Why won't Jehovah's Witnesses accept blood transfusions, even when their lives are in jeopardy?

By November 3, 2014 28 Comments

Full Question

Why won’t Jehovah’s Witnesses accept blood transfusions, even when their lives are in jeopardy?


Mainly because their founder, Charles Taze Russell, scrambled to come up with a unique set of doctrines that would stand out from the pack. He didn’t seem to care which biblical teachings he embraced and which he rejected, so long as the resulting doctrinal pastiche would be exotic. Rejecting blood transfusions on “biblical” grounds is one of the WTS’ truly odd tenets. Witnesses cite two verses as bases for their position:

  • You shall eat no blood whatever, whether of fowl or of animal, in any of your dwellings. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people (Lv 7:26-27).
  • For the life of every creature is the blood of it; therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off (Lv 17:14).

Besides being inconsistent by retaining this particular Old Covenant prohibition while ignoring others, such as circumcision (cf. Gn 17:2-14) and kosher dietary laws (cf. Dt 14:3-21), Witnesses misunderstand what these passages are talking about. In both Leviticus 7 and 17 the prohibition is against the eating of blood, not reception of blood through transfusions (a medical procedure which was developed only within the last century). Witnesses ignore the fact that in a single passage in Leviticus the Lord prohibits the eating of both blood and fat: “It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places, that you eat neither fat nor blood” (3:17). Yet the Watchtower does not condemn the eating of fat, and no Jehovah’s Witness would feel any moral compunction against eating a bag of fried pork rinds or enjoying a nice, fatty cut of prime rib. This is a good example of the Watchtower’s selective “theology.”


  • Jacob Aud says:

    In Acts God’s Word – The Holy Bible – also mentions abstaining from blood:
    (Acts 15:19-20)
    Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled AND FROM BLOOD.
    – Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
    (Caps added for emphasis.)

    • Mary says:

      @Jacob Aud: Not sure what your point is. Paul specifically states that there is nothing wrong with eating food sacrificed to idols and explains that this prohibition was provided so as not to stumble others. This was only an issue in congregations that were having trouble between Jews & Gentiles.
      1 Corinthians 8:4-13 “Now concerning the eating of foods offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one. Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food will not commend us to God; if we do not eat, we do not fall short, and, if we eat, we have no credit to ourselves. But keep watching that this authority of YOURS does not somehow become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone should see you, the one having knowledge, reclining at a meal in an idol temple, will not the conscience of that one who is weak be built up to the point of eating foods offered to idols? 11 Really, by your knowledge, the man that is weak is being ruined, [your] brother for whose sake Christ died. But when YOU people thus sin against YOUR brothers and wound their conscience that is weak, YOU are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat flesh at all, that I may not make my brother stumble.”
      1 Corinthians 10:25-33 “Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; for “to Jehovah belong the earth and that which fills it.” If anyone of the unbelievers invites YOU and YOU wish to go, proceed to eat everything that is set before YOU, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience. But if anyone should say to YOU: “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience. “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other person. For why should it be that my freedom is judged by another person’s conscience? If I am partaking with thanks, why am I to be spoken of abusively over that for which I give thanks? Therefore, whether YOU are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory. Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God, even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.”
      Even though the decree at Acts 15 says to abstain from eating food sacrificed to idols, Paul makes clear that there is nothing wrong with this practice. He said it was only wrong when it stumbled the brothers, in this case the Judaizers. The same principal applies to blood. Acts 15 included food sacrificed to idols, blood and animals strangled because they caused stumbling in the mixed congregations due to their being read “in the Synagogue on every Sabbath”, not because they are offensive to God. This became less of an issue after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. and holds no relevance in our era.

    • David Todd says:

      Any dietary restriction mentioned in “scripture” can’t be used to condemn a medical intervention. As has already been raised, it is completely anachronistic to apply a “no blood” ruling to a blood transfusion. Transfusions can’t be in mind here as THEY DIDN’T EXIST 2000 years ago. The dietary restriction that ritually returns the blood of a slaughtered animal to the ground during and after slaughter has nothing to do with life giving transfusions. Last time I checked, no human was being slaughtered to be used as food and the by product of blood stored for later use. We voluntarily give some of our blood to be turned into various components to be used for different reasons by means of intravenous interventions. We are not eating the blood of slaughtered animals so even a literal reading of this command to mean that it is a rule for all time shouldn’t apply here. The ruling is a dangerous doctrine that kills 900 people per year. Just imagine if a cult told 900 of its adherents to swallow poison & die in one location. This would receive international attention. The Jehovah’s Witnesses do this EVERY YEAR!

      • Yasmar says:

        Actually, if you check the facts, more people die of an allergic reaction to blood than die because they don’t have blood. Pope John Paul had an allergic reaction to the blood he received after he was shot. If you are old enough, you may remember he was allowed out of hospital only to be rushed back in a day or so later and was critically ill for two weeks while the doctors worked on saving his life a second time. Of course this didn’t become public knowledge because the powers that be didn’t want people panicking and refusing blood. As our Creator, God knows what is best for us and whilst blood transfusion only came into common use in the last century, you may be surprised to know that the Romans used to transfer blood from one person to another who needed it. They would insert a reed into the arm of both recipient and donor. Also, in biblical times it was common for the victors to drink the blood of the vanquished, so the restriction on blood did apply to human blood as well. Even if this were not the case, if your doctor told you to abstain from drinking alcohol, would you assume that he meant only imbibing orally or would you understand that he meant exactly what he said, ABSTAIN FROM!?!

  • Matoosk says:

    There are many more scriptures hat reference blood. And there are many principles regarding the sanctity of blood that you will not recognize today because you are too proud. Interesting you miss out on the point in your argument above, regarding idolatry which is spoken of throughout the entire bible, yet your church is riddled with idols and you blind your followers to pray to Mary… Hmmm. And you use your prayer books to say the same things ‘over and over’ where Matt 6:7 clearly says, “when praying, don’t say the same things over and over”. How about this one. Matt 23:9- ‘Don’t call anyone father on earth. For one is your father in heaven’. Yet, your priests call themselves ‘Father’. I love this one, 1 Tim 4:3, ‘They forbid marriage (yup, toy do that) and command people to abstain from foods that God created to be partaken of (no meat on Friday??!!) with thanksgiving by those who have faith and accurately know the truth.’ Catholic priests are in no way different than the Pharisees of Jesus day. Jesus was not afraid to call them hypocrites, and the pharisees hated Jesus for that… Interesting that the pope loved Hitler and was prominent in photos while Hitler was killing the Jehovahs Witnesses back then. I can’t imagine Jesus liking Hitler. Lol. Your made up, tradition riddled religion, that adopted pagan teachings to increase your numbers back in the 1-3rd centuries, is a joke. Don’t believe it? Look it up in your own Catholic Encyclopedia. Want to convert like so many others have from the hypocritical Catholic Faith? Read this article of a Catholic Priest who did… http://www.jw.org/en/publications/magazines/g201502/priest-left-church-interview/

    • @Matoosk…You clearly do not understand the Church, or its teachings. We have no idols in our churches. We have pictures and staues of people who were once here and whom we look up to as mentors when it comes to “Living in Christ”. I will bet you have some photos of people in your home and your wallet right now. Same thing. We also DO NOT worship Mary in prayer. We ask for her intercession much like we, and perhaps you, ask for someone to pray for us. You also make the same mistake many make when quoting Biblical verses… You cherry pick and do not read or at least quote the whole of the lesson. If you really want to learn more about the Church that Jesus founded, you should attend an RCIA class near you. God Bless.

      • amanda says:

        @Emmett G Hubarth… I thought the pope was your idol? I thought in the bible Jehovah wanted you to pray in His Son’s name, Jesus Christ not his imperfect mother? Jesus deserves the recognition, he died and suffered the torture for us and was perfect. mary just gave birth to him, right? Why do you have to go through a priest to pray to God? Kinda senseless to me. I’d rather just pray to Him directly, that way I can draw close to him..”and He will draw close to me” 🙂 Also about the rosary, why do you need that? why do ppl wear crosses around their necks? should i wear a gun around my neck because Tupac was killed by one so I flaunt what he was killed by.

        • Eltrion says:

          To Amanda and Matoosk:
          1. God chose Mary to be His Son’s earthly mother. She was and never be a God, nor angel. But definitely God has chosen her more than you, your mother or anybody else. Accept that.
          2. Jesus rejects the babbling and muttered uncleared prayer, yes. But didn’t He also told story about a widow who kept pleading to the judge to give her justice? Luke 18:6-7 (NET) And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unrighteous judge says!
          Won’t God give justice to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them?
          When we, Catholic, repeat prayer, we plea for God’s mercy upon our transgressions.
          3. Rosary. Rosary is just a tool so we can concentrate on the prayer rather than counting numbers of our prayer.
          That’s all.
          4. Wearing cross is not a catholic teaching or obligation. A lot of catholic wear shoes while Jesus only wore sandals. Why you mind it?
          5. If Pope gave hard attitude towards Hitler, at that time, the numbers of Jehovah Witness victims would be multipled. Read OT carefully. Sometimes God used the hand of the wicked to give lesson to His people.
          Read Jeremiah 28. The story of the Prophet Hananiah who provoked people of Israel to wage war against the Babilonians, while Prophet Jeremiah was sent to make peace against the oppresor.
          Hitler has fallen. But the people of God survives.
          6. If catholic forbid marriage, then theres no Marriage Sacraments.
          Celibacy is only one of the Priestly discipline in the Roman Rite.
          If you want to be a priest, then the discipline would be applied to you.
          If you don’t want celibate, then be a cathecists.
          I graduated economics, if I want to dissect somebody’s appendict, the discipline I should take is Medical Doctor on Internal organs. Not economics.
          Priesthood is a part of the Church ministry, based on these verses: Acts 6:2-4 (WEB) The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables.
          Therefore select from among you, brothers, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
          But we will continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the word.”
          Latin rite required that a priest should celibate, based on these verses:
          Matthew 19:12 (NET) For there are some eunuchs who were that way from birth, and some who were made eunuchs by others, and some who became eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this should accept it.”
          And from Paul:
          1 Corinthians 7:1, 6-7 (NET) Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
          I say this as a concession, not as a command.
          I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.
          You quoted the bible you don’t even understand, do you?

    • amanda says:

      thank you for your truthful comment 🙂

  • Trond E. Haveland says:

    Blood Transfusions
    Does the Bible’s prohibition include human blood?
    Yes, and early Christians understood it that way. Acts 15:29 says to “keep abstaining from . . . blood.” It does not say merely to abstain from animal blood. (Compare Leviticus 17:10, which prohibited eating “any sort of blood.”) Tertullian (who wrote in defense of the beliefs of early Christians) stated: “The interdict upon ‘blood’ we shall understand to be (an interdict) much more upon human blood.”—The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p. 86.
    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?

    • Eltrion says:

      John 6:52-56 (NET) Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
      Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.
      The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
      For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
      The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him.
      So, maybe His followers trully didn’t accept His words…

  • moria says:

    Matoosk…I am Catholic and have been taught not to judge others including another religion unless I want to be judged myself…I believe religion is not bad it’s those within that destroy it or try to…I pray that Mary help me in my day to day to learn to be a better mother and to have patience and understanding. ..be careful to treat Mary and just an ordinary person…she is much more then that..she was chosen by all mighty God …oh all the women in the world she was chosen.. I do not know or pretend to know as you are trying to act…whether my religion is the right one or yours is…or so on…What I do believe is God will judge you and I as how we lived…loved…treated others…I have had Muslims laugh and say…funny how we talk about this Jesus that came and died for your sins. But you Christians cannot even get along with each other. You have your believes and I have mine. My the Lord bless you…and help you be the best Christian you can be as I will pray he ( our savior) will help me be the best Christian i can be. I will end with this I will agree to disagree with you…

    • Vimbai says:

      When you pray that Mary helps you is she alive? from the bible we do not hear or read where Mary died and resurrected. So she is dead and as far as Ecclesiastes 9vs 5 says the dead do not know anything. So how can Mary help you when she is dead and she does not know anything. Truly your reference to Mary has no biblical basis because when Jesus taught his disciples to pray just before his death the prayer starts as ‘Our Father’ so we need to pray direct to God no need for help from Mary or anyone because we can pray to God directly for anything we need. There is no reference in the bible where we are told to remember Mary, to honour her and to ask her to interceed on our behalf.

      • Eltrion says:

        Our God is God the of the Living, you are badly mistaken.
        Jesus taught about the Richman and Lazarus. Both are dead, and there are conversation between the richman and Abraham. You should tell Jesus first that His story about Lazarus and the richman doesn’t have biblical basis.
        Even the richman can make request to Abraham to warn his still alive family.
        Mary can make request on our behalf, but it is God who granted or not our request.

        • Keynes says:

          Mr Eltrion, you said something about lazarus and the rich man… pls you need to note the fact that the story of lazarus and the rich man was a parable, They did not actually occur in real life.
          2. How can you say Mary can make request on your behalf….. when Jesus was alive did he pray to his father in heaven through Mary?
          No one come to the father, except through Jesus not Mary.

  • Goob says:

    Here’s the thing, there are other options than donor blood. If you know you’re having surgery, you can donate your own blood ahead of time, and have it stored for your surgery. During a surgery you bleed, that blood is usually collected and can be then used to replenish blood after or during surgery. There are other options, so they may not be missing out truly.

  • Jason says:

    As someone in the medical field, the use of blood, even your own, is now showing that it causes the person more complications. Thus why the Society of Advanced Blood Management, http://www.sabm.org, was established, and the Dept. of Defense has spent millions on learning the techniques of doctors who operate on witnesses using no blood.
    Receiving blood is no different than receiving an organ from a donor, except we do not give you immunosuppressive drugs. Evidence-based practice also shows that the expiration period of 45-days is too long, and “stale blood” increase the risk of infection and complications.
    So whether one agrees with why or why not, pertaining to blood transfusions, their decision not to receive blood is well documented as less complications and shorter hospital stays, even in traumatic circumstances. So really, the question should be why does one take a risk receiving g a blood transfusion when there is scientific, evidence-based, proof that you can do without it?

  • nolros says:

    Definition: A truly marvelous fluid that circulates in the vascular system of humans and most multicelled animals, supplying nourishment and oxygen, carrying away waste products, and playing a major role in safeguarding the body against infection. So intimately is blood involved in the life processes that the Bible says “the soul of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11) As the Source of life, Jehovah has provided definite instructions regarding the use to which blood may be put.

  • Alexis Klatt says:

    Actually the command to “abstain from blood” was given in Genesis after the Flood of Noah’s Day when God added meat to the diet. It was again re-instated to” abstain from blood & anything strangled” in the New Testament. Why? Because the soul is in the blood & all souls belong to God. (This is why the Jews have Kosher Meat Markets, where all meat has been bled properly.)
    You really need to go to the horse’s mouth for credible information, found at jw.org & then under Commonly Asked Questions. Check it out for yourself.

  • amanda says:

    abstaining from blood- neither eating nor receiving blood transfusions..you cannot feed yourself blood. either from the mouth or the veins..blood carries infections, diseases, complications, worms.etc. when you eat a steak that is not fully cooked, you may be putting parasites into your body, as well as many other things. when you receive transfusions you may take on someone else’s personality traits, etc. “abstain from blood.” simply put. what is so hard to understand about that beneficial lesson from the ONE who created us and also knows what’s best for us? why do ppl gotta complicate it and not give our creator the respect and recognition He deserves? Yet He puts up with all the disrespect and unappreciation and rejection from His Children that He loves Unconditionally. Out of all those imperfect ppl in your life that don’t even know you enough to judge you or truly love you & have treated you like you were not even worth the dirt off the bottom of their shoe, here is an Almighty Most Highly Exalted Powerful One who believes you are worth “many sparrows” to HIM? who are you going to believe?… Also, there ARE other ways and safer ways other than blood transfusions that save lives.

    • Eltrion says:

      A blood we donate should pass some process first, before it transferred to the body of recipient.
      So if we have STD (sexual transmitted disease), like HIV, or we have hepatic viruses, our blood is no longer valid to be tranfused.
      Doctors are not stupid people. Mind it.

  • Angela says:

    Blood is sacred to God. It’s not to be swapped like library books. Medical science has finally seen the benefits that come from refraining from the use of blood transfusions. More disadvantages than advantages. God was right all along.

  • Yasmar says:

    What people really need to understand about this, and other, article/s, is that the Catholic Church is trying to discredit the Jehovah’s Witnesses in an attempt to stem the flow of people from the church to the Witnesses. Would you ask a butcher how to bake bread or a baker how to slaughter meat? That is, in essence, what you are doing when you ask one religion to explain another religion’s beliefs! If you want to know what Catholics believe ask the Catholic Church. If you want to know what Jews believe ask the Jews and if you want to know what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe ask Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s as simple as that. Agape.

  • Mananangal says:

    I am married to a JW but I am a Catholic, raised and will die as a Catholic. Their teachings has so many errors. I questions some but they don’t want to hear it. They are so brainwashed that they only believed what their elders are telling them. I asked about the 444….. that they claimed are now with their Jehovah. What was their claimed to fame? What were the criteria to belong? No one can give me a concrete answer. No one should be celebrating Birthdays yet they expect gifts. The height of hypocrisy.

  • Mananangal says:

    I am married to a JW but I am a Catholic, raised and for sure will die as one. Their teachings has so many errors. I questions some but they don’t want to hear of it. They were so brainwashed that they believed only what their elders taught them. I asked about the 444….that they claimed are now with their Jehovah. Who were they and what was their claimed to fame? What were the criteria to belong? No one gave me a concrete answers. So defensive. If you caught a JW attending a birthday party, the answer will be “I am not baptize yet” Yah right! No Birthday but expectng a gift and will even request to wrap not on a b-day wrapper. The height of hypocrisy!

    • Keynes says:

      Mrs mananagal I guess you are a lair, no jw will tell you he or she don’t know the criteria for being among the choose not 144.

    • Yasmar says:

      You say that JW’s are brainwashed whilst admitting you are a born and bred Catholic; as I remember the Catholic education system it ‘indoctrinated’ or if you prefer ‘brainwashed’ it’s pupils into the Catholic faith. Children are like sponges, they soak up whatever information they are given and it becomes a part of who they are. The major difference between the children of JW’s and those of Catholics is that they do not become baptised until they can make an informed choice about their faith. Their parents cannot, and do not, make that decision for them, it is their own decision which they make when they are ready to. For some this can be as young as 7yrs. for others it might not be until they are in their twenties. When I became a Witness my dad said to me ” you made promises when you were baptised”, I was barely a week old when I was baptised, how could I possibly make promises let alone understand them?!? He then reminded me of the promises I made at 7yrs old and I had to point out to him that I was doing what was expected of me by my parents and teachers. Despite months of teaching (‘indoctrination’) I had no more understanding of what I was doing than when I was a baby. The only way we can be sure our beliefs are true is to follow the advice of the apostle Paul when he said that we should “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are.” 2Cor.13:5 Paul shows that this is an ongoing part of our faith by the use of the verb ‘keep’. This is an ongoing process for all who follow the Christian faith and if we find something in our faith that doesn’t align with the compass of our faith, the Holy Bible, then we should question whether we are being misled. Since the Catholic Church is not proactive in this ongoing process, and in fact doesn’t even encourage the faithful to do this, it is very difficult to make a continual test of faith. Maybe instead of being antagonistic towards your spouse’s beliefs you should sit down with them and discuss why they decided to become a JW, be open with each other, listen to each other and respect each other’s beliefs. This way you’re differing beliefs will not become a wedge which drives you apart but, with better understanding, may become the glue that holds you together. Please remember the advise given at Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, where it speaks of two being better than one but in V12 “a threefold cord cannot be quickly torn apart.” The threefold cord of marriage is made up of husband/wife/God. With God at the heart of marriage, the marriage will remain strong no matter what happens. Agape

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