors of the person from whom the organ came. – Watchtower 1975 September 1 p.519
This is a brief history on this doctrine, now lets discuss how this is based on the bible and whether or not the bible agrees. Then we’ll put it all together, which should give us a solid reason to think critically about this doctrine.
If you’re a Witness, or were, you likely already are familiar with what this is based on. For those readers who are not, let’s summarize how Watchtower arrives at this conclusion that God would not want you to accept a blood transfusion – even if your life was at stake.
I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. – Leviticus 17:10 NIV
But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. – Deuteronomy 12:23 NIV
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. – Acts 15:28, 29 NIV
These are the primary scriptures used to support this doctrine. You may be wondering how scripture that is about eating blood is being used to say that you should not accept a transfusion. All they say is that a transfusion is like eating it.
Is a transfusion really the same as eating blood?
In a hospital, when a patient cannot eat through his mouth, he is fed intravenously. Now, would a person who never put blood into his mouth but who accepted blood by transfusion really be obeying the command to “keep abstaining from . . . blood”? (Acts 15:29) To use a comparison, consider a man who is told by the doctor that he must abstain from alcohol. Would he be obedient if he quit drinking alcohol but had it put directly into his veins? – Reasoning From the Scriptures p. 70-76
Before we get into the science of this claim, lets consider the scripture as this heading promises to do.
Does the Bible say not to eat blood? Absolutely it does, blood was to be considered sacred because, as the scripture quoted above says, life is in the blood. There were strict laws governing the use of blood and it was to be poured out onto the ground. Indeed, misusing blood could have very well cost you your life.
However, it bears consideration that per Watchtower doctrine (and, I think, most other christian doctrines) we are no longer living under the Mosaic Law. Right? Watchtower teaches that Jesus came to “fulfill” the law (Matthew 5:17).
Jesus’ death on the torture stake was the basis for removing the Law, which had separated the Jews from the non-Jews. Therefore, by accepting the reconciliation made possible by Jesus’ death, both Jews and non-Jews could become “one body to God through the torture stake.” (Eph 2:11-16; Col 1:20; 2:13, 14) – Insight On the Scriptures Vol 2 p. 1116, 1117
This is extremely important to note, because the doctrine is that we are to be imitating Jesus example and doing as he taught. This is very interesting, because do you know what else brought the death penalty according to the Mosaic Law? Doing work on the sabbath.
For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a day of sabbath rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it is to be put to death. – Exodus 35:2 NIV
Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” – Matthew 12:9-12 NIV
Watchtower is right about one thing, the point of the laws regarding blood involved the sacredness of life, showing it respect. Does it show respect to life to let yourself or a loved on die when they could be saved? Consider these scriptures about the sabbath. Breaking the sabbath and doing work meant you would be put to death, the same penalty for breaking the law regarding blood. But what did Jesus show? He showed that allowing an animal to die rather than break the sabbath to save that animal was wrong. Life is sacred, and the law was to be broken to preserve it. He then asked, “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep?” Human life is not to be thrown away. Would Jesus not say the same today about blood transfusions? In the companion account of this same event recorded in Mark, Jesus goes so far as to say that choosing not to save life is “doing evil.”
Is This Medically Accurate?
Let’s take a moment to consider the science of this excerpt from the Reasoning book. This particular bit never made sense to me because when I was in highschool I had to take “Health” class. I think this is probably a pretty typical class to have to take, so I invite you to call back on all that you learned there. One of the things you likely learned was that when you consume alcohol your body does not metabolize it. Instead, alcohol goes directly into the blood stream and affects the brain pretty quickly. This is the reason why it doesn’t take very long for you to feel that wine or beer when you’re relaxing, because alcohol literally goes right to your head. How does this compare to consuming blood? If you eat blood, your body metabolizes it. So already there is a problem with this comparison. As far as consumption – alcohol and blood are not comparable. One your body does not eat (alcohol), the other it does (blood).
That brings up the question though, what if blood is transfused? Would your body treat it like food? No, it would not. Your body does not metabolize blood that is transfused into your veins. This point is made very well in this example:
…Consider the case where two patients are admitted to a hospital because they are not able to eat and thus sustain themselves. One patient is given a blood transfusion, whereas the other is given I.V. Dextrose or the equivalent. Which one will live? Obviously, it is the one given I.V. Dextrose which can actually be used by the body as food. The patient given the blood transfusion will die because blood is not food, but simply the vehicle used to transport it.
Feel free to ask your doctor to verify this information.
Putting It All Together
This is a lot of information to take in, but with it all in mind do you still feel the same way about the blood doctrine? Think about how it’s changed over the years. At first they were allowed, but God does not change so he wouldn’t have approved then right? What happens to all those people who accepted transfusions before 1945? What about organ transplants, who should be held accountable for all the people who died because they refused new organs, only to have doctrine later change so they’re acceptable? The same could be asked of fractions, how many people died over the years that may have been saved by accepting minor blood fractions that were once disallowed?
Do you really want to put your life at risk for a doctrine that seems to change with an alarming frequency, and that isn’t even medically or logically sound?