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Have the Jehovah’s Witnesses changed their position on blood transfusions?

Full Question

Is it true that the Watchtower Society, the parent organization for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, has made a change in its long-standing policy on prohibiting blood transfusions?


Yes, and the implications for Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s) are staggering. For those who may not know, JW’s believe that blood transfusions are expressly forbidden by God and that to receive one is akin to committing spiritual suicide. They would rather die–or even allow a family member to die–than receive one. Their belief comes from an erroneous understanding of the Old Testament prohibitions against eating blood (cf. Gn 9:4, Lv 17:10-14; notice that it’s animal blood being spoken of) and the New Testament admonition to abstain from blood for the sake of not offending another’s conscience (cf. Acts 15:29).

The policy change occurred in 1998 for JWs in Bulgaria, where their status as a religion was threatened because of their prohibition against transfusions. With an earlier law in mind, the Bulgarian government viewed this prohibition as a danger to public health and threatened to deny their status as a religion. The JWs reacted by taking the Bulgarian government before the European Human Rights Commission (EHRC). In a communique issued by the EHRC Secretary, the JW leadership in Bulgaria claimed that JWs have “free choice in the matter” and–more importantly–that there are “no religious sanctions for a Jehovah’s Witness who chooses to accept blood transfusions” (emphasis added).

This alleged lack of sanctions is a 180-degree turn by the WTS, since its longstanding policy was articulated as follows:

According to the law of Moses, which set forth shadows of things to come, the receiver of a blood transfusion must be cut off from God's people by excommunication or disfellowshiping. . . As a rebellious opposer and unfaithful example to fellow members of the Christian congregation he must be cut off therefrom by disfellowshiping. (The Watchtower,  January 15, 1961, p. 64)

It should be noted that disfellowshiping for a JW means a complete shunning by all other JW’s, including family members. He or she effectively becomes totally cut off from all religious and even social ties, as the majority of a JW’s friends and associates typically are fellow JW’s.

As a result of this change in doctrine, one can only conclude that (a) the WTS has different standards for its members, depending on where they live (a similar change does not apply for JWs elsewhere), (b) the WTS intentionally misrepresented its policy to circumvent the difficulty with the Bulgarian government, or (c) this change is yet another example of mutating doctrines of the WTS. Any way you view it, this change is clearly problematic.



  1. Edward A. Hara Reply

    And yet another reason that ordinary individuals should not try to understand the Sacred Scriptures without the help and guidance of Holy Mother Church.

    The prohibition on eating blood has to do with idolatry. It was, and still is in some places, a form of worship to drink blood of an animal which has been sacrificed to an idol. It is believed that by this act, one becomes united to the false “god” that the idol represents. It has nothing to do with modern blood transfusions.

    1. jonh Reply

      ? The bible speaks of the church as being detestable to god. Jesus also said live free give free yet the churches suck every last penny out of your pockets they can… ya cause thats in the bible not only that the bible tells you to read it and god will open your mind to help you understand it. Not some moron that has no clue telling you lies. Here’s an example theres a scripture in the bible that says no one on earth should be called father but only the one in the heavens… yet these so called disgusting priests put themselves above god and take the title father.. ya they are definitely teaching truth. And hell is not a place of torment it means common grave from greek translation. Idiots if you actually read the bible like it tells you to you would actually learn something.

      1. Edward A. Hara Reply

        The Church is called “The Bride of Christ” in scripture. No man finds his beloved detestable. You believe in a religion made up in the 19th century by a man who lied under oath, claiming that he could read Greek when he couldn’t, and yet you think you are a capable interpreter of Scripture?

        Give me a break!

  2. Mairead Conroy Reply

    Jesus tells us it’s not what we eat or drink that makes us impure but what’s in our hearts

  3. Sharon Jefferies Reply

    Why comment or write articles about things you neither understand or know anything of. There are so many misunderstandings on who and what Jehovah’s witnesses believe in, it amazes me! What I do know, is that for the most part they are wonderful people, their faith is far greater then their worries about what others may say about the organization…they don’t harm anyone, nor do they advocate any hatred or harm to ward others, the only thing they do is what Jesus commanded, to spread his word, and to tell the truth to others. If you really want the truth, then speak to someone with knowledge. If you need advice about the law, you speak to a lawyer.

    1. Edward A. Hara Reply

      We have no misunderstanding at all. They do not allow blood transfusions. This is common knowledge, and as I said, they are wrong becaue they are ignorant of what the Bible is saying regarding the eating of blood. They are just another in a long line of groups and people who think that they have somehow discovered “truth” 1800 years after Jesus and the Apostles. Like all outside the Catholic Church, they think that they and they alone have somehow restored the truth that was hidden for 1800 years.

      They may be wonderful people, humanly speaking. In fact, many of them may be better than a number of Catholics in the world, such as Nancy Pelosi. But that is not the question. The question is this: how does God view those who reject His Church and His truth for something made up in the minds of man? They are not speaking the truth, and they are following a man who lied under oath, telling a judge that he spoke and read Greek. When presented with a Greek Bible and told to read it, he admitted that he had perjured himself.

      God’s truth has been given to mankind in two ways: the Sacred Scriptures, and the Holy Catholic Church, who alone is given the charism of properly interpreting those scriptures. The Scriptures state that the Church is the “pillar and ground of truth” (1Tim.3:15). The JW organization wasn’t even around for another 1800 years when Paul wrote that to Timothy.

      Good people don’t deceive people on spiritual matters of such importance as eternal life.

    2. marta bacon Reply

      Many people and their families have been harmed by refusing blood transfusion that could have saved lives.Spliting families by shunning is also harmfull .False doctrines and prophets .Their organization has a history of protecting pedophiles ,look it up.Sheep like type members are ignorant victims with no critical thinking ,not to be confused with “nice people”.So much more to this cult people are ignorant about.

  4. Hart Ponder Reply

    As an ex JW and Elder, this news needs to come out. Their doctrines has cost many lives. In my time (I left around 2000), the JWs maintained a “hospital committee” comprised of Elders to assure those who were tempted to get a blood transfusion did not. For the penalty was disfellowshipping if you did. Many died with a false belief they were pleasing God. Many parents forsake proper medical treatment for their kids which ended in death.

    As a Catholic convert, please pray for me and my part as an elder in supporting this tragic situation.

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