Pokud není uvedeno jinak, všechny publikace byly vydány Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society Of New York, Inc. © nebo Watch Tower Bible And Tract Society Of Pennsylvania © nebo International Bible Students Association, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. ©.
Watchtower 1952 2/15, p.128
FAITHFUL TO DEATH
Friends of the truth throughout the earth will be interested to learn of the death of one who played a prominent part in the affairs of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society for many years, Clayton J. Woodworth. An editor and textbook writer before coming into the Society's service; he first became a member of the Brooklyn Bethel family in 1912, renewing this membership after a necessary interruption August 1, 1919. He was the writer of the commentary on The Revelation contained in the noted The Finished Mystery which the Society published in 1917. For his part in this and other Society matters he was one of the seven brothers, including the Society's then president, J. F. Rutherford, who were sent to Atlanta Federal Penitentiary on false charges at the climax of World War I in 1918 but were released in 1919 and exonerated thereafter.
Following his release in 1919 Brother Woodworth was made editor of the Society's newly introduced magazine The Golden Age. He remained editor when the magazine's name was changed to Consolation in 1937, to carry on as such until 1946. Because of advancing years he was relieved of this when the magazine was given a new change of name to Awake! For years he served as a member and director of the New York Corporation, People's Pulpit Association and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. He continued joyfully active at other duties assigned to him till his illness made this recently impossible. He died at the ripe old age of 81, loyal to the faith and unwaveringly devoted to the theocratic organization, on December 18, 1951, at 4 a.m. Interment of his remains took place at the burial plot of the Bethel family adjoining Radio Station WBBR on Staten Island, New York, at the same time with two other faithful Bethel family members who had died, hours apart, two days previous at the Bethel home. All three professed to be of the anointed remnant, and we rejoice in hope of their realization of Revelation 14:13.
Watchtower 1952 12/15, p.764
Questions from Readers
Is vaccination a violation of God's law forbidding the taking of blood into the system?-G. C., North Carolina.
The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself. Each individual has to take the consequences for whatever position and action he takes toward a case of compulsory vaccination, doing so according to his own conscience and his appreciation of what is for good health and the interests of advancing God's work. And our Society cannot afford to be drawn into the affair legally or take the responsibility for the way the case turns out.
After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4, nor contrary to God's related commandment at Leviticus 17:10-14. Most certainly it cannot reasonably or Scripturally be argued and proved that, by being vaccinated, the inoculated person is either eating or drinking blood and consuming it as food or receiving a blood transfusion. Vaccination does not bear any relationship to or any likeness to the intermarriage of angelic "sons of God" with the daughters of men, as described in Genesis 6:1-4. Neither can it be put in the same class as described at Leviticus 18:23, 24, which forbids the mingling of humans with animals. It has nothing to do with sex relations.
Hence all objection to vaccination on Scriptural grounds seems to be lacking. The only proper objection that some persons could raise to it would be on the matter of the health risks involved or of keeping their blood stream clean from diseased matter coming from a foreign source, whether from an animal sore or from a human sore. Medical science, in fact, claims that vaccination actually results in building up the vitality of the blood to resist the disease against which the person is inoculated. But, of course, that is a question for each individual concerned to decide for himself and as he sees it to be Jehovah's will for him.
We merely offer the above information on request, but can assume no responsibility for the decision and course the reader may take.
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Questions from Readers
One of Jehovah's witnesses who claims to be of the anointed remnant recently went to the hospital and took a blood transfusion, voluntarily. Should she be allowed to partake of the emblems of bread and wine at Memorial time?-R. J., United States.
We, of course, regret with you that this sister who professes to be one of the anointed remnant took a blood transfusion voluntarily during her stay in the hospital. We believe that she did the wrong thing contrary to the will of God. However, congregations have never been instructed to disfellowship those who voluntarily take blood transfusions or approve them. We let the judgment of such violators of God's law concerning the sacredness of blood remain with Jehovah, the Supreme Judge. The only thing that can be done in the cases of individuals like this is to view them as immature and therefore not capable of taking on certain responsibilities, hence refusing to make certain assignments of service to such ones.
Since an individual is not disfellowshiped because of having voluntarily taken a blood transfusion or having approved of a dear one's accepting a blood transfusion, you have no right to bar this sister from the celebration of the Lord's Evening Meal. As an anointed member of Christ's body she is under orders and command by Christ Jesus to partake. Whether she is unfaithful as to what she professes to be by virtue of taking the emblems of the Lord's Evening Meal is something for Jehovah God to determine himself. His judgment begins at the house of God. It is not for you or anyone serving the Memorial emblems to act as the judge, but to allow the emblems to go to anyone in the audience as these are passed along in the normal manner of letting each one have the opportunity to partake.
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Questions from Readers
Are we to consider the injection of serums such as diphtheria toxin antitoxin and blood fractions such as gamma globulin into the blood stream, for the purpose of building up resistance to disease by means of antibodies, the same as the drinking of blood or the taking of blood or blood plasma by means of transfusion?-N. P., United States.
No, it does not seem necessary that we put the two in the same category, although we have done so in times past. Each time the prohibition of blood is mentioned in the Scriptures it is in connection with taking it as food, and so it is as a nutrient that we are concerned with in its being forbidden. Thus when mankind for the first time was permitted to eat the flesh of animals, at the time of the restatement of the procreation mandate to the Deluge survivors, blood was specifically forbidden. (Gen. 9:3, 4) In the law of Moses blood was forbidden as food, and therefore we repeatedly find it linked with fat as things not to be eaten. (Lev. 3:17; 7:22-27) And so also in the days of the apostles; it was in connection with eating meat sacrificed to idols that the eating of strangled animals and blood was forbidden.-Acts 15:20, 29.
The injection of antibodies into the blood in a vehicle of blood serum or the use of blood fractions to create such antibodies is not the same as taking blood, either by mouth or by transfusion, as a nutrient to build up the body's vital forces. While God did not intend for man to contaminate his blood stream by vaccines, serums or blood fractions, doing so does not seem to be included in God's expressed will forbidding blood as food. It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not.
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Questions from Readers
Although it is unscriptural for a Christian to accept another person's blood in transfusion, would it be allowable for a dedicated Christian to have some of his own blood removed and then put back into his body during an operation?-W. D., U.S.A.
According to the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out on the ground as water and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13, 14; Deut. 12:16, 23, 24; 15:23; 1 Chron. 11:18, 19) This is because life is in the blood and such shed blood is held sacred before Jehovah God. The covenant regarding the sanctity of blood stated after the Flood is still binding today, and it covers both animal and human blood, whether one's own or another's. Consequently, the removal of one's blood, storing it and later putting it back into the same person would be a violation of the Scriptural principles that govern the handling of blood.-Gen. 9:4-6.
If, however, hemorrhaging should occur at the time of an operation and by some means the blood is immediately channeled back into the body, this would be allowable. The use of some device whereby the blood is diverted and a certain area or organ is temporarily bypassed during surgery would be Biblically permissible, for the blood would be flowing from one's body through the apparatus and right back into the body again. On the other hand, if the blood were stored, even for a brief period of time, this would be a violation of the Scriptures.
The use of another person's blood to "prime" any device employed in surgery is objectionable. In this case the blood would circulate through the system of the patient, becoming mixed with his own. Again, if one's own blood would have to be withdrawn at intervals and stored until a sufficient amount had accumulated to set a machine in operation, this too would fall under Scriptural prohibition. The ones involved in the matter are in the best position to ascertain just how the blood would be handled and must bear responsibility before Jehovah for seeing that it is not handled unscripturally.
w61 1/15 63-4
Questions from Readers
In view of the seriousness of taking blood into the human system by a transfusion, would violation of the Holy Scriptures in this regard subject the dedicated, baptized receiver of blood transfusion to being disfellowshiped from the Christian congregation?
The inspired Holy Scriptures answer yes. About the middle of the first "Christian" century the twelve apostles of Christ met with the other mature representatives of the congregation at Jerusalem to determine what should be the Scriptural requirement for the admission of non-Jews into the Christian congregation. The twelve apostles and other representative men of the Jerusalem congregation as met together on this occasion to decide this vital question were Jews or circumcised proselytes, and, as such, they had been up until Pentecost of A.D. 33 under the prohibition contained in the Mosaic law against eating or drinking the blood of animal creatures. In that Mosaic law at Leviticus 17:10-12 God said to the Jews: "As for any man of the house of Israel or some temporary resident who is residing for a while in your midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly set my face against the soul that is eating the blood and I shall indeed cut him off from among his people. For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel, 'No soul of you should eat blood and no temporary resident who is residing for a while in your midst should eat blood."'
Those Jewish Christians had now come under the new covenant that had been validated by the pouring out in death of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and men. What, then, was their decision as to the requirements to lie imposed upon Gentile believers for admission into the Christian congregation? The decree setting forth their decision replies: "The apostles and the older brothers to those brothers in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia who are from the nations: Greetings! . . . For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things killed without draining their blood and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!" (Acts 15:23-29) Thus for all Christian believers the apostolic decree under the guidance of God's holy spirit declared that among the things necessary for them was the keeping of themselves free from blood and from things killed without draining their blood. Years later that decision was still in force upon Christians according to Acts 21:25. That decision has never been revoked, because it is God-given and still applies to Christians today who are dedicated, baptized believers, faithfully following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who was born a Jew over 1900 years ago.
Under God's law as mediated by the prophet Moses toward the nation of Israel those Jews or circumcised proselytes who violated God's prohibition against eating or drinking animal blood were to be cut off from his chosen people. According to the apostolic decree as handed down by that conference in Jerusalem, the Christian congregation was under obligation to do a similar thing toward those who ate or drank animal blood. Blood transfusions were not in vogue in apostolic days. Nevertheless, although the twelve apostles and their fellow members of the Jerusalem congregation may not have had such a thing as the modern blood transfusion in mind, yet the decree handed down by them included such a thing in its scope. The medical profession today admits that blood transfusion is a direct feeding of the blood vessels of the human body with blood from another person or other persons that the practitioner of blood transfusion says is necessary for the survival of the recipient.
God's law definitely says that the soul of man is in his blood. Hence the receiver of the blood transfusion is feeding upon a God-given soul as contained in the blood vehicle of a fellow man or of fellow men. This is a violation of God's commands to Christians, the seriousness of which should not be minimized by any passing over of it lightly as being an optional matter for the conscience of any individual to decide upon. The decree of the apostles at Jerusalem declares: "If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper." Hence a Christian who deliberately receives a blood transfusion and thus does not keep himself from blood will not prosper spiritually. 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.
If the taking of a blood transfusion is the first offense of a dedicated, baptized Christian due to his immaturity or lack of Christian stability and he sees the error of his action and grieves and repents over it and begs divine forgiveness and forgiveness of God's congregation on earth, then mercy should be extended to him and he need not be disfellowshiped. He needs to be put under surveillance and to be instructed thoroughly according to the Scriptures upon this subject, and thereby be helped to acquire strength to make decisions according to the Christian standard in any future cases.
If, however, he refuses to acknowledge his nonconformity to the required Christian standard and makes the matter an issue in the Christian congregation and endeavors to influence others therein to his support; or, if in the future he persists in accepting blood transfusions or in donating blood toward the carrying out of this medical practice upon others, he shows that he has really not repented, but is deliberately opposed to God's requirements. As a rebellious opposer and unfaithful example to fellow members of the Christian congregation he must be cut off therefrom by disfellowshiping. Thereby the Christian congregation vindicates itself from any charge of connivance at the infraction of God's law by a member of the congregation through blood transfusion, and it upholds the proper Christian standard before all the members of the Christian congregation, and keeps itself clean from the blood of all men, even as the apostle Paul did who promulgated to the various Gentile congregations the apostolic decree handed down at Jerusalem.-Acts 20:26.
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Questions from Readers
Is there anything in the Bible against giving one's eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person?-L. C., United States.The question of placing one's body or parts of one's body at the disposal of men of science or doctors at one's death for purposes of scientific experimentation or replacement in others is frowned upon by certain religious bodies. However, it does not seem that any Scriptural principle or law is involved. It therefore is something that each individual must decide for himself. If he is satisfied in his own mind and conscience that this is a proper thing to do, then he can make such provision, and no one else should criticize him for doing so. On the other hand, no one should be criticized for refusing to enter into any such agreement.
w61 9/15 553-9
Respect for the Sanctity of Blood
"Flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat."-Gen. 9:4.
LIVING as they do in a world that turns a deaf ear to the Word of God, Christians are daily confronted with situations that test their faith in God and the rightness of his law. God requires respect for the sanctity of blood. But the world has strayed so far from his paths that many are not aware that there is a divine law governing such matters as the use of blood, and those that do know the law often violate it without any feeling that they have done wrong. With the blessing of the religious clergy they have spilled the lifeblood of countless persons on the battlefield, and as they do it they pray for God to be with them. When they hear that in many parts of the world blood of animals is regularly consumed as food, or when they see blood products sold in stores where they do business, they see nothing out of the way in it. And when they hear reports of the tremendous increase in the number of blood transfusions-now well over five million in a year-they view it as a mark of medical progress.
2 In sharp contrast to the world's indifference is the record of nearly a million persons in all parts of the world who do obey God's law on the sanctity of blood. They have met the test of their faith and stood firm. But the public press has taken advantage of the ignorance of the people to misrepresent them as religious fanatics, particularly as regards their rejection of blood transfusions. And the religious clergy of Christendom and Jewry have added their voices, declaring that the law of God is not applicable in these cases where an individual's life is involved. The result is that many uninformed persons have been turned against God and his Word as unreasonable and unloving. But how can the Source of all wisdom himself be unreasonable? How can God, who is love and who endowed man with the capacity to love, himself be unloving? He cannot and he is not! His is the right way, and a careful consideration of his Word helps us to get matters in proper focus. As the Life-giver he tells us what we must do in order to continue to live. By his laws he lovingly protects us from doing things in ignorance that might result in injury to ourselves, even the loss of life. The facts show that this is true in regard to his law on the matter of blood.-Prov. 2:6; 1 John 4:16; Ps. 25:4.
DIVINE LEGISLATION ON BLOOD
3 The issue is not new; it is not something peculiar to this twentieth century with its research into the medical use of blood. It was over 4,300 years ago, when Noah and his household, the only human survivors of the global flood, came out of the ark, that God stated to them his law on blood. Before this, man had eaten only the soulless vegetation and fruits, but now, for the first time, God granted permission for man to add meat to his diet, saying: "Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat." (Gen. 9:3, 4) The law is clear. Meat can be eaten, but not with the blood still in it, because the blood represents the soul or life of the creature. Man must show respect for the sanctity of blood and, so doing, show his respect for the Life-giver, Jehovah God.
4 Some eight centuries later, when the Israelites, who had recently been spared from annihilation in Egypt, were gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, Jehovah again emphasized the restriction on blood. "It is a statute to time indefinite for your generations, in all your dwelling places: You must not eat any fat or any blood at all." (Lev. 3:17) No distinction was made as to the source of the blood; whether animal or human, it was not to be taken into the body as food. It was not even to be stored, as shown when God went on to say: "As for any man of the sons of Israel or some alien resident who is residing as an alien in your midst who in hunting catches a wild beast or a fowl that may be eaten, he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust. For the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood by the soul in it." (Lev. 17:13, 14) The reason was clearly stated. The soul or the life of the flesh is in the blood, and obedience to God's law on blood would show proper regard for the sanctity of life and for the Source of life.
5 Even in times of emergency it was recognized that there was no justification for setting aside the divine law concerning the sanctity of blood. This is shown by an occurrence when the army of Israel under King Saul was fighting the Philistines. It had been a hard fight and the men were at the point of exhaustion. "And the people began darting greedily at the spoil and taking sheep and cattle and calves and slaughtering them on the earth, and the people fell to eating along with the blood." This was no insignificant thing, excusable because of the physical condition of the men. It was reported to Saul: "Look! The people are sinning against Jehovah by eating along with the blood." (1 Sam. 14:32, 33) They did not view the matter as do certain rabbis today who theorize that any of the requirements of the Law can be set aside when the saving of a specific life is involved. What the men were doing was a sin against God, and immediate steps were taken to put an end to it.
6 Of course, Christians are not under the law covenant made with Moses as mediator. That law covenant passed out of existence, having fulfilled its purpose, when the new covenant was made over the blood of Jesus Christ. Does this mean that the restrictions on the use of blood have passed away too? Not at all! Because what the law covenant had to say about refraining from the eating of blood merely emphasized the requirement that is set forth in the law God gave to Noah, and that is binding upon all mankind. To set this matter straight in the minds of all Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, none of whom were any longer under the Law, the Christian governing body at Jerusalem directed their attention to the obligations that devolved upon them in this matter, saying: "The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper."-Acts 15:28, 29.
7 However, various theological commentators on this text say that this is nothing that concerns us. 'It was only a temporary thing,' they say, 'designed to prevent giving offense to Jewish converts. And the need for such a prohibition having passed away, the repeal is understood even though not stated.' But we ask, What need has passed? There are still natural Jews associated with the Christian congregation, so it cannot be said that their absence has removed the need. The Scriptures make clear that man was to abstain from blood because the life is in the blood. Is it any less true now than it was then that the life is in the blood? And if it is argued that respect for the sacrificial use of blood is no longer binding because Christians are not called on to offer up animal sacrifices, then let it be noted that such use of animal sacrifices among the followers of Christ had come to an end sixteen years before the apostolic decree was issued. Furthermore, those who contend that Jesus' teaching, that 'not what enters into the mouth but what proceeds out of the mouth is what defiles a man,' has made obsolete the ruling on blood are, in effect, arguing that the ruling on Christian abstinence from blood, which decree was delivered under direction of God's holy spirit, was repealed before it was issued; because Jesus made his statement here referred to seventeen years before the decision on blood was sent out by the council at Jerusalem.-Matt. 15:11.
8 The governing body that sent out the decision on blood did not have in mind that it was merely expedient in view of the situation then and could later be dispensed with. If the prohibition of blood was temporary, then the rest of the decision must fall into the same category, which would mean that abstinence from idolatry and fornication were also temporary and designed to avoid hurting the feelings of new converts. But has the necessity for these prohibitions passed, so that fornication and idolatry are now permissible to Christians? Definitely not! The terminology of the decree indicates no time limitation; the restrictions are "necessary things" now even as they were then. As Clarke's Commentary, in discussing Genesis 9:4, well observes: "That the prohibition has been renewed under the Christian dispensation, can admit of little doubt by any man who dispassionately reads Acts xv. 20, 29; xxi. 25, where even the Gentile converts are charged to abstain from it on the authority, not only of the apostles, but of the Holy Ghost, . . . not for fear of stumbling the converted Jews, the gloss of theologians, but because it was one . . . of those necessary points, from the burden . . . of obedience to which they could not be excused."
9 The facts of history confirm this understanding of the matter. Early Christians did not view the prohibition on blood as of importance only in avoiding offense to Jewish converts. They did not feel that it could be set aside if it would endanger their lives to insist on it. It was well known, even among their persecutors, that Christians would not eat blood, and they would test a person to see if he was truly Christian, not only by urging him to offer incense to the pagan gods of Rome, but on occasion by urging him to eat blood sausage. So crucial was the matter that eating blood was viewed as a denial of the Christian faith. Tertullian, who lived at the beginning of the third century, referred to this when addressing his writing to the Roman world. He said: "Let your error blush before the Christians, for we do not include even animals' blood in our natural diet. We abstain on that account from things strangled or that die of themselves, that we may not in any way be polluted by blood, even if it is buried in the meat. Finally, when you are testing Christians, you offer them sausages full of blood; you are thoroughly well aware, of course, that among them it is forbidden; but you want to make them transgress." Origen, too, another Christian writer, in his defense of Christian teachings, declared: "As to things strangled, we are forbidden by Scripture to partake of them, because the blood is still in them."
10 Even as late as the year 692, a religious council in Constantinople (the Synod of Troullos), in its 67th canon, declared: "We suitably rebuke those, who in some way prepare a meal with the use of the blood of any animal and they thus eat it in order to satisfy the gluttonous belly. If, therefore, anyone will henceforth attempt to eat the blood of any animal in whatsoever way, he will, if a priest, be unfrocked and excommunicated if a layman." Belief in the importance of the apostolic decree on blood still continues in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
11 In the West, however, disregard for the divine law on blood grew most notably from the fourth century onward. Augustine, through whom Plato's teaching of inherent immortality of the soul was also popularized, argued that the decree had lost its importance since its purpose had been accomplished. Finally, in the fifteenth century the church of Rome had swung so far away from the viewpoint of the early Christians that the blood, not of animals, but of three young boys was appropriated in an unsuccessful attempt to revive the ailing pope of Rome, Innocent VIII, and that at the cost of the lives of all three blood donors. So it is evident that the indifference of modern-day Christendom toward the sanctity of blood is not a reflection of Christian faith, but is the result of a falling away from the faith.-1 Tim. 4:1.
MISUSE OF BLOOD AS FOOD
12 This makes it vital for true Christians in this time of the end to be on the alert if they are to show proper respect for the sanctity of blood. They must avoid the world's misuse of blood. For example, in Africa there are some native peoples who supplement their diet by drinking blood from the jugular vein of their cattle. In many places men line up at slaughterhouses to drink the blood of freshly slaughtered cattle, in the belief that it is a cure for certain ailments. In the Far East there are many lands where blood is used as a basic ingredient in certain soups and gravies. In South America a dish that is quite common consists of pig's blood mixed with rice or potatoes and condiments, and blood is even sold and eaten as candy. Blood sausage, under various names, is available almost everywhere. All of these practices show rank disregard for the sanctity of life because they violate the law of the Life-giver on the matter of blood.
13 The law on blood also rules out the eating of anything that has died of strangulation, because the blood would not have been drained. So any animal found smothered or dead in a trap and animals that have been shot but not immediately bled are not fit for food. The practice in many lands of killing chickens by strangulation, breaking the neck but not cutting it, also makes these unfit for consumption by Christians. Some butchers, with no regard for the divine law on these matters, do not properly bleed the animals they prepare for food; in fact, they may deliberately impair drainage to add weight to the meat. If a Christian learns that his butcher does not give attention to the draining of the blood, then he will look for another place to do business or even refrain from eating meat if nothing else is available. Likewise, a conscientious person will not eat meat in a restaurant if he knows that it is customary locally not to give attention to proper bleeding. Under such circumstances, a Christian who wants to eat meat may have to buy a live animal or bird and arrange to have the killing done himself.
14 Disrespect for God's law is so rampant that whole blood, blood plasma and blood fractions are used freely in numerous products that are sold for food. For example, it is reported that some meat packers include blood as a part of their regular recipe for wieners, bologna and other cold-meat loaves. They may not all call it blood; but, regardless of what they call it, if it is blood or part of the blood it is wrong. Not all meat packers do this by any means, but some do. In certain localities it is also known that hamburger is made up largely of fat with blood added. In Russia blood bakeries were put in operation years ago where seven parts of rye flour are mixed with three parts of defibrinated ox blood in the bread. In other lands some bakers use dried plasma powder in pastry as a substitute for egg white. And various tonics and tablets sold by druggists show on their labels that they contain blood fractions such as hemoglobin. So it is necessary for one to be alert, to be acquainted with the practices in his community, to make reasonable inquiry at places where he buys meat and to read and understand the labels on packaged goods. As the old world becomes more careless in its attitude toward God's law on blood it is important for Christians to exercise increased care if they are to keep themselves "without spot from the world."-Jas. 1:27.
15 Over the centuries man's misuses of blood have taken on many forms. Ancient Egyptian princes used human blood for rejuvenation; others drank the blood of their enemies. But not until after William Harvey's research into the circulation of the blood, in the seventeenth century, was there any extensive effort made to transfuse blood into the circulatory system of another creature. After having suffered severe setbacks due to fatalities, blood transfusion finally came to be viewed with more favor at the beginning of this twentieth century, when research made it possible to identify certain blood types. The two world wars and the Korean war gave doctors ample opportunity to experiment with the therapeutic use of blood, and now the process has been developed to the point that doctors use not only whole blood and blood plasma, which is the nearly colorless liquid in which the blood cells are carried, but also red cells apart from the plasma, and the various plasma proteins as they feel the need.
16 Is God's law violated by such medical use of blood? Is it wrong to sustain life by infusions of blood or plasma or red cells or the various blood fractions? Yes! The law that God gave to Noah and which applies to all his descendants makes it wrong for anyone to eat blood, that is, to use the blood of another creature to nourish or sustain one's life. Even as Tertullian in his Apology showed how the early Christians reasoned on the matter, so today it is recognized that if this prohibition applies to animal blood, it applies with even more force to human blood. It includes "any blood at all."-Lev. 3:17.
17 Arguments to the effect that the prohibition on the use of blood issued by the early Christian governing body did not deal with human blood, but only with animal blood, show ignorance of the facts of history. In ancient Rome, which dominated the Mediterranean world in the first century, spectators at the gladiatorial contests would rush into the arena after the fight and suck the blood streaming from the neck of the vanquished gladiator. Some from among the Scythians reportedly ate their dead relatives. Treaties were made among some peoples by mutually drinking a portion of each other's blood; and human blood caught in the hand and eaten was used to seal initiation into the rites of the pagan goddess Bellona. So when the apostles, under direction of the holy spirit, said that Christians were to keep themselves from blood, they did have in mind human blood too.
18 It is of no consequence that the blood is taken into the body through the veins instead of the mouth. Nor does the claim by some that it is not the same as intravenous feeding carry weight. The fact is that it nourishes or sustains the life of the body. In harmony with this is a statement in the book Hemorrhage and Transfusion, by George W. Crile, A.M., M.D., who quotes a letter from Denys, French physician and early researcher in the field of transfusions. It says: "In performing transfusion it is nothing else than nourishing by a shorter road than ordinary-that is to say, placing in the veins blood all made in place of taking food which only turns to blood after several changes."
19 In view of the emphasis put on the use of blood in the medical world, new treatments involving its use are constantly being recommended. But regardless of whether it is whole blood or a blood fraction, whether it is blood taken from one's own body or that taken from someone else, whether it is administered as a transfusion or as an injection, the divine law applies. God has not given man blood to use as he might use other substances; he requires respect for the sanctity of blood.
20 What a fine example in respect for this law was set by God-fearing King David! Before the enemies of God's people had been driven from the land, the Philistines had a garrison in Bethlehem near Jerusalem, and on one occasion "David showed his craving and said: 'O that I might have a drink of the water from the cistern of Bethlehem, which is at the gate!'" Yes, he wished that the Philistines were gone and that he could be free to go to that cistern and be refreshed by its water. But on hearing his expression, "three [valiant men] forced their way into the camp of the Philistines and drew water from the cistern of Bethlehem, which is at the gate, and came carrying and bringing it to David." What they brought was nothing more than water, but they did it at the risk of their lives, and David knew it. "And David did not consent to drink it, but poured it out to Jehovah. And he went on to say: 'It is unthinkable on my part, as regards my God, to do this! Is it the blood of these men that I should drink at the risk of their souls? For it was at the risk of their souls that they brought it.' And he did not consent to drink it." (1 Chron. 11:16-19; 2 Sam. 23:15-17) David respected the law of God. Not only did he abstain from animal blood; he avoided the far more gross wrong of consuming human blood. Yes, he avoided doing anything that even resembled violation of that law. He was a man after God's own heart. It is a like course of obedience from the heart that moves mature Christians today to abstain from any practice at all that involves misuse of blood. Out of love for God they show respect for the sanctity of blood.
[Footnotes] Apology, translated by T. R. Glover (1931). Origen-Contra Celsum, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Vol. 23 (1872). Great Greek Encyclopedia, of Paul Drandakis, pp. 708, 709. A History of the Councils of the Church, From the Original Documents (1896).
[Study Questions] 1. (a) What attitude on the part of the world calls for Christians to demonstrate faith in God and his law? (b) What has been the world's record as regards blood? 2. (a) What have the public press and the clergy said about those who show respect for the sanctity of blood? (b) What attitude toward God's law on the part of uninformed persons has resulted from this misrepresentation, but how should we view the matter? 3. When was God's law on blood first stated, and what does it require of mankind? 4. How was the ruling on blood emphasized to the Israelites, and what reason for the prohibition was given to them? 5. Does an emergency that involves human life warrant setting aside the divine law on the use of blood, and why? 6. Why does the law on blood apply to Christians who are not under the law covenant? 7, 8. What arguments are set forth by theological commentators in an effort to limit the effect of the apostolic ruling on blood, and what shows that these arguments are not sound? 9, 10. (a) What facts of history show that early Christians recognized abstinence from blood to be a serious matter? (b) In the third century what did Christian writers have to say about it? (c) As late as the year 692 what is shown to be the attitude of the Eastern church on the matter of blood? 11. What events showed mounting disregard for the restrictions on blood in the church of Rome? 12. What are some of the modern-day practices that violate the sanctity of life and that Christians avoid? 13. Why must care be exercised in proper killing of animals to be used for food, so what might this call on a Christian to do? 14. How else is blood misused in food products, so what should Christians be careful to do? 15. What have been the developments in the use of blood in medical treatment? 16. Is use of blood in medical treatment to sustain life a violation of God's law? 17. How do the facts of history prove that human blood was misused in ancient times and so was included in the prohibition set forth by the early Christian governing body? 18. What shows that the transfusing of blood is a "feeding" on blood? 19, 20. (a) In view of the constant developments in medical therapy, how can one determine whether treatment involving the use of blood is to be accepted or rejected? (b) What fine example in this regard did David set, showing respect for the sanctity of blood?
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Using Life in Harmony with the Will of God
THE only way the life-blood of any creature can properly be used is in harmony with the will of God. It is forbidden as food. It is not authorized by God for administration to another person under the guise of medical treatment to sustain life. Apart from its life-sustaining role in the body of the creature to whom it belongs, only one use of blood is sanctioned by God. This came to light in the days of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam. "Abel came to be a herder of sheep, but Cain became a cultivator of the ground. And it came about at the expiration of some time that Cain proceeded to bring some fruits of the ground as an offering to Jehovah. But as for Abel, he too brought some firstlings of his flock, even their fatty pieces. Now while Jehovah was looking with favor upon Abel and his offering, he did not look with any favor upon Cain and upon his offering." (Gen. 4:2-5) Cain's offering was from the soulless vegetation. Abel's sacrifice represented a life and called for the pouring out of blood. By his accepting Abel's sacrifice Jehovah gave the first indication that shedding of blood was required in sacrifice. But Cain did not accept God's leading in the matter; instead, he violently murdered his brother Abel, the one man on earth who was using life, both his own and that of his flock, in harmony with the will of God.
2 Faithful servants of God recognized that the pouring out of the lifeblood of animals in sacrifice to Jehovah was God's will, and Noah, Abraham and others are mentioned in the Bible as having done so. (Gen. 8:20; 22:13) When their offspring, the Israelites, were gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, where they were organized as a nation, Jehovah God told them in unmistakable language that there is only one proper use to which the shed blood of any creature can be put. He said: "I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it." (Lev. 17:11) Since the blood is so intimately involved in the life processes, and since sin leads to loss of life, God requires as a sacrifice in atonement for sin that which represents life, namely, the blood. "Unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place."-Heb. 9:22.
3 These animal sacrifices all foreshadowed a much grander one, a sacrifice that could lastingly remove sin and that would open up opportunities of eternal life for servants of God. This sacrifice was not selected from the flocks or the herds of Israel; it was Jesus Christ the Son of God, the one whom John the Baptist identified when he exclaimed: "See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) This was Jehovah's own provision on behalf of mankind; it was his Lamb, his Son, whose life was given in sacrifice. By means of this loving arrangement it has been possible for men and women on earth to have opened to them the privilege of service in the heavenly courts with Christ the King, because these "have been declared righteous now by his blood." (Rom. 5:9) In addition to this "little flock" of one hundred and forty-four thousand members, a "great crowd" of others who serve God before the throne on his footstool earth have availed themselves of this ransom sacrifice, washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb, and as a result they enjoy the forgiveness of their sins and are righteous persons in the sight of God.-Rev. 7:14, 15.
4 The perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ has completely filled the need for a sacrifice to God on behalf of sinful mankind. It does not have to be repeated. No longer are animal sacrifices required; in fact, they are now detestable to God because they show disregard for the sacrifice that he himself has provided. Therefore, the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ is absolutely the only arrangement that God has authorized among his Christian witnesses by which the blood of one creature may be used on behalf of another to save life. "By means of him we have the release by ransom through the blood of that one, yes, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his undeserved kindness." (Eph. 1:7) Our lives depend on our acceptance of this provision, hence on acceptance of the divine arrangement as to the proper use of blood. Wisely, those who want to receive life at God's hands refrain from using blood in any way that has not been authorized by him as the Life-giver.
LOVING GOD WITH ONE'S WHOLE SOUL
5 On one occasion a certain man versed in the Law inquired of Jesus: "Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?" In his reply Jesus set out a guiding principle that helps us to determine what to do with our present lives in order to gain the reward of everlasting life. He said: "'You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,' and, 'your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:25-27) Now just what is included in this matter of loving God with our whole soul? It means giving our life to God in dedication, yes, devoting our life to the performance of any work that God may give us to do. Since we have given our life to God in dedication, we ought to realize what the Bible uses to represent life. It is blood, which is the seat of life or soul. So when a life has been taken, it is said that blood has been shed. So fundamentally is blood involved in the life processes that the Bible says that the soul or the life of a person is his blood. When speaking to Noah, God paralleled the expressions soul, or life, and blood, saying: "Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat." (Gen. 9:4) And to the Israelites he said simply: "The blood is the soul," or, "The blood is the life." (Deut. 12:23, margin, 1953 Edition) Consequently, when we dedicate our lives to God we must certainly take care to use that which represents life, our blood, in harmony with his law.
6 This greatest of commandments therefore indicates that a dedicated Christian is not at liberty to donate his lifeblood for use by someone else. Life belongs to God, and we are free to give it only to him in his service. Nor would it be proper to argue that love of neighbor calls for one to give blood. It is not love of neighbor to collaborate with him in violation of the law of God. And since God's Word indicates that it is wrong to take a blood transfusion, it is also wrong to give one's blood for transfusion.
7 Obedience to God is required of his servants; it is also a blessing to them, because it protects them from harm. It is interesting to note that, while the general impression given by organizations that are anxious to have blood donated is that the procedure is perfectly safe, the opinion is not unanimous. For in the book Physiology and Clinic of Blood Transfusion, among others, the statement is made: "As the latest research shows, considerable health disorders can arise on the part of the blood donor." Faithful Christians are spared such hazards that might impair their service to God.
DANGERS AVOIDED BY OBEDIENCE
8 The position of Jehovah's witnesses in regard to blood transfusion is not one based on the approval or disapproval with which the practice meets in medical circles. It is not the safety or danger of the procedure that governs their decision, but the Word of God. However, knowledge of some of the effects from which one is protected by obedience to God's law on blood does enhance one's appreciation for the rightness of Jehovah's ways.
9 The general practice among medical doctors in recent years has been to give blood in the belief that it may do some good. Sometimes it is given because of the insistence of patients or to satisfy relatives who want to be sure that "everything possible has been done." Concerning this the Director of the Blood Bank at New York University-Bellevue Medical Center said: "Blood transfusions have been administered on the theory that they can never do any harm and might possibly benefit the patient. This idea is wrong because there are dangers inherent in blood transfusion." Says the journal of the American Academy of General Practice: "It is unfortunate that many have lost the fear of transfusion and now order a transfusion as blithely as ordering a bottle of saline." Over four thousand years ago Jehovah God told man that he should not take the blood of other creatures into his body; and modern medical practice confirms the fact that violation of that law is fraught with grave dangers.
10 One of the immediate dangers that faces anyone who is given a blood transfusion is the possibility of a hemolytic reaction, that is, the rapid destruction of the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This may result in bursting headaches, pains in the chest and back, and the backing up of poisons into the system due to kidney failure. Death may come within a few hours or a few days. Medical knowledge has not removed this danger. "Try as we may we can only reduce the incidence of the reactions. We cannot eliminate them, and patients will continue to be damaged as a result of blood transfusions." So says W. H. Crosby, chief of the Department of Hematology at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Even when such a hemolytic reaction does not occur as the result of naturally occurring antibodies in the blood stream of the patient, antigens in the blood transfused into the body can stimulate the production of antibodies so that a severe reaction will occur if ever blood containing those factors is given again. With reported possible combinations of known blood factors now numbering 15,000,000, the likelihood of being given blood that matches one's own and that will not have some adverse effect is remote almost to the point of impossibility.
11 There are other perils. Since it is difficult for a doctor to know exactly how much blood has been lost, he may try to transfuse more blood than there is room for, which, as reported by the journal Medical Science (July 25, 1959), is a frequent and disastrous occurrence. Also, air can get into the blood stream during transfusion, again with deadly effects. Then, too, blood removed from the body readily becomes contaminated, and certain bacteria found right in the air are of such a nature that they reproduce in stored blood even at refrigerator temperatures, making even small amounts of such blood deadly to the recipient. How can such treatment be viewed as truly lifesaving?
12 Ominous as the picture is, it is not the full extent of the hazards to which a patient is subjected when he is given blood. The doctor who gives the transfusion may never know how much harm is caused, because diseases transmitted by transfusion may not strike at once. But medical authorities all recognize that syphilis, malaria and hepatitis can be transmitted by blood transfusion. Not only can they be transmitted; cases are regularly reported in which they are transmitted. With the world-wide upsurge of immorality and the resultant venereal disease, the danger of syphilis is increasing-a disease that can result in premature childbirth, blindness, deafness, paralysis, heart disease, insanity and death. The test used to detect syphilitic blood does not reveal the danger in its early stages, and the patient pays the price. In February of this year the Japan Times reported the case of a woman who had won a suit against the Government-managed Tokyo University Hospital, on the grounds that she had been transfused with syphilitic blood that resulted in loss of eyesight and divorce by her husband. The financial compensation ordered by the court was small comfort for the damage done. And what about the risk of contracting malaria? Carriers of malaria do not always know they have it in their system; blood tests seldom reveal it; but anyone who receives blood can be the victim. The danger is not decreasing; to the contrary, anyone who has ever lived or visited in a malarial area is a possible carrier, and international travel assures that the number is increasing every day. By no means last among the disease dangers, but demanding attention because of its frequency, is serum hepatitis. So real is the danger of crippling and death from hepatitis that Dr. Alvarez, Emeritus Consultant in Medicine, Mayo Clinic, has said that he would never permit anyone to give him a transfusion unless he felt it was absolutely necessary.
13 As if the harm to the patient himself were not enough, it does not stop there. In the case of a woman, the damage may involve even her unborn children. Due to factors some of which are known and others of which are not yet understood, a woman given an incompatible blood transfusion may find that her opportunity to give birth to normal, healthy children has been taken from her.
14 How much better it is to listen to the Word of God when it tells us to keep ourselves from blood! How much happier we are if, as children listen to their father, we heed the counsel of God and live in harmony with it! "My son, to my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh."-Prov. 4:20-22.
15 Those who are more inclined to rest their confidence in the learning of men than in the wisdom of God may feel that the care exercised in the selection of blood donors makes it possible to avoid all these dangers. But consider the facts. It will probably shock you to learn that the blood of dead people is being transfused into the bodies of hospital patients, but reports from Russia and Spain show that it is exactly what is done there; and even in the United States of America experiments have been conducted with transfusion of cadaver blood! Of course, that probably is not the practice in your community. But the magazine Time as of May 26, 1961, reports the case of a 49-year-old woman in the Pontiac General Hospital who was given two pints of blood from the cadaver of a 12-year-old boy who had drowned in a nearby lake and who had been dead from two and a half to three hours. Also, that as long ago as 1935 a doctor in a Chicago suburb had used a technique like that of the Russians, and that this American doctor accounted for about thirty-five cadaver-blood transfusions in two years. Perhaps the donor is one's own living relative, a reputable, clean-living individual. Does that assure safety? No; it will not remove the danger of a reaction due to incompatibility; nor does it guarantee that the individual may not be the carrier of some disease, perhaps even unknown to himself. In most cases, however, one who receives blood has no idea who the donor is. Some of it may come from healthy persons; some from alcoholics and degenerates. Criminals in jail are given the opportunity to donate their blood. For example, the New York Times of April 6, 1961, reported: "Inmates of Sing Sing Prison at Ossining will give blood to the Red Cross today." A commendable act? Perhaps not as beneficial to their fellow men as the community is led to believe.
16 When the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land, Jehovah moved Moses to repeat to them his law forbidding the consumption of blood. As recorded at Deuteronomy 12:25, he said: "You must not eat it, in order that it may go well with you and your sons after you, because you will do what is right in Jehovah's eyes." An edition of the Pentateuch edited by J. H. Hertz has a footnote on that expression "that it may go well with you," which says: "Ibn Ezra suggests that the use of blood would have a demoralising effect upon the moral and physical nature, and pass on a hereditary taint to future generations." The point is an interesting one, and that it may apply in the matter of blood transfusions is testified to by medical doctors. For example, in his book Who Is Your Doctor and Why? Doctor Alonzo Jay Shadman says: "The blood in any person is in reality the person himself. It contains all the peculiarities of the individual from whence it comes. This includes hereditary taints, disease susceptibilities, poisons due to personal living, eating and drinking habits. . . . The poisons that produce the impulse to commit suicide, murder, or steal are in the blood." And Dr. Américo Valério, Brazilian doctor and surgeon for over forty years, agrees. "Moral insanity, sexual perversions, repression, inferiority complexes, petty crimes-these often follow in the wake of blood transfusion," he says. Yet it is acknowledged in the public press that organizations whose blood supply is considered reliable obtain blood for transfusion from criminals who are known to have such characteristics. Certainly no one who is trying to depart from the works of the flesh and use his life in the way that God directs through his Word is going to lay himself open to such a ruinous future.-Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24.
DEMONSTRATING FAITH IN THE GIVER OF LIFE
17 What do these facts mean in the case of a Christian who has suffered severe blood loss and is in need of treatment? Is there nothing that can be done? Must he simply wait to die? Not at all! Jehovah's witnesses have no religious objections to any treatment that does not conflict with the law of God, and the fact is that other treatments are available. Doctors who recognize man as a creation of God, instead of a product of evolution, are usually more inclined to realize that the human body has been endowed by God with marvelous recuperative powers, and they co-operate with these instead of feeling that the prohibition on the use of blood is a barrier to recovery. Our own bodies are marvelously equipped to meet emergencies, even those occasioned by blood loss. (Ps. 139:14) According to The Encyclopćdia Britannica: "Besides the blood which actually circulates in the arteries, veins and capillaries, the body possesses reserves which can be mobilized. One such is known to be located in the spleen. On the onset of haemorrhage the spleen shrinks, squeezing blood as from a sponge into the circulation." In view of this, many doctors recognize that it is much safer to co-operate with the body's own blood-manufacturing system than to try to take the place of it by transfusing foreign blood. Even the highly respected medical publication The Surgical Clinics of North America (February, 1959) has said: It is not to be forgotten that, not blood transfusion, but "iron therapy is the treatment of choice for blood loss anemia." In emergency cases, where the body's fluid loss has been excessive, there are "plasma volume expanders" that can be used without violating God's prohibition on blood, and, according to the testimony of many doctors, these have proved to be much safer than blood transfusions. While it is true that they cannot do for the body what one's own blood does, yet they help to keep the remaining red cells in circulation so that oxygen will reach the various organs during the time needed by the body to replace the blood loss. So Christian patients, instead of being pressured into accepting blood on the plea that it is the only hope, seek out a doctor who has sufficient skill, patience and respect for their religious conscience to be willing to treat them without blood.
18 Lifesaving efforts by unscriptural means can never produce results of lasting good. How foolish it is to think that one can save life by violating the laws of the Life-giver! While it may produce seemingly beneficial results at the moment, it may ultimately take its toll in disease and stillborn children as a direct result of such an ill-advised course. Even if no physical harm results to the patient or to one's offspring, violation of the law of God seriously jeopardizes one's opportunity to gain eternal life in God's new world.
19 In the case of Job, Satan contended that man would do anything, even turn on his God, to save his present life. "Everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his life," he argued. (Job 2:4, margin, 1957 Edition) But he was wrong. Job proved him a liar, and Jesus Christ outstandingly did so. On one occasion Jesus had been speaking about pursuing a course that would mean his death in the service of God. "At this Peter took him aside and commenced raising strong objections to him." But Jesus rebuked him. "'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God's thoughts, but those of men.' Then Jesus said to his disciples: 'If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.'" (Matt. 16:21-25; Mark 8:31-35) May none of us ever become like Satan to our Christian brothers, urging them to sell out their confidence in God in favor of the wisdom of the world! There is only one way to gain life and that is by living in harmony with the will of God. Confidence in God is never misplaced. As the Divine Physician he can do what no human doctor ever could: he can extend the life of his servants, not merely for a few troubled years, but for all eternity-if necessary, by a resurrection from the dead-in his glorious new world now so near at hand.-Ps. 23:4; Acts 24:15.
20 With such marvelous prospects before us, let us be careful to live our lives in harmony with the will of God. Let us not grow careless, like the world, in our attitude toward the blood of our fellow men. Now is the time to show the greatest concern for their lifeblood by urging them to exercise faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, the only blood that has any real value in the eyes of God toward the saving of life. Point them to his kingdom; help them to learn its laws; encourage them patiently as they move along on the way to life. Make it your determination to be able to say, as did Paul: "I am clean from the blood of all men, for I have not held back from telling you all the counsel of God."-Acts 20:26.
Published in Jena, Germany, 1960.
Bulletin of the American Association of Blood Banks, June, 1960.
Cięncia Médica, Vol. xx, "Moral Deficiencies and Blood Transfusion."
1946 Edition, Vol. 3, page 743. [Study Questions]
1. (a) Whose will must govern our use of blood, and what practices does he forbid? (b) What occurred in the days of Cain and Abel that gave indication of the proper use to which shed blood might be put?
2. What one proper use of shed blood did God permit, to whom was this made known, and how?
3. What greater sacrifice did those animal sacrifices foreshadow, and how does its blood benefit mankind?
4. Upon the acceptance of what do our lives depend, and why?
5. (a) In answer to an inquirer, what did Jesus say one must do to inherit everlasting life? (b) What is involved in loving God with one's whole soul, and why?
6, 7. Is a Christian free to donate his lifeblood for another person, and is it safe from a medical point of view?
8. Upon what do Jehovah's witnesses base their attitude toward blood transfusion, so why consider medical evidence on the matter?
9. What is the general viewpoint in the world as to blood transfusion, but is this medically sound?
10, 11. (a) What are some of the dangers that face one who receives a blood transfusion, and are doctors able to eliminate these dangers? (b) In view of these facts, would you say that blood transfusions are truly lifesaving?
12. Name the disease dangers that might arise from a transfusion of blood, and show what these might result in to the patient.
13. What further price might a woman who is given blood have to pay as regards childbearing?
14. How does God protect his people from such calamities?
15. How do some worldly-wise men reason on these transfusion dangers, but what facts as to the sources from which blood is obtained raise serious questions?
16. (a) What interesting observation on blood is made in a Bible footnote on Deuteronomy 12:25? (b) What do modern-day doctors have to say on this same matter, and why is this of interest to Christians?
17. (a) Do Jehovah's witnesses object on religious grounds to all medical treatment? (b) Is there anything that can be done on behalf of a Christian if he suffers severe blood loss?
18. Why is it foolish to attempt to save life by violating God's law?
19. (a) Who was it that argued that man would do anything, even forsake God, to save his present life? (b) How can we benefit from reproof that Jesus gave Peter on this matter? (c) What reward will God give to those who obey him even in times of stress?
20. What should we do now so that we will be using our lives in harmony with the will of God?
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Questions from Readers
How can one tell if meat purchased from a butcher or in some other market has been properly bled? Also, how can one tell if cold-meat loaves, pastry or preparations sold by druggists contain any blood or blood fractions?-A. R., U.S.A.
This is of concern to God-fearing persons, because Jehovah God, in his law stated to Noah, which applies to all mankind, said: "Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat." (Gen. 9:3, 4) The first-century Christian governing body, too, being directed by God's holy spirit, pointed out that it is necessary for Christians to 'keep themselves free from blood.'-Acts 15:28, 29.
If the bleeding of butchered animals is not the regular practice in your locality, or you are not sure what is the customary handling of the matter where you live, the best way to find out if meat has been properly bled is to make personal inquiry. In most cases, even if the one who sells the meat does not personally do the slaughtering, he is acquainted with the men with whom he does business and he knows their practices or at least the laws that govern them. If he is confident that the meat is properly prepared, the Christian may feel free to use it. However, if the one selling the meat does not know, simply ask: "Who can give me the information? It is important to me for religious reasons." Then write a letter, if that is the only way to get in touch with the one who can answer your question. If for some reason one does not feel that he is being told the truth, he can always do business elsewhere, or he can buy live animals and arrange for the slaughtering himself, if he feels that is necessary.
Simply the fact that meat appears to be very red or even has red fluid on the surface does not mean that it has not been bled. There may remain in the meat some very small amounts of blood even after proper bleeding has been done. Then, too, the fluid that runs out of the meat may simply be interstitial fluid. The important thing is that respect has been shown for the sanctity of blood, regard has been shown for the principle of the sacredness of life. What God's law requires is that the blood be drained from the animal when it is killed, not that the meat be soaked in some special preparation to draw out every trace of it.
In the case of other products, a similar procedure may be followed. If you have reason to believe that a certain product contains blood or a blood fraction, ask the one who sells it. If he does not know, write to the manufacturer. Sometimes labels show whether a blood fraction is used, but not always. For example, a label may say that a certain product contains albumin. Does that mean that it contains a blood fraction? Look up the word albumin in a good reference book, perhaps an encyclopedia in your local library or even a good dictionary. You will learn that albumin is found, not only in blood serum, but also in milk and eggs. The only way to find out the source of the albumin in the particular product in question is to make inquiry of those who prepare it.
However, if the label says that certain tablets contain hemoglobin, similar checking will reveal that this is from blood; so a Christian knows, without asking, that he should avoid such a preparation. Clearly, these are matters that each individual can best check on locally.
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Questions from Readers
How can we harmonize the Scriptural counsel, "Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of your conscience" (1 Cor. 10:25), with the advice recently contained in The Watchtower, to make reasonable inquiry at places where one buys meat to be sure that it has been properly bled? (The Watchtower, September 15, 1961, page 557)-N. Q., U.S.A.
Both of these statements of counsel must be viewed in their context. First Corinthians, chapter 10, contains a discussion concerning foods that have been offered to idols. It points out that Christians cannot "become sharers with the demons" by participating in religious ceremonies in which the worshiper shares a meal in common with some demon god. (1 Cor. 10:18-21) In fact, it would be wrong for the Christian to eat the meat anywhere if he ate it "as something sacrificed to an idol," that is, with any feeling of reverence for the idol. (1 Cor. 8:7) So it was to protect Christians from idolatry that the command was given to "keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols." (Acts 15:29) However, the offering of food to an idol does not bring about any change in the meat itself that would make it unfit for use. So if part of an animal that was offered in sacrifice were sold in a meat market it would be just as good as any other meat. Certainly a Christian would never ask for this meat in preference to other meat, feeling that it was "holy meat," but, on the other hand, he was not under obligation to make inquiry to find out if the source of supply was a religious temple or a regular slaughterhouse. So the point under discussion in 1 Corinthians 10:25 was the purchasing of meat in a market that obtained some of its supplies from a religious temple.
Christians are also commanded to abstain "from blood and what is strangled." (Acts 21:25) The Scriptures do indicate that one may eat meat but that he must not do it as an act of idolatry; however, nowhere does the Bible say that believers may eat blood under any circumstances. Furthermore, the prohibition on the consumption of blood is directed, not only to those who do their own slaughtering, but to all "the believers." Therefore those believers who do not do their own slaughtering may have to make inquiry to find an acceptable source of supply if they want to eat meat. If you know from your own experience or from inquiry that it is customary in your locality to drain the blood from butchered animals and from fowl killed for food, and you are doing business with a reliable person, then it may not be necessary to ask further specific questions on the matter when meat is purchased. However, one who purchases meat from worldly persons in those communities where Caesar's laws do not specify that blood must be drained from slaughtered animals would not be able to avoid eating "blood and what is strangled" without making inquiry.
So the points of counsel are harmonious and are in agreement with the rest of the Word of God.
w61 11/1 670
Questions from Readers
In view of the Bible command on abstinence from blood, how are fish and insects to be prepared in order to be acceptable for food?-B. F., U.S.A.
Fish was a common food among the Jews. Jesus himself ate it, and on different occasions he directed successful fishing operations, both with a net and with a hook. (Num. 11:5; Matt. 14:17; 17:27; Luke 5:1-11; 24:42, 43) Some insects, too, were used for food. (Lev. 11:21; Mark 1:6) Of course, the amount of blood contained in these creatures may be very small, so that it is impossible to pour out their blood; yet that is what was required to make the meat of a creature acceptable for food. (Lev. 17:13) It was not required that the meat be squeezed or that it be soaked; simply that the blood be poured out. If there is not enough blood to pour it out, Christians are not under obligation to take extreme measures to be sure that some blood is extracted. Of course, if, on cutting the creature open, an accumulation of blood is clearly in evidence, this can easily be removed, and it would be proper to do so.
w61 11/1 670
Questions from Readers
Since the Bible forbids the eating of blood, how are Christians to view the use of serums and vaccines? Has the Society changed its viewpoint on this?-J. D., U.S.A.
The Bible is very clear that blood could properly be used only on the altar; otherwise it was to be poured out on the ground. (Lev. 17:11-13) The entire modern medical practice involving the use of blood is objectionable from the Christian standpoint. Therefore the taking of a blood transfusion, or, in lieu of that, the infusing of some blood fraction to sustain one's life is wrong.
As to the use of vaccines and other substances that may in some way involve the use of blood in their preparation, it should not be concluded that the Watch Tower Society endorses these and says that the practice is right and proper. However, vaccination is a virtually unavoidable practice in many segments of modern society, and the Christian may find some comfort under the circumstances in the fact that this use is not in actuality a feeding or nourishing process, which was specifically forbidden when God said that man was not to eat blood, but it is a contamination of the human system.
So, as was stated in The Watchtower of September 15, 1958, page 575, "It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not." That is still the Society's viewpoint on the matter.-Gal. 6:5.
However, the mature Christian is not going to try to find in this a justification for as many other medical uses of blood substances as possible. To the contrary, recognizing the objectionableness of the entire practice, he is going to stay as far away from it as he can, requesting other treatment where such is available.
w63 2/15 121-5
Carry Your Own Load of Responsibility
IN ANCIENT Babylon when three Hebrews were ordered to fall down and worship an image or be thrown into a burning furnace, they had to make a decision. They had no time to ask the prophet Daniel what to do. Theirs was the responsibility to determine the course to follow. Despite the danger of death, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to break God's law against idolatry. Their decision was right and Jehovah delivered them. (Daniel 3) Would you have been able to carry their load of responsibility? Not every Christian is mature enough to choose right from wrong on the basis of Bible principles. Some lack sufficient knowledge, others fail to employ their thinking ability. One might ask others to make important decisions for him because of laziness or the desire to have someone else share the responsibility. Perhaps he really would like to take a certain course of action and hopes the other person's conscience will approve it, even if his own does not. Whatever the reason, failure to carry your own load of responsibility is to your disadvantage.
For one thing, the habit of getting others to do your thinking leaves your own perceptive powers untrained and weak. Answers obtained simply by asking someone else are not likely to make a deep impression, certainly not as deep as when you do the research yourself. There is also the possibility that a friend's impromptu answer may be somewhat incorrect. Then, too, if true worship is ever banned in your land, as it is behind the Iron Curtain, occasions might arise when you would need to know how to determine right and wrong when you could not consult someone else. To do so requires accurate knowledge of Bible principles and the ability to apply them.
Here it is well to distinguish between a principle and a law. A law asks that you simply obey. A principle asks that you do your own thinking and apply or extend the principle to your own case. This calls to mind Paul's words at Hebrews 5:14: "Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong." To carry our load of responsibility more capably, let us examine some areas where mature application of Bible principles is involved.
When one first comes to a knowledge of the truth he may take a bold stand for Bible principles, such as separateness from the world and seeking right associations. (John 15:19; Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:33) He sees the obvious need to have no fellowship with fornicators, thieves and the like. Later on he appreciates more fully the ramifications of those principles. He sees that the whole world is under Satan's influence, not just its baser elements. (1 John 5:19) He comes to appreciate that, even though an acquaintance may not be immoral, if that one does not worship Jehovah he is not really a good associate. Likewise his discernment in applying Bible principles helps him to realize that it can be just as harmful to spend three hours with an adulterer on a movie screen or an evening with killers on television as to fellowship with them elsewhere. Soon he begins to apply the same discernment toward books and magazines. It is not a matter of someone telling him a certain thing is wrong. It is a matter of getting God's mind on things, growing to maturity and applying Bible principles to the full extent, which is our individual responsibility.
Of course, we cannot get out of the world altogether. We have daily contacts with unbelievers when engaged in such necessary activities as preaching, shopping or secular work. In addition, a Christian wife whose husband is an unbeliever may be required to make more worldly contacts than others do. But all mature Christians are living for the new world, not cultivating ties with the old world. A mature Christian recognizes the difference between going to school for an education, for example, and participation in school sports, dances or other activities that are not compulsory. The Christian appreciates that he must be employed to make a living, but this does not require him to attend dinners and parties with worldly employers or fellow employees. He realizes that even though such worldly persons may not have lost all moral sense, they are not the associates for a worshiper of Jehovah to seek. As he gets God's mind on things he sees how Bible principles extend into many areas that he did not think about at first. When he becomes mature he would not want such worldly associations even if someone else did tell him that he thought it was all right. As a mature Christian he knows how to apply Christian principles, carrying his own load of responsibility.
This mature application of Bible principles also affects his employment. While he knows that God expects him to provide for his family, he realizes that Bible principles must be applied to the work he does. (1 Tim. 5:8) So when he becomes a Christian he readily sees that, even if his employer demands it, he cannot lie or cheat others. (Rev. 21:8; Eph. 4:28; Deut. 25:13-16) He may even find that he is engaged in a business that is in direct conflict with the Word of God; so to be able to serve God acceptably he may have to leave that occupation and seek employment of another kind, even though it may not be as rewarding from a financial standpoint.
Others may find that, while their work is generally not out of harmony with Bible principles, there are certain things that they are expected to do that give rise to a conflict of conscience. They may at first reason that they are not advocating these things, that they are only supplying goods or services that others request. But as one grows to maturity and applies Bible principles to their full measure one may find greater happiness by arranging to shift one's work to some other branch of his profession or by seeking work elsewhere. (1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:21) Who is to decide? Neither the Watch Tower Society nor others of his Christian brothers can decide for him. It is his load of responsibility, and he should be allowed to carry that load free from criticism.
Other responsibilities must be faced at home. In many parts of the world people are inclined to be very independent. Wives have worldly attitudes about women's rights, children are disrespectful of their parents and bossy husbands are not too inclined to do what the Bible says. Things change when the family gets a knowledge of Jehovah God. The husband sees that he must submit to the headship of Christ and do a preaching work. (1 Cor. 11:3) But at first other Bible counsel on headship may seem to escape his notice or he may regard home affairs as his personal business. He may listen when Jesus says, 'Go preach,' but not when the Scriptures say, 'Love your wife as your own self.' He needs to accept the responsibility of applying Bible principles in every aspect of his life.-Eph. 5:28-30; Col. 3:12-14, 19; 1 Pet. 3:7.
A similar thing may take place with his wife. On becoming a Christian she realizes that she must be in subjection to her husband and she submits in many matters. (Eph. 5:22-24) But one day the husband may make a major decision without asking her opinion. He simply announces that the family is going to move. Now a test develops. She does not agree with him; her relatives live nearby. Will she still apply the Bible principle of subjection, carrying her load of responsibility, or will she try to take over her husband's load? If she lacks maturity she may stage an emotional demonstration to win her way or simply refuse to submit to her husband's decision. But one who is mature in the application of Bible principles does not discard them even when others fail to do what may seem right.
Sometimes youngsters come to know Jehovah ahead of their parents, who strongly object to the children's new religion. The parents order them to stop preaching from house to house and attending meetings. Shall the youngsters become rebellious? Not if they apply the Bible principle of honoring their father and mother. Although they will not quit worshiping Jehovah God, they will continue subject to their parents, doing what they can do to advance true worship. As they grow in love of God they will realize that what Jehovah says is best. They will rely patiently on him until they come of age or until their parents gain an understanding of Jehovah's will. In fact, by continuing in subjection they may bring about that happy result sooner than they would by taking things into their own hands.-Eph. 6:1-3.
MISUSE OF BLOOD
Another field in which decisions must be made involves the misuse of blood. Today the world misuses blood in so many ways that it is not always easy to discern what products contain it. The Christian may feel that it would be fine if the Watch Tower Society would make up a list of all the food products and medical preparations that contain blood. But the Society has not done so for good reasons. There are many substances found in blood that are also found elsewhere. This is to be expected, since human and animal bodies are not the only creations produced from the earth. For example, while lecithin is found in blood, it is also derived from soybeans, which happen to be the common commercial source of most lecithin. If there is doubt about a product, it is up to the individual to investigate by inquiring of the manufacturer. He cannot expect a brother in the congregation to rule on the matter for him; the brother did not make the product and neither did the Society. The substance may have been derived from blood or it may not. He must bear his own load of responsibility.
As to blood transfusions, he knows from his study of the Bible and the publications of the Watch Tower Society that this is an unscriptural practice. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28, 29) Now it is up to him to carry his own load of responsibility in applying what the Scriptures have to say on this matter. One day he may go to the hospital for surgery. There he explains his position to the doctor. "All right," the doctor says, "then we will use plasma." Or the doctor may tell him, "What you need is red cells to carry oxygen. We have red cells that we can use. How about that?" The Christian may not be well versed in medical matters. Shall he call his congregation servant or the Society? That should not be necessary if he is prepared to carry his own load of responsibility. He need only ask the doctor: "From what was the plasma taken?" "How are the red cells obtained?" "Where did you get this substance?" If the answer is "Blood," he knows what course to take, for it is not just whole blood but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle.
Someone may argue with you that the Scriptures are referring to the "eating" of blood but that blood is not taken into the digestive system during a transfusion. True, but the fact is that by a direct route the blood serves the same purpose as food when taken into the stomach, namely, strengthening the body or sustaining life. It is not the same as a vaccine given to a healthy person to ward off a disease. Blood is given to a weak or sick person to build him up, just as food is given to nourish him.
To carry this load of responsibility that goes with respect for the sanctity of life, it is important for one to think out the matter in all its aspects before a crisis arises. When one has been in an accident and is weak from loss of blood, this is no time to be making decisions that should have been made when one could think clearly and had time to ascertain the Bible principles involved. A mature person makes it a practice to meditate when he studies, considering the application of the information at hand to his own life even though he may not at the moment be faced with the circumstance under discussion. In this way he knows what course to take when confronted with an urgent situation and he has clearly in mind the governing principles from the Scriptures.
SEEKING GODLY WISDOM
Being a Christian involves everything one does in life. It is not just a matter of believing and preaching certain doctrines and cherishing certain hopes. At first one who is learning the truths from God's Word may be particularly concerned with doctrinal matters, because he finds that what the Bible says exposes false religious teachings that he had been taught from childhood. But as he grows in knowledge and appreciation, he sees that what the Bible outlines is more than a set of doctrines; it is a way of life. Now he begins to grasp what the scripture means when it says: "Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight."-Prov. 3:5, 6.
As a result, no matter what the problem with which he is faced, he first endeavors to ascertain the Bible principles involved and lets them guide his course. Even when deep emotional problems arise, he does not turn for counsel to men who may be highly educated in worldly psychology but who lack true faith in Jehovah God. He does as counseled at James 5:13: "Is there anyone suffering evil among you? Let him carry on prayer." Yes, he turns to God, regularly communing with him in prayer and taking time to meditate on the portions of his Word that help him to get his problem in proper perspective. If necessary, he may also talk to the overseer of his congregation or some other mature Christian to make sure that he is taking into consideration all the scriptures that bear on his situation. But then, bearing his own load of responsibility, he does not ask someone else to make his decisions for him. He faces up to the situation, determining which course he as a dedicated Christian ought to pursue. Then, trusting in Jehovah to uphold him, he courageously walks in the way that will keep him close to God.
DISCERNMENT, NOT FANATICISM
All such fine application of Bible principles is a matter of discernment, not fanaticism. At Proverbs chapter 2 Jehovah promises to give us discernment and wisdom if we hunt for it as we would for hid treasure. Through his "faithful and discreet slave" organization God has provided rich spiritual food, and we should regularly use the publications that contain that food. (Matt. 24:45-47) It is recommended that every Christian household have its own reference library containing Bibles, each year's copies of the Watchtower and Awake! magazines, the Watch Tower Society's current bound books, and other such information as is provided for those who are regularly engaging in the ministry. It might also be helpful to have a good dictionary, a Bible concordance and perhaps a Bible dictionary. Also on hand should be the Watch Tower Publications Index and its annual supplements. These are basic tools for seeking wisdom and discernment from God's Word.
When a question or problem arises, get in the habit of carrying your own load of responsibility. Turn to your Index or the index contained in the back of others of the Society's publications and locate the subject or text involved. If you do not have a certain publication to which you are referred, put forth the effort to locate it in the local Kingdom Hall library or at the home of a friend.
Do your research and come to the best conclusion that you are able to reach. Youths should check their conclusions with their parents. Wives may verify their findings by asking their dedicated husbands. Anyone can check an important matter with his congregation overseer. While offering the needed help, the overseer will also do well to inquire if the individual has done any research and thinking of his own on the question. At times it may be necessary to write to the Society about a matter if it is important in one's ministry. But all are urged to learn to discern the Bible principles involved in a matter just as the Society would.-Ps. 119:105.
By carrying your own load of responsibility you will enjoy greater use of your perceptive powers as you grow to maturity and in usefulness to Jehovah God and his organization. In time of crisis you will be able to determine what God's will for you is, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in their own case. And, like them, you will find Jehovah's protection and favor in faithfully carrying your own load of responsibility.-Gal. 6:5.
w 64 11/15 680-2
Employment and Your Conscience
THROUGHOUT life a Christian must make decisions. Some he finds hard to make, others easy. Some decisions relate to what kind of employment he will accept in compliance with 1 Timothy 5:8, which points out that it is a Christian responsibility to provide for one's own household. First of all, he should view his problem objectively, making sure that he knows just what is involved in the kind of employment in question. Then he should consider any Biblical law or principle that may be involved. Though at times it may be difficult to do so, he should decide in favor of Scriptural laws or principles, when applicable to his situation, because a Christian is dedicated to Jehovah and must do His will. Certainly if a Christian willfully breaks the law of God he cannot consider himself guiltless, for God does not take such a view. Solomon said: "The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man."-Eccl. 12:13.
Commandments of God do come into consideration by a Christian when choosing his employment. Exodus chapter 20 lists ten of God's commandments, and the second one forbids the making of images for worship. In 1 John 5:21 Christians too are urged to guard themselves from idols. Hence, a Christian could easily decide not to accept employment in the manufacture of images or medals for false religious use. Related to this is the inspired statement of Revelation 18:4, 5, which, when considered by the Christian, would cause him to refuse regular employment in a false religious organization.
Other commandments of Jehovah are: You must not murder; you must not commit adultery; you must not steal. (Rom. 13:8-10) Therefore, a dedicated Christian can easily decide that he cannot let himself be employed by organizations whose business is murder, illicit sex relations or theft, nor would he individually engage in these practices. Regarding involvement in political affairs of the world, he will maturely consider such texts as John 17:14; John 15:19 and Daniel 2:44. Considering Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:3, a Christian can determine whether his associations or conduct would give any support to a violation of such principles of peacefulness. Also, in the light of Isaiah 65:11, 12 and 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10, the Christian could not conscientiously work for an enterprise, the entire function of which was gambling or a lottery, or any other form of extortion. Obviously, the Christian could not properly be employed in any manner that would conflict with the righteous laws and principles of God's Word.
KEEPING FREE FROM BLOOD
Christians are told to abstain from blood. (Acts 15:20, 28, 29) Just how far-reaching is that? What do the Scriptures require of a dedicated servant of God? If you are killing an animal or a bird, then, to comply with God's law and to render that creature suitable for food, you must drain the blood. According to God's law you must refrain from eating blood or taking it, as in a transfusion, to sustain life. Genesis 9:3, 4 and Deuteronomy 12:23, 24 contain Scriptural commands. Leviticus 17:10 points out that those in ancient Israel who willfully took in blood would be cut off by Jehovah. However, if an Israelite happened to eat the flesh of a clean animal that died of itself or was torn by a wild beast, he was declared unclean until the evening, provided he cleansed himself. (Lev. 17:15, 16) With Christians too, if someone partook of the meat of an animal that had not been properly drained of its blood when slaughtered, and it was not deliberate on his part and he repented when it later came to his attention, avoiding a recurrence of such wrongdoing, Jehovah would mercifully forgive him.
Various uses of blood today are objectionable from the Biblical standpoint. Blood could be used on the altar under certain circumstances in ancient Israel, and if it was not used in that manner it was to be disposed of. (Lev. 17:11-14) Not only is blood being used in connection with modern medical practices, but it is reported that blood is now being used in a variety of products, such as adhesives for making plywood, particle board, hardboard, bottle crowns, furniture and musical instruments. Blood is also being used in polymerization of rubber compounds, insecticidal binder, settling compound for industrial waste treatment, clear water purification (paper industry), uranium purification, foaming agent for lightweight cellular concrete, fire foaming agent, wine clarifying agent, paper coatings and binders, paper flocculants and sizes, replacement of casein in latex emulsions, emulsified asphalt, cork composition, photoengraving platemaking solutions, leather-finishing operations, water-resistant binder of pigments for print dyeing on cotton cloth, fertilizers, animal foods, and amino acid production, such as histidine and histamine, for example. Perhaps additional uses of blood will come to light in the future. In the world the uses of blood are numerous and none of these is in accord with the Biblical method of handling blood, which is to be spilled on the ground. However, the Christian is not responsible for the worldly misuse of blood, what other people do with it, and he cannot spend all his time undertaking detailed research regarding the various misuses of blood in the world of mankind, especially when it comes to nonedible products. If he did so, he would have less time left for preaching the good news of God's kingdom. To some persons, it may be a hard decision to make as to where one should be employed. It resolves itself to a matter of conscience.
The Israelites were told: "You must not eat any body already dead. To the alien resident who is inside your gates you may give it, and he must eat it; or there may be a selling of it to a foreigner, because you are a holy people to Jehovah your God." (Deut. 14:21) So whether a Christian who works in a store will dispose of blood goods, such as blood sausage, by selling such goods to persons of the world who are willing to pay for them is a matter of conscience. It is also a personal matter as to whether another Christian will sell blood items to worldly persons in a drugstore or will spread blood fertilizer on the field of a worldly employer at his request. Naturally, a Christian could not properly encourage persons to obtain blood goods rather than those free from blood and he could not advocate any misuse of blood. However, we must leave it up to the conscience of the individual Christian as to what he will do when it comes to matters of this nature in handling such products. One Christian should not criticize another Christian for the decision he makes, just as one Israelite could not reasonably criticize another Israelite for selling to a foreigner an animal that died of itself and hence had not been properly drained of its blood.
The use of blood in adhesives for manufacturing plywood and other commonly used materials has now come to the attention of Christians, and we use plywood as an example. Much plywood is made using blood glue, but some plywood is blood-free. A Christian purchaser or contractor may seek to obtain blood-free plywood if he can do so; however, if he decides to use all types of plywood, it must be left to his conscience. It is not always possible to determine just how the plywood has been made. Because blood may be used in some plywood, this does not mean that a Christian could not buy, sell or rent a home or purchase a trailer in which plywood is found. The extent to which he would check on such matters is for him to decide.
Also, if a Christian is working for a company that uses blood glue in some of its plywood or other products, he would not necessarily have to quit his job. He may work in the woods, cutting down the trees. Part of the lumber is used one way and part another. The employee is not responsible for what happens to the wood after he has done his job. Of course, if a Christian worked in a plywood plant and it was required that he prepare the blood glue or apply it to the plywood, he might feel he could not conscientiously do this. He might request that his employer give him some other kind of work not handling blood. But even this is a personal matter. By doing other work for the same company, such as working as a truck driver, salesman, and so forth, the individual may feel he is free from responsibility for any misuse of blood. Since blood is used in the manufacture of so many common products, it becomes almost impossible for the Christian to avoid all contact with them-leather goods, furniture, bottle tops, cotton cloth, and so forth. So just what the Christian will do is a matter of conscience, and others should not criticize him. Certainly it would not be fitting to disrupt the unity of a Christian congregation in a certain locality by becoming involved in detailed discussions and contentions over the personal decision in this respect on the part of some Christian associated with that congregation.-Ps. 133:1; Prov. 26:21; Jas. 3:16-18.
The Society does not endorse any of the modern medical uses of blood, such as the uses of blood in connection with inoculations. Inoculation is, however, a virtually unavoidable circumstance in some segments of society, and so we leave it up to the conscience of the individual to determine whether to submit to inoculation with a serum containing blood fractions for the purpose of building up antibodies to fight against disease. If a person did this, he may derive comfort under the circumstances from the fact that he is not directly eating blood, which is expressly forbidden in God's Word. It is not used for food or to replace lost blood. Here the Christian must make his own decision based on conscience. Therefore, whether a Christian will submit to inoculation with a serum, or whether doctors or nurses who are Christians will administer such, is for personal decision. Christians in the medical profession are individually responsible for employment decisions. They must bear the consequences of decisions made, in keeping with the principle at Galatians 6:5. Some doctors who are Jehovah's witnesses have administered blood transfusions to persons of the world upon request. However, they do not do so in the case of one of Jehovah's dedicated witnesses. In harmony with Deuteronomy 14:21, the administering of blood upon request to worldly persons is left to the Christian doctor's own conscience. This is similar to the situation facing a Christian butcher or grocer who must decide whether he can conscientiously sell blood sausage to a worldly person.
MAKING YOUR DECISION
These few examples of how Christians may go about deciding on their employment may be helpful when it comes to considering types of employment mentioned here. The Christian should always consider God's laws in everything he does; and whatever he does, he does unto Jehovah. (1 Cor. 10:31) If what he does is not contrary to God's law and "Caesar's" just laws, he is within his rights in doing it, and no one should criticize him. When a Christian is in doubt about what he should do, he should pray to Jehovah God. (1 Pet. 5:6, 7) He should read the Bible and consider Christian publications that deal with his problem. (The Watch Tower Publications Index contains many references under "Employment.") He can talk to the congregation overseer. However, after doing these things it is the individual who, knowing all the circumstances and consequences, must analyze matters and then decide. Others cannot make his decision, if it is a matter of conscience.
When faced with a decision, you may feel in advance that your conscience would bother you if you decided in a certain manner. The thing to do, then, is to avoid that which will cause you to have a troubled conscience. Christians desire to please Jehovah and so, whatever their employment, it should be the kind of work they can do with a clear conscience before Jehovah. "Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men."-Col. 3:23; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 1 Pet. 3:16.
Concerning these matters please see The Watchtower of September 15, 1958, page 575, and November 1, 1961, page 670.
See The Watchtower of February 15, 1963, pages 122-124.
w66 7/1 398-404
Exercising Maturity-A Safeguard
"You will walk in security on your way, and even your foot will not strike against anything . . . For Jehovah himself will prove to be, in effect, your confidence, and he will certainly keep your foot against capture."-Prov. 3:23-26.
POSSESSING mature thinking and judgment is of great value to the person who seeks to do God's will, enabling him to thwart the continual bombardment of temptations that are constantly striking him in this old order of things. The threats to Christian integrity in these wicked days at the end of this system of things are materialism, backbiting, reviling, extortion, immorality and misuse of blood. The rising emotional floods of nationalism bring increased political demands on the Christian to direct his worship to national standards and his loyalty and life to the State. In addition to this, there is the barrage of commercial inducements to seek a life of ease, luxury, to trust in materialism, to make money rapidly by sharp practices, on the borderline between legality and outright cheating. 'The question immediately arises, "What will be my decision when these temptations confront me?" Does the one giving thought to these matters always know what he would do, or, at times, are there some doubts in his mind, be they ever so small?
2 In view of the pressures we must endure, it is necessary to use every faculty to maintain integrity. Jesus showed this principle in these words: "If you love me, you will observe my commandments." Obviously, then, to overcome temptations of the world, love and obedience to Jehovah are vitally essential. Continually wanting to come into harmony with Jehovah's Word will constitute a safeguard. One's thinking ability has been enhanced by continual study and advancement to maturity. It "will keep guard over you."-John 14:15; Prov. 2:11.
3 Exercising maturity will be a safeguard if we continue acquiring accurate knowledge, analyze it and compare it with what we already know, drawing proper conclusions from this analysis, storing it up in our memory and putting it all into practical use at the proper time. Can we not, therefore, readily see the importance of continual study throughout our lives? Yes, our thinking and decisions are conditioned on such knowledge and wisdom. How apropos are Jehovah's words of counsel given to safeguard us, as illustrated in these words: "My son, to my wisdom O do pay attention. To my discernment incline your ears, so as to guard thinking abilities; and may your own lips safeguard knowledge itself"! (Prov. 5:1, 2) This brings us back to the importance of the thought that we should safeguard practical wisdom; and notice how valuable this is, as stated in Proverbs 3:21, 22: "Safeguard practical wisdom and thinking ability, and they will prove to be life to your soul and charm to your throat." Cultivating and developing thinking ability develops maturity, and it is important that this be done now, rather than to wait until a crucial moment demands a vital decision.
4 If as parents, for example, we are pressured by a doctor and family members who do not have accurate knowledge, to permit a blood transfusion, stating that the child's life depends on it, can we make the proper decision at that time and give a reason for it? Or will we have to say, "I don't have the proper explanation just now, but I'll read up on the subject and advise"? It is important that under such times of harassment one never discounts the power of emotion to becloud mature thinking. Mature judgment can be exercised only when the mind can clearly analyze the problem or situation, draw sober conclusions and reach decisions unfettered and unhampered by outside influence. Through prior study we will have God's mind on the matter in harmony with his spirit, and a resolve should be made to carry out God's will, come what may. Let the waves of emotions of others dash themselves in vain against the rocklike structure of your faith!
5 Thinking on divine principles will help to meet situations as they come up during one's lifetime. You will know why the course is right or wrong. But suppose circumstances may be somewhat different. Take, for example, doing acts of worship before symbols. Immediately scriptures such as 1 John 5:21 come to mind: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols," and Jehovah's words in the Decalogue: "You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form that is like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth." Diagnosing the matter, then, what is an idol? What is idolatry? We see that an idol can be an image or symbol of anything created. Do not national emblems have symbols on them? Stars? Animals? Colors that represent qualities? Do not they stand for what Peter referred to as "every human creation"? May they be revered? Jehovah's own words answer: "You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion." Therefore, bowing down would be an act of worship. Is the principle any different if some other motion is indulged in? Is standing up when a patriotic song is sung any different from bowing down when an idol passes? Or removing the hat? Or extending the hand or putting the hand over the heart?-Ex. 20:4, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13.
6 But yet, what is so bad about it? Well, bear in mind that Jehovah says he exacts exclusive devotion, and this is all due propriety. Remember, Jehovah is our Judge, Lawgiver and King. (Isa. 33:22) His jurisdiction embodies the entire government of the universe. Therefore, to do an act of worship to any other personage or thing created would be idolatry. We can readily see why Satan would have been most satisfied and triumphant with just one small act of worship from Jesus. (Matt. 4:9, 10) Such would be treason and deserving of death. This is universally recognized, even among the nations. How much worse, then, is treason that brings into jeopardy the eternal life of others and dishonors Jehovah! If confronted with such a compromising situation when commanded to worship (salute) some national emblem or commit an act of obeisance, one may take immediate comfort from Jesus' words at Matthew 10:28, when he said: "Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." Let mature judgment safeguard your life by recognizing that you will encounter many trials and tribulations, and it could mean death, as shown in Revelation 2:10, where we are admonished: "Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life." It is true that men and nations could take away your life now, but can they give it back to you? Can they give you everlasting life? Can they prevent Jehovah from giving you life? Because we are in a position and have opportunity to acquire mature judgment, embedding it deeply in our minds and hearts at this time, let it be so strongly entrenched that, on our part, it will develop a hatred toward any act of disobedience or treason against Jehovah.
ABSTAINING FROM BLOOD
7 In the matter of blood, we must start basically at the initial pronouncement against it, where eating blood was forbidden to mankind. (Gen. 9:4) Jews were prohibited from eating the blood of any sort from any flesh. (Lev. 17:14) Probably the strongest expression was given to the Christians at Acts 15:29, where the unequivocal statement is made: "Keep yourselves free . . . from blood." But without having full knowledge of such a statement as this, the average individual might possibly reason, "Wouldn't it be all right to sacrifice just a little of one's blood to preserve the life of another, especially if the one in need is one's own flesh and blood?" No, because this goes against another Bible principle that Jehovah stated through his prophet Samuel: "To obey is better than a sacrifice." (1 Sam. 15:22) Add to this the fact that rebelliousness and presumptuousness are as bad as using divination, uncanny power and teraphim. The unacquainted mind might say, "Well, that would be saving a life." But is it really, when we resort to sober mature thinking and principle? By full and complete obedience, our souls and those of our children are preserved to everlasting life. It goes without saying that we love our children, and true love works to their best interest. Certainly one would never jeopardize one's own child's hope for everlasting life by compromising with worldly principles or by sentimentality! No, Jesus' words at Matthew 10:37 apply here, when he stated: "He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me." So, then, is it best for you and your child to have a few short years of life now, or eternal life in the new order of things? Weigh the alternatives, then make your decision. Are you one to whom disobeying God's law is repulsive? Then the taking of blood is just as despicable to you as cannibalism. Think of eating of the flesh of another human creature! It is shocking! Is drinking human blood any different? Does bypassing the mouth and putting it directly into the veins change it? Not at all!
MATURITY AND IMMATURITY
8 We might look to the example of David, who was acquainted with God's law on blood and analyzed it, and he came to the conclusion that he would not consider even a seeming violation of God's law. This is told to us at 1 Chronicles 11:19: "It is unthinkable on my part, as regards my God, to do this! Is it the blood of these men that I should drink at the risk of their souls? For it was at the risk of their souls that they brought it." Again, mature judgment was a safeguard to David.
9 It may be well for us to consider another occasion concerning David, when his decision was not predicated on mature thinking, when he let physical passion overshadow and dim mature judgment. Looking too long at an attractive woman, Bath-sheba, led him into a course of direct violation of the Seventh Commandment, forbidding adultery. Apparently he had not given the same careful thought in this case as he did in the previous one. Here is an instance where David was overreached by personal desire, and there is little question of David's having had knowledge that adulterous violators were to be stoned to death.-2 Sam. 11:2-5.
10 The same Bible principle is held out to Christians today, inasmuch as at 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 it states: 'Adulterers will not inherit God's kingdom.' In actuality, they must be expelled (disfellowshiped and put in a deathlike condition) from the Christian congregation. Prohibition of fornication was one of the requirements for Gentile believers as well, as Paul admonishes against fornication and adultery. Some people exercise immature judgment by consoling their own consciences in such thoughts as, "It doesn't really hurt anybody, does it?" "Isn't it rather extreme to stone people to death just for doing what comes naturally?"
11 By proper enlightenment through careful study one will recognize that Jehovah's purpose for sexual relationship was to transmit life, under the marriage arrangement of parents, who were to provide security for proper growth, development and education for their offspring. Children reared outside this arrangement suffer because of being born outside the divine pattern. It must be recognized, then, that by applying the perfect standard of justice, sexual immorality is a perversion or wrong and receives God's adverse judgment.
12 A good example of immaturity was the nation of Israel who fell away, from time to time, to outright, bald-faced, unquestioned idolatry. They just did not think. Is not that the most usual reason when we get into trouble? We just do not think. If we do not think before acting, very likely we will think regretfully afterward. Hosea rebuked the Israelites with the words of Jehovah: "Because the knowledge is what you yourself have rejected, I shall also reject you from serving as a priest to me; and because you keep forgetting the law of your God, I shall forget your sons, even I." (Hos. 4:6) Where there is lack of knowledge, the retrospect of a creature will not safeguard him, but, rather, lead him into wrongdoing. Either they did not take in right knowledge for a safeguard or they did not keep it in memory.
13 Splendid examples of those who took the wise course were the three companions of Daniel. Maturity of thought is illustrated to us in Daniel 1:4, as Nebuchadnezzar asked that a search be made for captives "having insight into all wisdom and being acquainted with knowledge, and having discernment of what is known." Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego qualified as men of mature thought. This is what gave them strength under later temptations. In fact, when severe pressure was brought upon them to bow to a political image on the plain of Dura, their mature answer to Nebuchadnezzar was manifested when they declared: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us." Notice their continuation of expression: "If not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship." Of course, we know the thrilling outcome in the miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace that was theirs.-Daniel 3.
14 Daniel was also adamant in his thinking. He did not wait until he was confronted with temptation, because the foundation of his decision was made ahead of time, as noted at Daniel 1:8: "But Daniel determined in his heart that he would not pollute himself with the delicacies of the king and with his drinking wine. And he kept requesting of the principal court-official that he might not pollute himself." Even though Darius signed the edict that whoever would petition (pray to) another for thirty days would be thrown into the lions' pit, Daniel continued praying to his God three times a day as had been customary for him. Such faithfulness was recompensed by Jehovah with His closing the mouth of the lions.-Dan. 6:7-22.
15 On one occasion Saul was intent upon attacking the Philistines. He waited seven days for Samuel to come up and offer burnt sacrifice and communion sacrifices and, when he failed to show patience, he said: "'Bring near to me the burnt sacrifice and the communion sacrifices.' With that he went offering up the burnt sacrifice." He did not continue to wait upon the Lord. What a lamentable thing it is to rely upon one's own judgment, which is so shallow compared to the instruction of Jehovah! When Samuel approached him then, he said: "You have acted foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of Jehovah your God. . . . And now your kingdom will not last." The record continues: "Jehovah will certainly find for himself a man agreeable to his heart; and Jehovah will commission him as a leader over his people, because you did not keep what Jehovah commanded you."-1 Sam. 13:9, 13, 14.
16 In contrast, notice the mature thinking of another man, one that obeyed God's command even though it meant the life of his son, in whom all his hopes rested. Yes, God commanded Abraham actually to sacrifice his own son. This is something that Jehovah has never commanded another man to do, before or since. Abraham had all confidence in Almighty God and his purposes. The covenant that Jehovah had made with him was burned indelibly in his memory, and he KNEW that the blessing of all nations was to come through his son Isaac. Abraham was prepared to carry out the instruction to kill the only one through whom the seed of promise could come. There was only one possible conclusion that Abraham could have drawn from this reasoning. Had he carried through and killed his son, it is stated at Hebrews 11:19: "he reckoned that God was able to raise him up even from the dead; and from there he did receive him also in an illustrative way."
17 Another classic example of those who disregarded the counsel of God by thinking as natural men to the point of despising God's law was the case of the two sons of the high priest Eli, Hophni and Phinehas. Not only were they greedily taking the best of the sacrifices for themselves, but they committed adultery with the women who served at the tabernacle. They were overreached by their own selfish desires, disregarding Jehovah's laws and not thinking about Jehovah. Jehovah was thinking of them and observed their conduct and compared it with his righteous law. He came to this conclusion in regard to their continuing on as priests and producing offspring to serve as priests: "It is unthinkable, on my part, because those honoring me I shall honor, and those despising me will be of little account." Jehovah remembered this decision regarding them, and they died in battle as a divine judgment.-1 Sam. 2:22-26, 30, 34; 4:11.
18 There was an occasion where a young man was most cognizant of Jehovah's law and principles because as a youth he had a knowledge of the right moral standards of Jehovah. His mature judgment safeguarded him from committing immorality when tempted by the enticements of Potiphar's wife, who repeatedly invited Joseph to commit fornication when she asked him to "lie down with me." His decision was made in these words: "How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?" His reaction? Joseph "left his garment in her hand and took to flight and went on outside." He would rather spend years in prison, charged with what he refused to do, than violate the dictates of his decision to be faithful to God's requirements. (Gen. 39:7, 9, 10, 12) Joseph was actually committed to prison under false charges placed against him. As a result of his uncompromising stand he was used as a provider for his people. Faithfulness under this trial was a requisite for such approval.
19 It is certainly discernible that theocratically trained minds will render like judgment and will not let down guard and fall into the error of sin leading to pain, sorrow, suffering and eternal death. Why not let our course imitate that of faithful men who protected and guarded their souls carefully and remained in the favor of Almighty God even under trial? Maintaining integrity to God constitutes a safeguard of life. The joys and blessings of obedience bring security, contentment and self-sufficiency. Yes, it will enable one to build up a powerful shield of faith, as Paul described: "Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the wicked one's burning missiles." Even though Satan may take away all our literature and even our Bible and put us into solitary confinement or subject us to vicious persecution, we will have a protection that he cannot penetrate. If we have taken in complete and accurate knowledge of Jehovah's purposes as found in the sacred Word the Bible, if we have compared and analyzed it carefully with the help of mature brothers in association with the congregation, if we make decisions in advance on what to do under the varying circumstances that may come upon us, if we recall them and make practical decisions, we will safeguard ourselves against temptations that confront us continually.-Eph. 6:16.
20 How true is the proverb that tells us to depend always on Jehovah, as stated in Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6: "Do not lean upon your own understanding. In all your ways take notice of him, and he himself will make your paths straight"! Wisely, then, put all your faith and trust in Jehovah, predicated upon mature judgment. This will guard you, and Jehovah himself will be your everlasting shield.
1. Why is mature thinking and judgment of such great value to us today, and what will it enable us to do? 2. How will observance of Jesus' words at John 14:15 'keep guard over us'? 3. (a) Why is study so vital throughout our entire lives? (b) Why is it so urgent now? 4. How will prior study help us under trying conditions to make decisions based on right conclusions and not sentiment? 5. What circumstances could arise that lead to compromise in an idolatrous act? 6. (a) What, basically, constitutes idolatry? Why is such equivalent to treason? (b) Why should we not fear man or earthly governments? 7. (a) What does God's Word have to say regarding the use of blood? (b) How should one reason on the use of blood when one's own children are involved? (c) Why should the misuse of blood be repulsive to a Christian? 8. How did David view drinking water when men risked their lives to procure it for him? 9. On what occasion did David show immature judgment? 10. (a) What is the penalty for Christians if they commit adultery (or fornication) today? How may some immature person salve his conscience? 11. What is Jehovah's purpose for sexual relationship, and when is it proper? 12. What happened to Israel regarding idolatry? Why? 13. Describe the maturity of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. 14. How did Daniel manifest his maturity on two occasions? 15. How did Saul demonstrate a lack of mature judgment? With what ultimate result? 16. Describe how Abraham displayed mature judgment and utmost faith in Jehovah. 17. How did Eli's sons manifest complete disregard for Jehovah's Word? With what results to them? 18. What tempting situation confronted Joseph, and what resulted to him immediately, and ultimately, for maintaining integrity? 19. (a) Whose course should we imitate for protection? (b) How will maturity protect us even under trying circumstances? 20. What will provide our everlasting safeguard?
w67 11/15 702-4 Questions from Readers
Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one's body for use in medical research or to accepting organs for transplant from such a source?-W. L., U.S.A.
A number of issues are involved in this matter, including the propriety of organ transplants and autopsies. Quite often human emotion is the only factor considered when individuals decide these matters. It would be good, though, for Christians to consider the Scriptural principles that apply, and then make decisions in harmony with these principles so as to be pleasing to Jehovah.-Acts 24:16.
First, it would be well to have in mind that organ transplant operations, such as are now being performed in an attempt to repair the body or extend a life-span, were not the custom thousands of years ago, so we cannot expect to find legislation in the Bible on transplanting human organs. Yet, this does not mean that we have no indication of God's view of such matters.
When Jehovah for the first time allowed humans to eat animal flesh, he explained matters this way to Noah: "A fear of you and a terror of you will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that goes moving on the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Into your hand they are now given. Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat." (Gen. 9:2-4) That allowance was made to Noah, from whom every person now alive descended. Hence, it applies to all of us.
Humans were allowed by God to eat animal flesh and to sustain their human lives by taking the lives of animals, though they were not permitted to eat blood. Did this include eating human flesh, sustaining one's life by means of the body or part of the body of another human, alive or dead? No! That would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people. Jehovah clearly made a distinction between the lives of animals and the lives of humans, mankind being created in God's image, with his qualities. (Gen. 1:27) This distinction is evident in His next words. God proceeded to show that man's life is sacred and is not to be taken at will, as may be done with the animals to be used for food. To show disrespect for the sanctity of human life would make one liable to have his own life taken.-Gen. 9:5, 6.
When there is a diseased or defective organ, the usual way health is restored is by taking in nutrients. The body uses the food eaten to repair or heal the organ, gradually replacing the cells. When men of science conclude that this normal process will no longer work and they suggest removing the organ and replacing it directly with an organ from another human, this is simply a shortcut. Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others.
It is of interest to note that in its discussion of cannibalism the Encyclopśdia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, Volume 3, page 199, has a section designated "Medical cannibalism." It points out that this is associated with the idea of obtaining strength or some medical virtue from the flesh of another human, adding: "The most remarkable example of this practice occurs in China. Among the poor it is not uncommon for a member of the family to cut a piece of flesh from arm or leg, which is cooked and then given to a sick relative. . . . The whole superstition in China is certainly connected with the idea that the eating of the human body strengthens the eater. . . . Among savages the practice is found of giving a sick man some blood to drink drawn from the veins of a relative." Some might argue that therapeutic practices involved in modern organ transplant operations are more scientific than such primitive treatment. Nonetheless, it is evident that men practicing medicine have not been beyond using treatments that amount to cannibalism if such have been thought justified.
Modern science has developed many different types of operations that involve human body parts, some common and usually successful and others experimental and often unsuccessful. It is not our place to decide whether such operations are advisable or warranted from a scientific or medical standpoint. It would be well, though, for Christians faced with a decision in this regard to consider the indication as to God's viewpoint presented in the Scriptures.-Eph. 5:10.
At present scientific researchers are starting to use artificial or animal parts where formerly human parts were thought necessary, such as in the case of cornea transplants. (See, for instance, Science News for May 21, 1966, page 396, and Time for April 28, 1967, pages 68 and 70.) Whether wider use of such operations will be made, we do not know. Nor can we decide whether a Christian should accept some animal part as a transplant; that is for personal decision. (Gal. 6:5) However, we can be sure that in the future the time will come when all human medical operations will be unnecessary. (Rev. 21:4) Christians have strong evidence that the new order is near at hand when Jehovah the Great Physician will, through Jesus, do healing beyond the limitations of medical science of today.-Mark 8:22-25; John 11:43, 44; Acts 3:6, 7; Matt. 12:15.
What should be done, though, when a Christian is asked to provide an organ for use in another person or to allow the body part of a deceased loved one to be so used? We might ask, If a Christian decided personally that he would not sustain his own life with the flesh of another imperfect human, could he conscientiously allow part of his flesh to be used in that way to sustain someone else? Even from a medical standpoint there is some question as to the wisdom and ethicalness of some transplants. One physician discussed this publicly in the Annals of Internal Medicine, citing the results of 244 kidney-transplant operations. In the majority of cases the recipient did not live more than a year after the operation. Then, commenting on the dangers for the volunteer who donates one of his kidneys, the doctor asked: "Is it right to subject a healthy person . . . to the possibility . . . of shortening his life by 25 or 30 years in order to extend another's life by 25 or 30 months or less?" Reporting on this, Newsweek, of March 2, 1964, page 74, added that the doctor "offers no conclusive answer, but he suggests that the question needs to be asked more often."
When it comes to deciding what to do with one's own body or with the body of a deceased loved one, for which a Christian is responsible, the apostle Paul's words at Romans 12:1 should not be overlooked: "I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason." Baptized Christians have dedicated their lives, bodies included, to do the will of Jehovah their Creator. In view of this, can such a person donate his body or part of it for unrestricted use by doctors or others? Does a human have a God-given right to dedicate his body organs to scientific experimentation? Is it proper for him to allow such to be done with the body of a loved one? These are questions worthy of serious consideration.
Not to be overlooked is the use to which a dead body might be put. Would a Christian who, while living, refused to give his blood to be used as a transfusion for some other person, allow his body to be turned over to a group or to a person and possibly at that time have the blood removed and used for transfusion, as has been done with some cadavers? (See, for example, Awake! of October 22, 1962, page 30.) A person might feel that he could stipulate that his body not be used in that way; but if many persons in authority refuse to abide by a Christian's wishes about blood when he is alive, what reason is there to believe they will show more respect for his wishes after his death? Would they use his organs in cannibalistic medical experiments?
Our bodies are the creation of Jehovah God. (Ps. 100:3; 95:6; Job 10:8) Christians might allow apparently necessary surgery to be performed, such as to remove a diseased limb, but they do not needlessly mutilate their bodies created by Jehovah. Would allowing a body to be mutilated after death be showing respect for and appreciation of God's creation? True, in some instances there may be legal requirements that Christians abide by, such as when the law requires a postmortem examination to determine the cause of death. (Rom. 13:1, 7; Mark 12:17) In such cases the next of kin can usually request that the organs not be removed for transplant or reuse. In this way, even though an autopsy might be required, the Christian can prevent misuse of the body of a loved one. But when such laws do not apply, the Christian can decide in such a way as to avoid unnecessary mutilation and any possible misuse of the body. Thus he will be able to have a clear conscience before God.-1 Pet. 3:16.
It should be evident from this discussion that Christians who have been enlightened by God's Word do not need to make these decisions simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles recorded in the Scriptures 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.-Prov. 3:5, 6; Ps. 119:105.
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How Is Your Heart?
"More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life."-Prov. 4:23.
THE human heart, as to size, is only about as large as your fist. Yet it is a real powerhouse. Think of it! Every few minutes your heart circulates the five to six quarts of blood in your body around the 60,000-mile network of arteries, veins, and capillaries, bathing each of the trillions of cells of your body with the precious fluid of life. Since before you were separated from your mother's womb, you have been completely dependent upon this intricately designed organ's beating day and night without letup. If it stops beating for more than a few minutes, the cells in your body begin to die, starting with the fragile brain cells, which, in being starved of vital oxygen and other nourishment of the blood, begin to perish, making death imminent.
2 To do its enormous job for an average lifetime of approximately seventy years, the heart necessarily must be rugged. It is, but the heart is greatly affected by the way a person lives and thinks. The strains and living habits of this modern world put a crushing burden on the heart. Things can go wrong with it, and despite advances in medical research which have brought forth heart transplants, mechanical hearts, and other devices and techniques in the field of cardio-vascular therapy, there is still relatively little that doctors can do for you if your heart begins to fail. Heart disease is still the number one killer by a wide margin.
3 Doctors do tell us, however, that there is much you can do to safeguard your heart, but this must be done before the trouble begins. Improper eating, smoking, heavy drinking, anxiety, prolonged stress, violent emotional outbursts, not getting the proper amounts of rest and exercise, all have detrimental effects upon this vital organ, hastening death or perhaps making a person an invalid for the rest of his life. Wisely the Bible counsels: "A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones."-Prov. 14:30; Eccl. 2:23.
4 It is serious business when we talk about this little organ on which life is so dependent. We have only one. When it goes, death has indeed claimed another victim. In reading these sobering facts, you may even feel your own heart begin beating a little faster and a tinge of anxiety pass over you. But despite the urgency of protecting our hearts from the physical standpoint in order to live an average lifetime, it is even more urgent to safeguard the heart because of its important role in motivation, in originating desires and affections, if we hope to live forever in God's new order now so near. That is why the Bible warns: "More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life." How we develop and protect our hearts spiritually, and how our hearts motivate us, will be deciding factors to the One who "is making an estimate of hearts," in determining if we shall live in the righteous new system of things of God's making, or if we shall go into perpetual death because our hearts failed us spiritually.-Prov. 4:23; 21:2; 24:12.
LOOKING DEEPLY INTO THE HEART
5 Where and what is your heart? You may say, What heart are you talking about? You know you have a heart in your chest, one that is pumping blood throughout your entire body, serving every single cell with that stream of life. But do you have another "heart" in your head, a "figurative heart"? Is it part of your brain or is it that abstract capacity of the brain that we call the "mind"? No! The brain, in which the mind resides, is one thing and the heart in our thorax, with its power of motivation, is another thing.
6 With but few exceptions, the use of the word "heart" in the Bible is limited to the operations of the heart of man as the powerhouse of one's desires, emotions and affections, the place that comes to include the capacities for motivation. The Bible does not speak of a symbolic or spiritual heart in contradistinction to the fleshly or literal heart, just as it does not speak of a symbolic mind, and thus we do not want to make the mistake of viewing the literal heart as merely a fleshly pump as does orthodox physiology today. Most psychiatrists and psychologists tend to overcategorize the mind and allow for little if any influence from the fleshly heart, looking upon the word "heart" merely as a figure of speech apart from its use in identifying the organ that pumps our blood.
7 The heart, nevertheless, is intricately connected with the brain by the nervous system and is well supplied with sensory nerve endings. The sensations of the heart are recorded on the brain. It is here that the heart brings to bear on the mind its desires and its affections in arriving at conclusions having to do with motivations. In reverse flow, the mind feeds the heart with interpretations of the impulses from the senses and with conclusions reached that are based on the knowledge it has received, either at the moment or from the memory. There is a close interrelationship between the heart and the mind, but they are two different faculties, centering in different locations. The heart is a marvelously designed muscular pump, but, more significantly, our emotional and motivating capacities are built within it. Love, hate, desire (good and bad), preference for one thing over another, ambition, fear-in effect, all that serves to motivate us in relationship to our affections and desires springs from the heart.
8 The Bible makes a definite distinction between the heart and the mind. Jesus did so when saying we must love Jehovah with our "whole heart" as well as with our "whole mind." (Matt. 22:37) What we are at heart determines in large measure what we are as to personality. In this regard the apostle Peter speaks of "the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God."-1 Pet. 3:4.
9 Let us consider some significant points about the fleshly organ in your chest, the heart, called in Hebrew lev and le·vav' and in Greek kar·di'a (from which we get the word "cardiac"). Some medical scientists and psychiatrists believe that the heart does considerably more than pump blood. For instance, Dr. D. E. Schneider, a neurologist and psychiatrist of New York, points out that, when the human embryo is forming, the heart and the brain develop from the same area, that the heart is in part nerve tissue and, additionally, has the capacity for manufacturing and storing certain highly potent chemicals that exercise a regulatory effect on the body, including, according to this research, the brain. His conclusion is that there is "evidence for a two-way relationship between mind and heart," and that, even as the mind has its effect on the heart, "the heart [yes, the fleshly one in your chest] in turn may influence the mind intensely." Certain other researchers have arrived at rather similar conclusions.
10 It is significant that heart-transplant patients, where the nerves connecting the heart and brain are severed, have serious emotional problems after the operation. The new heart is still able to operate as a pump, it having its own power supply and timing mechanism independent of the general nervous system for giving impulse to the heart muscle, but just as it now responds only sluggishly to outside influences, the new heart in turn registers few, if any, clear factors of motivation on the brain. To what extent the nerve endings of the body and the new heart are able to make some connections in time is not clear, but this cannot be ruled out as one of the several factors causing the serious mental aberrations and disorientation that doctors report are observed in heart-transplant patients. These patients have donor-supplied pumps for their blood, but do they now have all the factors needed to say they have a "heart"? One thing is sure, in losing their own hearts, they have had taken away from them the capacities of "heart" built up in them over the years and which contributed to making them who they were as to personality.
11 Medical World News (May 23, 1969), in an article entitled "What Does a New Heart Do to the Mind?" reported the following: "At Stanford University Medical Center last year, a 45-year-old man received a new heart from a 20-year-old donor and soon announced to all his friends that he was celebrating his twentieth birthday. Another recipient resolved to live up to the sterling reputation of the prominent local citizen who was the donor. And a third man expressed great fear of feminization upon receiving a woman's heart, though he was somewhat mollified when he learned that women live longer than men. According to psychiatrist Donald T. Lunde, a consultant to surgeon Norman Shumway's transplant team at Stanford, these patients represent some of the less severe mental aberrations [italics ours] observed in the Shumway series of 13 transplants over the last 16 months." The article continues: "Though five patients in the series had survived as of early this month, and four of them were home leading fairly normal lives, three of the nonsurvivors became psychotic before they died last year. And two others have become psychotic this year."
12 While the giving of the drug prednisone and the mind-wearying effects of a serious operation and a long confinement under intensive care are given by Dr. Lunde as the chief causes of these strange personality disorders, it is interesting to observe that Dr. Schneider, "a New York psychiatrist-neurologist and a student of heart-brain interaction, sees other factors modifying Dr. Lunde's explanations for the psychoses encountered in the Shumway heart transplant series. Dr. Schneider . . . maintains that 'the heart is more than a plumber's pump-it is a neuroendocrine battery. It has a little brain all its own, the S-A and A-V nodes and the conduction bundle, and the little waves from this bundle can be discerned along with each heart wave on an ECG [electrocardiogram]. Beyond this, the heart's extensive manufacture and storage of catecholamines may affect the levels of these neurohormones in the hypothalamus.'" (Ibid., page 18) Dr. Schneider observed that many non-heart-transplant patients who were given prednisone or confined for long periods did not get psychoses.
13 Whatever medical science may yet learn about the human heart, the Bible definitely makes a distinction between mind and heart, separating them. And, with the heart playing such a vital role, how important it is to safeguard it, not just by dietary self-control and other physical means, but by watching what sinks down into our hearts as impressions come to it from the senses and as the result of interactions of heart and mind! If the heart stops and the body does not get lifegiving blood, we perish, including our heart and mental faculties; but even though we are living, if there is not a steady flow of proper motives, desires and affections from our heart, we cannot expect to please the Life-giver, Jehovah. "The one that goes in for sensual gratification is dead though she is living." (1 Tim. 5:6) In this light, "out of it are the sources of life" takes on greater significance. It is from the heart that we are motivated to worship. "With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness." (Rom. 10:10) We must love Jehovah with the whole heart and worship him "with spirit and truth." (John 4:24) In creating man, Jehovah made a special place in the heart of man for himself, which, of course, needs to be cultivated and nurtured by each one. It is the fool or senseless one who "has said in his heart: 'There is no Jehovah."' God can be replaced in the heart by other persons, objects, or concepts, if one chooses to have this done, but human creatures are made naturally at heart to worship their Creator.-Ps. 14:1; Prov. 3:1-7.
14 It is interesting to observe, too, that the heart is one of the first organs of the body to be affected by emotional circumstances. Our hearts leap with joy; sudden danger brings a violent racing of the heart. Fear causes trepidation of the heart. Grief and sorrow bring it pain. From the heights of joy and pleasure to the depths of despair and pain, the sensations of the heart are felt throughout the body. Appropriately we have many words and phrases that incorporate the word "heart." To name a few: Take to heart, fainthearted, tenderhearted, hardhearted, with all your heart, heartrending, set your heart on, heartening, change of heart, and so forth.
CONTRASTING THE HEART AND THE MIND
15 The mind, as we use the term in English, is the intellect or knowledge-processing center. It gathers information, thinks on it and, by process of reason and logic, reaches conclusions. With its powers of learning and perception, the mind relates the pieces of information it receives into concepts and patterns. (2 Tim. 1:13) When the pieces fall into place with clarity, it can be said that one has knowledge of a matter. Wisdom and understanding come when one is able to turn this knowledge into practical worth and see clearly how the related parts fit together into the whole with meaning, usefulness, and workability.
16 The fleshly heart, in contrast, is intimately associated with affection and motivation. The psalmist wrote: "In my heart I have treasured up your saying, in order that I may not sin against you." (Ps. 119:11) We can see that the heart is what motivates one's mind and course of action, by the case of the Israelites when preparing for and constructing the tent of meeting in the wilderness. The record says that "everyone whose heart impelled him," all "whose hearts incited them," contributed materials, skill and labor. (Ex. 35:21, 26, 29) It is because the heart has this motivating capacity that it focuses attention on what the person really is inside, what the apostle Peter called the "secret person of the heart."-1 Pet. 3:3, 4.
17 A simple illustration will help us to see the difference in the role played by each. Almost anyone can gain a knowledge of mechanics by study and application. However, the person not having developed a love at heart for things mechanical would have little or no motivation to learn about motors. If his car stops running, he likely would not know where to start in making the repair. Yet this one might be a skilled musician, an expert lawyer, or a devoted homemaker, each loving his work and pursuing it because at heart this is what he (or she) wants to do as a profession. But, in examining closely the background of a skilled mechanic, likely you would find he loves to work with motors, and, as a boy, he always wanted to know what made things "tick." Hearing a powerful motor start up and run smoothly is music to his ears. Now, what are we talking about? Yes, the heart! We are discussing his affections, motives and desires, not just the mental ability to learn about mechanics.
18 Now, although the Bible shows the heart and mind to be separate and distinct, this still allows for close interrelation, interdependency, and interplay between them. Your heart can be fed by your mind, for it is really with the conscious brain that we see, hear, feel, and receive the effects of our other physical senses. In turn, your mind, which is seated in the brain, can be moved or motivated by your heart.
19 From youth the mind is exercising a strong influence on the heart. If the right kind of information is taken into the mind, right conclusions and impressions are formed, and, as these sink down into the heart, there is a good influence in molding, controlling, and directing the motivations, desires and affections of the heart. If wrong information is taken into the mind, wrong concepts are built up, and as a result prejudice, hate, fear, pride, greed, stubbornness and other despicable traits take root in the heart and are reflected in the personality of the individual, especially if these wrong conclusions and impressions were formed early in life. That is why one, in becoming a Christian, must 'be transformed by making his mind over.' Paul admonished: "Be made new in the force actuating your mind." This new force of mind is built up as we get God's Word firmly implanted in our minds and respond fully to God's spirit, carefully watching afterward that our minds are not "corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ."-Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; 2 Cor. 11:3.
20 The majority of mankind today are raised in homes and neighborhoods where the environment for learning is not good. Permissiveness in home and school training has gone to seed, producing a rebellious, thrill-seeking generation. The learning about bad and the indulgence in it make deep circuits in the minds and corrupt the hearts of individuals, so that when they grow older they do what has already become natural to them. The abnormal becomes normal. Sex is for thrills and something about which to make dirty jokes, rather than for what God made it, the clean, pleasurable act within the confines of marriage to produce children. Have a good time, make money, get ahead, become somebody, do not let anyone push you around, indulge yourself, steal if you can get away with it-these are just some of the attitudes and goals impressed almost inerasably upon the heart from youth up by the environment of this world.
21 Each generation, the present generation even more so, has produced a majority who have turned away from God, becoming "empty-headed in their reasonings" and "their unintelligent heart became darkened," so that "God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness." They proved to be like most in the nation of Judah whom Jehovah described as having their sins "engraved on the tablet of their heart" as with a diamond point. Because God has not brought speedy execution of the wicked, "that is why the heart of the sons of men has become fully set in them to do bad." (Rom. 1:18-32; Jer. 17:1; Eccl. 8:11) Yet down through the stream of time there have been a precious few who have worked against great odds to cultivate in their hearts love for God and righteousness. Today, even deep into the "time of the end," Jehovah's witnesses are finding thousands whose hearts prove to be receptive to the Word of God, heeding the counsel: "Put away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls." "As for that [seed] on the fine soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance."-Jas. 1:21; Luke 8:15.
22 While it often involves making drastic changes in their lives, such as turning from a course of immorality, cooling down their tendency to be hot-tempered, reorienting their ambitions, being completely honest and industrious servants of God, they courageously make these changes. If we "call upon the Lord out of a clean heart" and work for a good heart, we have the promise from Jehovah that he will help us to have one.-2 Tim. 2:22.
23 So, how is your heart? As far as you know, your heart, medically speaking, may be sound for the moment, but the more important question is, How is your heart when you weigh out the motives, affections and desires arising therefrom? When you examine your heart in the light of God's Word, do you find that it is motivating you in the right direction, and does it have right desires and affections? Where deficiencies are found, are you having success in renewing and strengthening your heart as well as your mind, so as to think correctly and to resist the tendencies of the imperfect flesh and the temptations around you? If you are having a measure of success now, it is vital that you keep building and safeguarding your heart.
1. What impressive and sobering facts are known about the human heart? 2, 3. (a) Despite medical advancements, what continues to be the chief cause of death? (b) What can be done physically to safeguard the heart? 4. While safeguarding the heart physically is vital, what is much more important? Why? 5. Is the "heart" part of the mind? Explain. 6. How does the Bible use the word "heart"? 7, 8. (a) Describe the interplay between the heart and the mind of an individual. (b) What influence does the heart have as to personality traits? 9. What do some scientists believe about the heart, apart from its being a pump for the blood? 10. In heart-transplant patients, what conceivably causes the serious phychotic behavior? 11, 12. (a) What has been reported on the behavior of heart-transplant patients? (b) What significant observations are made on the heart's makeup and function other than as a pump for the blood? 13. (a) How is it that a person may be living and yet be dead in God's sight? (b) In what more vital way can it be said of the heart, "out of it are the sources of life"? 14. How is the heart involved in expressing our emotions? 15. Describe the faculty of "mind." 16. With respect to the Israelites in the wilderness, what insight does the Bible record give as to heart motivation? 17. Illustrate the difference between the mind and the heart. 18, 19. (a) In what ways do the mind and heart work together? (b) How does what is taken into the mind influence the heart? 20. Describe the general environment that shapes the hearts and minds of the majority today. 21, 22. (a) How are the hearts of those who turn away from God described? (b) In contrast, what is taking place in the hearts of those who are receptive to the Word of God? 23. What honest examination should be made of our hearts?
g72 6/22 29-30 Watching the World
Synthetic Blood 'Substitutes'
÷ While there is no actual substitute for blood, scientists are now working on blood replacements that have proved capable of sustaining life in animals despite massive blood loss. Dr. Robert P. Geyer of the Harvard University School of Public Health and his coworkers say that rats evidently suffer no ill effects when a synthetic preparation is exchanged for over 90 percent of their total blood supply. Monkeys live, apparently normally, after a 70-percent exchange. The synthetic product allows the organism enough time to develop new blood, which in a few days replaces the synthetic. Dr. Geyer points out that the reason for the interest in this is the well-known dangers of blood transfusions, which kill and injure thousands of persons each year. The preparation developed by the Harvard scientists has as its base a liquid fluorocarbon which can transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. Dr. Geyer predicts that clinical trials on humans can be expected soon.
w74 6/1 351-2 Questions from Readers
Is it proper for a Christian to accept medical treatment involving a serum prepared from blood?-Germany.
The Bible is plain as to God's high regard for blood, showing that He views it as representing the soul or life. (Lev. 17:11, 12, 14) Understandably, then, the divine command given to our common ancestor Noah stated: "Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat." (Gen. 9:4) Noah and his descendants, including all of us, were not to sustain their lives by using blood as food. And this important outlook was even repeated, showing its application to true worshipers today, for Christians were told: "Keep abstaining . . . from blood and from things strangled." (Acts 15:29) For this reason we cannot endorse the many modern medical practices employing blood. And we have repeatedly shown that accepting a blood transfusion would unquestionably be contrary to the Bible's prohibition on the using or eating of blood to sustain one's life.
Some Christians, though, have been urged on occasion to accept a serum injection prepared from a small quantity of a blood fraction. In order to evaluate this matter, it is helpful to understand just what serums are and why they are used. It is also helpful to understand how serums differ from vaccines.
In the normal course of life humans come in contact with viruses or bacteria that cause disease. For instance, a person may at one time or another be exposed to mumps, measles or tuberculosis. To fight against the assault or attack by viruses or bacteria, the body produces substances called antibodies that attempt to neutralize or reduce the harm done by these invading germs. A person who has these antibodies in his blood for a particular disease is temporarily or permanently safe from contracting this disease.
To provide advance protection, scientists have developed vaccines (toxoids) or inoculations that stimulate a person's body to produce antibodies against certain diseases. Smallpox, polio, tetanus, cholera, rabies, typhoid fever and yellow fever are some of the diseases for which vaccines or inoculations have been prepared. These vaccines, designed to make one immune to such diseases, are not produced from blood. (For details, see Awake! of August 22, 1965, pages 18 and 19.) Often vaccinations or inoculations, which are not made from blood, are required when children enter school or when tourists or missionaries travel to foreign countries. The objective is to stimulate the producing of antibodies in advance to prevent a person from contracting a certain disease should he be exposed to it.
But what if a person has recently been exposed to a disease or has definitely contracted diphtheria, tetanus, viral hepatitis, rabies or some other disease? Before his body has time to produce the needed antibodies, he might become seriously ill. So doctors have devised a way of providing immediately the antibodies that would help one to resist the disease's assault. Serums or antitoxins are used. These are obtained from the blood of humans or animals that have already developed the antibodies for fighting the disease. Usually the blood is processed and the blood fraction (gamma globulin) containing the antibodies is separated and made into a serum. When this is injected into the patient it gives him temporary passive immunity. This is temporary, for the antibodies do not become a permanent part of his blood; when these pass out of his body he is no longer immune to the disease. It can thus be seen that serums (unlike vaccines) contain a blood fraction, though minute.
As initially stated, out of full respect for what the Bible says about blood, we refrain from endorsing any use of it outside the body of the animal or human to whom it naturally belongs. We believe that the use of blood as a transfusion, or the use of a blood component to accomplish a similar purpose, is obviously in conflict with the Scriptural command to "abstain . . . from blood." (Acts 15:20) What, then, of the use of a serum containing only a minute fraction of blood and employed to supply an auxiliary defense against some infection and not employed to perform the life-sustaining function that blood normally carries out?
We believe that here the conscience of each Christian must decide. Some may feel that accepting such a serum does not constitute an act of disrespect for the sacredness of life and of God as the life Source, that it does not constitute a flouting of God's expressed will concerning the use of blood to feed the body. On the other hand, the conscience of others may call on them to reject all such serums. Each must answer to God as his or her judge with regard to the reason for one's conscientious decision.-1 Cor. 4:4; 2 Cor. 5:10.
We trust that this review of Bible principles will be helpful and aid in viewing the initial question and related questions in a considerate way. While refraining from approving or condemning in such areas where we believe the decision must be left to individual conscience, we do, nevertheless, urge all to seek to maintain their conscience clean before God, never showing deliberate disrespect for his Word.-1 Pet. 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:19.
Similar serums are used to treat a person bitten by a poisonous snake or a black widow spider. Also, in cases where there is an Rh incompatibility between a mother and her newborn child, doctors may urge her to accept a specialized serum infection. If the mother has not yet become sensitized to the child's blood type, the serum (made from the blood of a woman who has already produced the antibodies) might be administered so her system does not produce antibodies that might adversely affect a future child. See The Watchtower, November 15, 1964, p. 682.
g75 2/22 30 Watching the World
Hemophilia Treatment Hazard
÷ Certain clotting "factors" derived from blood are now in wide use for the treatment of hemophilia, a disorder causing uncontrollable bleeding. However, those given this treatment face another deadly hazard: the Swiss medical weekly Schweizer Med Wochenschrift reports that almost 40 percent of 113 hemophiliacs studied had cases of hepatitis. "All these patients had received whole blood, plasma, or blood derivatives containing [the factors]," notes the report. Of course, true Christians do not use this potentially dangerous treatment, heeding the Bible's command to 'abstain from blood.'-Acts 15:20, 28, 29.
w75 9/1 519 Insight on the News
It has long been known that heart-transplant patients have a higher-than-average amount of postoperative psychiatric problems. But it seems that the same is true with regard to some other vital organ transplants, such as kidney transplants. U.C.L.A. psychiatry professor Dr. Pietro Castelnuovo-Tedesco is quoted as saying: "An outstanding finding following transplantation is the not infrequent occurrence of serious emotional disturbance." One study of 292 kidney-transplant patients showed that nearly 20 percent experienced severe depression after the operation, a few even attempting suicide. By contrast, only about one out of every 1,500 general-surgery patients develops a severe emotional disturbance.
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. One young promiscuous woman who received a kidney from her older, conservative, well-behaved sister, at first seemed very upset. Then she began imitating her sister in much of her conduct. Another patient claimed to receive a changed outlook on life after his kidney transplant. Following a transplant, one mild-tempered man became aggressive like the donor. The problem may be largely or wholly mental. But it is of interest, at least, that the Bible links the kidneys closely with human emotions.-Compare Jeremiah 17:10 and Revelation 2:23
bq 40-1 Jehovah's Witnesses and the Question of Blood, 1977
Blood-Complex and Unique
107 Whereas some persons may be quick to call the rejection of blood "suicidal," a fair approach to the matter requires acknowledging the fact that there are uncertainties and even dangers associated with blood transfusion.
108 Doctors know that blood is extremely complex. This is manifested even in just the matter of blood types. Reference works state that there are some fifteen to nineteen known blood group systems. Regarding only one of these, the Rh blood group system, a recent book about blood said that "at the present time nearly three hundred different Rh types may theoretically be recognised." 47
109 Another facet of the complexity and uniqueness of each one's blood is the variety of antibodies in it. At a meeting of scientists in Zurich, Switzerland, a group of English criminologists pointed out that the antibodies are so diverse that the blood of each person might be said to be specific and unique. Scientists hope to be able to "reconstruct from a bloodstain the personality image of every person who leaves behind a trace of blood." 48
110 The fact that blood is an extremely complex tissue that differs from person to person has a significant bearing on blood transfusion. This is a point Dr. Herbert Silver, from the Blood Bank and Immunohematology Division of the Hartford (Connecticut) Hospital, recently made. He wrote that, considering only those blood factors for which tests can be performed, "there is a less than 1 in 100,000 chance of giving a person blood exactly like his own." 49
111 Consequently, whether having religious objections to blood transfusions or not, many a person might decline blood simply because it is essentially an organ transplant that at best is only partially compatible with his own blood.
Watchtower 1985 6/15, p.29-30
Britain, Blood, and Aids
EXACTLY two years ago, The Watchtower published the article "Jehovah's Standards Help Us." (Psalm 20:4) It gave as one example of the help available from God's safe and sure guidelines, the protection coming to Christians who obey his law against taking in blood. At that time in the United States attention was just beginning to be focused on a new health threat-AIDS. There were suspicions that this fatal syndrome might be spread through blood transfusions. However, readers in Europe and elsewhere might then have felt that this threat from violating God's law was limited to some distant location. As an update two years later, consider this recent information from Great Britain.
"MY SISTER needs to have an operation but is terrified of contracting AIDS. We are not Jehovah's Witnesses, but can you please help by recommending a surgeon who would operate without the use of blood?" That was just one of the heartfelt requests received recently by Jehovah's Witnesses at their London, England, headquarters. What lies behind these appeals?
Since its inception, the British Blood Transfusion Service has prided itself on its blood supply from voluntary donors. "A rest after the donation [of a unit of blood], a drink and biscuits, and back to work. Why not give it a try?" encourages their advertising leaflet. As a result, two million voluntary donations are made each year by 3 percent of the population.
"Blood collected from unpaid volunteers, as it is in Britain, is qualitatively superior to that collected from people who are paid for it," claims The Guardian. In other words, the view has long been that Britain has avoided the risk of infection from blood purchased from alcoholics or others who have little else to sell. But recent events have revealed serious flaws in this picture, resulting in an unprecedented loss of public confidence. Following the death of two haemophiliacs, a spokesman for the Haemophiliac Society said that National Health Service 'blood supplies can no longer be regarded as safe.' What happened?
Although it has been well known for years that it is impossible to screen blood for every disease and that serious infections, such as hepatitis or malaria, can be passed by transfusion, such dangers were not widely publicized in Britain. The inference always was that donated blood gives no cause for alarm. But two shocking factors have combined, causing The Daily Telegraph to conclude: "Britain has lost the battle to prevent the Aids virus infiltrating blood supplies."
The first shock came when press reports revealed that for many years Britain has in fact been buying blood from abroad. "Blood is being bought from people in poor countries where there is a high increase of blood-transmitted diseases," confided a union representative at a blood-products laboratory. Furthermore, some 70 million units of concentrated Factor VIII are imported from the United States and are used to treat British haemophiliacs. Each batch of Factor VIII is made from plasma that is pooled from as many as 2,500 blood donors. It seems that by importing this blood product the AIDS virus was transferred to the British supply.
An additional shock came when AIDS was confirmed as having infected the system from homosexual donors within the British Isles. Although homosexuals have been among those asked not to donate blood because of their higher risk of having AIDS, the warning was not as strongly worded as it should have been, admitted the Department of Health. The warning in their pamphlet on AIDS referred only to "Homosexual men who have many different partners." A current overprinting of the leaflet A.I.D.S. and how it concerns blood donors specifies that "Practising male homosexuals and bisexuals" are "particularly susceptible" to AIDS. But the warning came too late. By the beginning of 1985 more than 40 individuals, including a newborn baby, were infected. Furthermore, there is the troubling fact that the AIDS virus has an incubation period of up to two years. So how many more have already been infected? There is a "time-bomb element," as The Sunday Times put it. Accordingly, the National Blood Transfusion Service has recently prepared an additional pamphlet for all potential blood donors in Britain, Some Reasons Why You Should Not Give Blood.
There have already been some 50 deaths from AIDS in Britain, out of over 100 reported cases. The number of people suffering from the disease is presently doubling every eight months. A medical correspondent for The Sunday Times estimated that there could be over 12,000 cases within five years. An even more startling estimate out of the United Kingdom's Royal College of Nursing is that one million people in the British Isles could be affected by the year 1991 if no action is taken to check the spread of AIDS.
The inquirer mentioned above said: "It seems to me that you Jehovah's Witnesses are being proved right on this matter of blood transfusion." More accurately, of course, it is Jehovah God, through his Word, the Bible, who is being vindicated. Centuries ago he commanded Christians to 'abstain from blood.' (Acts 15:29; 21:25) His counsel and standards have certainly proved to be a protection for his people and will continue to be.
[Box on page 30]
What Is AIDS?
AIDS is an acronym derived from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS itself does not kill. But, as its name implies, the victim is left with a crippled immune system. Lacking this protection, a person with the disease will usually die from an infection, such as a unique type of pneumonia or a rare form of skin cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma. Research into detection and diagnosis is in its early stages, and there is, as yet, no known cure for AIDS.
g90 10/22 3-7
Selling Blood Is Big Business
RED GOLD! As the nickname implies, this is one highly valued substance. It is a precious fluid, a crucial natural resource that has been compared not only to gold but also to oil and coal. However, red gold is not mined from veins in the rocks with drills and dynamite. It is mined from the veins of people by much subtler means.
"Please, my little girl needs blood," implores a billboard that looms over a busy avenue in New York City. Other advertisements urge: "If you're a donor, you're the type this world can't live without." "Your blood counts. Lend an arm."
People who want to help others evidently do get the message. They line up in droves, worldwide. No doubt most of them, as well as the people collecting the blood and the people transfusing the blood, sincerely want to help the afflicted and believe that they are doing so.
But after blood is donated and before it is transfused, it passes through more hands and undergoes more procedures than most of us realize. Like gold, blood inspires greed. It may be sold at a profit and then resold at a larger profit. Some people fight over the rights to collect blood, they sell it at exorbitant prices, they make fortunes from it, and they even smuggle it from one country to another. The world over, selling blood is big business.
In the United States, donors were once paid outright for their blood. But in 1971 British author Richard Titmuss charged that by thus luring the poor and sick to donate blood for the sake of a few dollars, the American system was unsafe. He also argued that it was immoral for people to profit from giving their blood to help others. His attack prompted an end to the paying of whole-blood donors in the United States (although the system still thrives in some lands). Yet, that did not make the blood market any less profitable. Why?
How Blood Remained Profitable
In the 1940's, scientists began to separate blood into its components. The process, now called fractionation, makes blood an even more lucrative business. How? Well, consider: When dismantled and its parts sold, a late-model car may be worth up to five times its value when intact. Similarly, blood is worth much more when it is divided up and its components are sold separately.
Plasma, which makes up about half of the blood's total volume, is an especially profitable blood component. Since plasma has none of the cellular blood parts-red cells, white cells, and platelets-it can be dried and stored. Furthermore, a donor is allowed to give whole blood only five times a year, but he can give plasma up to twice a week by undergoing plasmapheresis. In this process, whole blood is extracted, the plasma separated, and then the cellular components are reinfused into the donor.
The United States still allows donors to be paid for their plasma. Moreover, that country permits donors to give about four times more plasma annually than the World Health Organization recommends! Little wonder, then, that the United States collects over 60 percent of the world's plasma supply. All that plasma in itself is worth about $450 million, but it fetches much more on the market because plasma too can be separated into various ingredients. Worldwide, plasma is the basis for a $2,000,000,000-a-year industry!
Japan, according to the newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, consumes about a third of the world's plasma. That country imports 96 percent of this blood component, most of it from the United States. Critics within Japan have called that country "the vampire of the world," and the Japanese Health and Welfare Ministry has tried to clamp down on the trade, saying that it is unreasonable to profit from blood. In fact, the Ministry charges that medical institutions in Japan make some $200,000,000 in profits each year from just one plasma component, albumin. The Federal Republic of Germany consumes more blood products than the rest of Europe combined, more per person than any country in the world. The book Zum Beispiel Blut (For Instance, Blood) says of blood products: "Over half is imported, mainly from the U.S.A., but also from the Third World. In any case from the poor, who want to improve their income by donating plasma." Some of these poor people sell so much of their blood that they die from blood loss.
Many commercial plasma-centers are strategically located in low-income areas or along the borders of poorer countries. They draw the impoverished and the derelicts, who are all too willing to trade plasma for money and have ample reason to give more than they should or to conceal any illnesses they might harbor. Such plasma traffic has arisen in 25 countries around the world. As soon as it is stopped in one country, it springs up in another. Bribery of officials as well as smuggling is not uncommon.
Profit in the Nonprofit Realm
But nonprofit blood banks have also come under harsh criticism lately. In 1986 reporter Andrea Rock charged in Money magazine that a unit of blood costs the blood banks $57.50 to collect from donors, that it costs the hospitals $88.00 to buy it from the blood banks, and that it costs patients from $375 to $600 to receive it in a transfusion.
Has the situation changed since then? In September 1989 reporter Gilbert M. Gaul of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a series of newspaper articles on the U.S. blood-banking system. After a yearlong investigation, he reported that some blood banks beg people to donate blood and then turn around and sell as much as half of that blood to other blood centers, at a considerable profit. Gaul estimated that blood banks trade about a million pints [half a million liters] of blood every year in this way, in a shadowy $50,000,000-a-year market that functions somewhat like a stock exchange.
A key difference, though: This blood exchange is not monitored by the government. No one can measure the exact extent of it, let alone regulate its prices. And many blood donors know nothing about it. "People are being fooled," one retired blood banker told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "Nobody is telling them that their blood is going to us. They would be furious if they knew about it." A Red Cross official put it succinctly: "Blood bankers have for years fooled the American public."
In the United States alone, blood banks collect some 13.5 million pints [6.5 million L] of blood every year, and they sell over 30 million units of blood products for about a thousand million dollars. This is a tremendous amount of money. Blood banks don't use the term "profit." They prefer the phrase "excesses over expenses." The Red Cross, for instance, made $300 million in "excesses over expenses" from 1980 to 1987. The blood banks protest that they are nonprofit organizations. They claim that unlike big corporations on Wall Street, their money does not go to stockholders. But if the Red Cross did have shareholders, it would be ranked among the most profitable corporations in the United States, such as General Motors. And blood-bank officials do have handsome salaries. Of officials in 62 blood banks surveyed by The Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 percent made over $100,000 a year. Some made more than twice that much.
Blood bankers also claim that they do not "sell" the blood they collect-they only charge processing fees. One blood banker retorts to that claim: "It drives me crazy when the Red Cross says it doesn't sell blood. That's like the supermarket saying they're only charging you for the carton, not the milk."
The Global Market
Like the plasma trade, the trade in whole blood encircles the globe. So does criticism of it. The Japanese Red Cross, for instance, stirred a furor in October 1989 when it tried to elbow its way into the Japanese market by giving large discounts on products extracted from donated blood. Hospitals reaped huge profits by claiming on their insurance forms that they had bought the blood at standard prices.
According to Thailand's newspaper The Nation, some Asian countries have had to clamp down on the market in red gold by ending paid donations. In India as many as 500,000 sell their own blood to make a living. Some, haggard and impoverished, disguise themselves so they can donate more than is allowed. Others are deliberately overbled by the blood banks.
In his book Blood: Gift or Merchandise, Piet J. Hagen claims that the shady doings of blood banks are at their worst in Brazil. The hundreds of Brazilian commercial blood banks operate a $70 million market that draws the unscrupulous. According to the book Bluternte (Blood Harvest), the poor and unemployed stream to the countless blood banks in Bogotá, Colombia. They sell a pint [half a liter] of their blood for a meager 350 to 500 pesos. Patients may pay from 4,000 to 6,000 pesos for the same pint of blood!
Clearly, at least one global reality emerges from the foregoing: Selling blood is big business. 'But so what? Why shouldn't blood be a big business?' some may ask.
Well, what makes many people uneasy about big business in general? It is greed. The greed shows, for example, when big business persuades people to purchase things they don't really need; or worse, when it continues to foist on the public some products known to be dangerous, or when it refuses to spend money to make its products safer.
If the blood business is tainted with that kind of greed, the lives of millions of people the world over are in great danger. Has greed corrupted the blood business?
In April 1990, Gaul's exposé won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. It also sparked a major congressional investigation into the blood industry late in 1989.
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Probably very few women who have just given birth wonder what happens to the placenta, the mass of tissue that nourishes the baby while it is in the womb. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, many hospitals save it, freeze it, and sell it. In 1987 alone, the United States shipped some 1.7 million pounds [0.8 million kg] of placentas overseas. A firm near Paris, France, buys 15 tons of placentas every day! The placentas are a ready source of maternal blood plasma, which the company processes into various medicines and sells in some one hundred countries.
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(For fully formatted text, see publication)
The Main Components of Blood
Plasma: about 55 percent of the blood. It is 92 percent water; the rest is made up of complex proteins, such as globulins, fibrinogens, and albumin
Platelets: about 0.17 percent of the blood
White Cells: about 0.1 percent
Red Cells: about 45 percent
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Gift of Life or Kiss of Death?
"How many people have to die? How many deaths do you need? Give us the threshold of death that you need in order to believe that this is happening."
DON FRANCIS, an official of the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control), pounded his fist on the table as he shouted the above words at a meeting with top representatives of the blood-banking industry. The CDC was trying to convince the blood bankers that AIDS was spreading through the nation's blood supply.
The blood bankers were unconvinced. They called the evidence tenuous-just a handful of cases-and decided not to step up blood testing or screening. That was on January 4, 1983. Six months later, the president of the American Association of Blood Banks asserted: "There is little or no danger to the general public."
For many experts, there was already enough evidence to warrant some action. And since then, that original "handful of cases" has ballooned alarmingly. Before 1985, perhaps 24,000 people were given transfusions tainted with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which causes AIDS.
Contaminated blood is an appallingly efficient way to spread the AIDS virus. According to The New England Journal of Medicine (December 14, 1989), a single unit of blood may carry enough virus to cause up to 1.75 million infections! The CDC told Awake! that by June 1990, in the United States alone, 3,506 people had already developed AIDS from blood transfusions, blood components, and tissue transplants.
But those are mere numbers. They can't begin to convey the depth of the personal tragedies involved. Consider, for instance, the tragedy of Frances Borchelt, 71 years old. She adamantly told doctors that she did not want a blood transfusion. She was transfused anyway. She died agonizingly of AIDS as her family watched helplessly. Or consider the tragedy of a 17-year-old girl who, suffering from heavy menstrual bleeding, was given two units of blood just to correct her anemia. When she was 19 years old and pregnant, she found out that the transfusion had given her the AIDS virus. At 22 she came down with AIDS. Besides learning that she would soon die of AIDS, she was left wondering if she had passed the disease on to her baby. The list of tragedies goes on and on, ranging from babies to the elderly, all over the world.
In 1987 the book Autologous and Directed Blood Programs lamented: "Almost as soon as the original risk groups were defined, the unthinkable occurred: the demonstration that this potentially lethal disease [AIDS] could and was being transmitted by the volunteer blood supply. This was the most bitter of all medical ironies; that the precious life-giving gift of blood could turn out to be an instrument of death."
Even medicines derived from plasma helped to spread this plague around the world. Hemophiliacs, most of whom use a plasma-based clotting agent to treat their illness, were decimated. In the United States, between 60 and 90 percent of them got AIDS before a procedure was set up to heat-treat the medicine in order to rid it of HIV. Still, to this day, blood is not safe from AIDS. And AIDS is not the only danger from blood transfusion. Far from it.
The Risks That Dwarf AIDS
"It is the most dangerous substance we use in medicine," Dr. Charles Huggins says of blood. He should know; he is the director of the blood transfusion service at a Massachusetts hospital. Many think that a blood transfusion is as simple as finding someone with a matching blood type. But besides the ABO types and the Rh factor for which blood is routinely cross-matched, there may be 400 or so other differences for which it is not. As cardiovascular surgeon Denton Cooley notes: "A blood transfusion is an organ transplant. . . . I think that there are certain incompatibilities in almost all blood transfusions."
It is not surprising that transfusing such a complex substance might, as one surgeon put it, "confuse" the body's immune system. In fact, a blood transfusion can suppress immunity for as long as a year. To some, this is the most threatening aspect of transfusions.
Then there are infectious diseases as well. They have exotic names, such as Chagas' disease and cytomegalovirus. Effects range from fever and chills to death. Dr. Joseph Feldschuh of the Cornell University of Medicine says that there is 1 chance in 10 of getting some sort of infection from a transfusion. It is like playing Russian roulette with a ten-chamber revolver. Recent studies have also shown that blood transfusions during cancer surgery may actually increase the risk of recurrence of the cancer.
No wonder a television news program claimed that a blood transfusion could be the biggest obstacle to recovery from surgery. Hepatitis infects hundreds of thousands and kills many more transfusion recipients than AIDS does, but it gets little of the publicity. No one knows the extent of the deaths, but economist Ross Eckert says that it may be the equivalent of a DC-10 airliner full of people crashing every month.
Risk and the Blood Banks
How have blood banks responded to the exposure of all these risks in their product? Not well, the critics charge. In 1988 the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic accused the industry of being "unnecessarily slow" in reacting to the AIDS threat. Blood banks had been urged to discourage members of high-risk groups from donating blood. They had been urged to test the blood itself, screening it for signs of coming from high-risk donors. The blood banks delayed. They pooh-poohed the risks as so much hysteria. Why?
In his book And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts charges that some blood bankers opposed further testing "almost solely on fiscal grounds. Although largely run by non-profit organizations like the Red Cross, the blood industry represented big money, with annual receipts of a billion [a thousand million] dollars. Their business of providing the blood for 3.5 million transfusions a year was threatened."
Furthermore, since nonprofit blood banks depend so heavily on volunteer donors, they hesitated to offend any of them by excluding certain high-risk groups, homosexuals in particular. Gay-rights advocates warned darkly that forbidding them to donate blood would violate their civil rights and would smack of the concentration-camp mentality of another era.
Losing donors and adding new tests would also cost more money. In the spring of 1983, the Stanford University Blood Bank became the first to use a surrogate test on blood, which could indicate whether the blood came from donors at high risk for AIDS. Other blood bankers criticized the move as a commercial ploy to attract more patients. Tests do increase prices. But as one couple, whose baby was transfused without their knowledge, put it: "We certainly would have paid an additional $5 a pint" for such tests. Their baby died of AIDS.
The Self-Preservation Factor
Some experts say that the blood banks are sluggish to respond to dangers in blood because they do not have to answer for the consequences of their own failures. For instance, according to the report in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) is responsible for seeing that the blood banks are up to standard, but it relies heavily on the blood banks to set those standards. And some of the officials of the FDA are former leaders in the blood industry. Thus, inspections of blood banks actually decreased in frequency as the AIDS crisis unfolded!
U.S. blood banks have also lobbied for legislation that protects them from lawsuits. In almost every state, the law now says that blood is a service, not a product. That means that a person suing a blood bank must prove negligence on the bank's part-a tough legal obstacle. Such laws may make blood banks safer from lawsuits, but they do not make blood safer for patients.
As economist Ross Eckert reasons, if the blood banks were held liable for the blood they traffic in, they would do more to ensure its quality. Retired blood banker Aaron Kellner agrees: "By a bit of legal alchemy, blood became a service. Everybody was home free, everybody that is, except the innocent victim, the patient." He adds: "We could at least have pointed out the inequity, but we did not. We were concerned with our own peril; where was our concern for the patient?"
The conclusion seems inescapable. The blood-banking industry is far more interested in protecting itself financially than it is in protecting people from the hazards of its product. 'But do all these hazards really matter,' some might reason, 'if blood is the only possible treatment to save a life? Don't the benefits outweigh the risks?' These are good questions. Just how necessary are all those transfusions?
[Blurb on page 9]
Doctors go to great lengths to protect themselves from their patients' blood. But are patients sufficiently protected from transfused blood?
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Is Blood Safe From AIDS Today?
"IT'S Bloody Good News," proclaimed a headline in the New York Daily News on October 5, 1989. The article reported that the chances of getting AIDS from a blood transfusion are 1 in 28,000. The process for keeping the virus out of the blood supply, it said, is now 99.9 percent effective.
Similar optimism reigns in the blood-banking industry. 'The blood supply is safer than ever,' they claim. The president of the American Association of Blood Banks said that the risk of acquiring AIDS from blood had been "virtually eliminated." But if blood is safe, why have both courts and doctors slapped it with such labels as "toxic" and "unavoidably unsafe"? Why do some doctors operate wearing what look like space suits, replete with face masks and wading boots, all to avoid contact with blood? Why do so many hospitals ask patients to sign a consent form relieving the hospital of liability for the harmful effects of blood transfusions? Is blood really safe from diseases such as AIDS?
The safety depends on the two measures used to protect blood: screening the donors who supply it and testing the blood itself. Recent studies have shown that in spite of all the efforts to screen out blood donors whose life-style puts them at high risk for AIDS, there are still some who slip through the screen. They give wrong answers to the questionnaire and donate blood. Some just want to find out discreetly if they are infected themselves.
In 1985 blood banks began to test blood for the presence of the antibodies that the body produces to fight the AIDS virus. The problem with the test is that a person can be infected with the AIDS virus for some time before developing any antibodies that the test would detect. This crucial gap is called the window period.
The idea that there is 1 chance in 28,000 of getting AIDS from a blood transfusion comes from a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. That periodical set the most likely window period at an average of eight weeks. Just months before, though, in June 1989, the same journal published a study concluding that the window period can be much longer-three years or more. This earlier study suggested that such long window periods may be more common than once thought, and it speculated that, worse, some infected people may never develop antibodies for the virus! The more optimistic study, however, did not incorporate these findings, calling them "not well understood."
No wonder Dr. Cory SerVass of the Presidential Commission on AIDS said: "Blood banks can keep telling the public that the blood supply is as safe as it can be, but the public isn't buying that anymore because they sense it isn't true."
CDC, Atlanta, Ga.
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Transfused Blood and Cancer
Scientists are learning that transfused blood can suppress the immune system and that suppressed immunity may adversely affect the survival rate of those operated on for cancer. In its February 15, 1987, issue, the journal Cancer reports on an informative study done in the Netherlands. "In the patients with colon cancer," the journal said, "a significant adverse effect of transfusion on long-term survival was seen. In this group there was a cumulative 5-year overall survival of 48% for the transfused and 74% for the nontransfused patients."
Physicians at the University of Southern California also found that of patients who had cancer surgery many more have a recurrence of cancer if they received a transfusion. The Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, March 1989, reported on a follow-up study of a hundred patients by these physicians: "The recurrence rate for all cancers of the larynx was 14% for those who did not receive blood and 65% for those who did. For cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, and nose or sinus, the recurrence rate was 31% without transfusions and 71% with transfusions."
In his article "Blood Transfusions and Surgery for Cancer," Dr. John S. Spratt concluded: "The cancer surgeon may need to become a bloodless surgeon."-The American Journal of Surgery, September 1986.
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That blood is a lifesaving medicine is debatable but that it kills people is not
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Transfusions-The Key to Survival?
IN 1941 Dr. John S. Lundy set a standard for blood transfusions. Apparently without any clinical evidence to back him up, he said that if a patient's hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of blood, goes down to a level of ten grams or less for every deciliter of blood, then the patient needs a transfusion. Thereafter that number became a standard for doctors.
This ten-gram standard has been challenged for nearly 30 years. In 1988 The Journal of the American Medical Association flatly stated that the evidence does not support the guideline. Anesthesiologist Howard L. Zauder says it is "cloaked in tradition, shrouded in obscurity, and unsubstantiated by clinical or experimental evidence." Others simply call it a myth.
Despite all this vigorous debunking, the myth is still widely revered as a sound guideline. To many anesthesiologists and other doctors, a hemoglobin level of below ten is a trigger for transfusion to correct the anemia. It's virtually automatic.
No doubt, that helps account for the vast overuse of blood and blood products today. Dr. Theresa L. Crenshaw, who served on the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic, estimates that in the United States alone, some two million unnecessary transfusions are administered every year and that about half of all transfusions of banked blood could be avoided. Japan's Health and Welfare Ministry decried "the indiscriminate use of transfusions" in Japan, as well as the "blind belief in their efficacy."
The problem with trying to correct anemia with a blood transfusion is that the transfusion can be more deadly than the anemia. Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse blood transfusions primarily on religious grounds, have helped to prove the point.
You may have seen newspaper headlines reporting that one of Jehovah's Witnesses died because of refusing a blood transfusion. Sadly, such reports rarely tell the whole story. Frequently, it is the doctor's refusal to operate, or to operate soon enough, that spells death for the Witness. Some surgeons refuse to operate without freedom to transfuse if the hemoglobin level drops below ten. However, many surgeons have successfully operated on Witnesses with hemoglobin levels of five, two, and even less. Says surgeon Richard K. Spence: "What I've found with the Witnesses is that the lower hemoglobin does not relate to mortality at all."
A Wealth of Alternatives
'Blood or death.' That is the way some doctors describe the alternatives facing a Witness patient. Yet, in reality, there are many alternatives to blood transfusion. Jehovah's Witnesses are not interested in dying. They are interested in alternative treatments. Because the Bible forbids the ingesting of blood, they simply don't consider blood transfusions an alternative.
In June 1988, the Report of the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic suggested that all patients be given just what the Witnesses have been requesting for years, namely: "Informed consent for transfusion of blood or its components should include an explanation of the risks involved . . . and information about appropriate alternatives to homologous blood transfusion therapy."
In other words, patients should be given a choice. One such choice is a type of autologous transfusion. The patient's own blood is salvaged during the operation and recirculated back into the patient's veins. Where such a process is simply an extension of the patient's own circulatory system, it is quite acceptable to most Witnesses. Surgeons also stress the value of increasing the patient's blood volume with nonblood expanders and letting the body replenish its own red cells. Such techniques have been used in place of transfusions without increasing mortality. In fact, they can improve safety.
A promising drug called recombinant erythropoietin has recently been approved for limited use. It speeds up the body's own production of red blood cells, in effect helping a person to make more of his own blood. Scientists are still searching for an effective substitute for blood that imitates its remarkable oxygen-carrying capacity. In the United States, the makers of such substitutes find it hard to get approval for their products. Yet, as one such maker objected: "If you thought about bringing blood to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to be approved, you wouldn't have a prayer of ever getting it tested it's so toxic." Still, hopes are high that an effective chemical will be found that will be approved as an oxygen-carrying substitute for blood.
So there are choices. Those mentioned here are but a few of those available. As Dr. Horace Herbsman, a professor of clinical surgery, wrote in the journal Emergency Medicine: "It's . . . quite clear that we do have alternatives to blood replacement. Indeed, perhaps our experience with Jehovah's Witnesses might be interpreted to mean that we do not need to rely on blood transfusions, with all their potential complications, as much as we once thought." Of course, none of this is really new. As The American Surgeon noted: "The fact that major operations can be safely performed without blood transfusions has been amply documented in the past 25 years." But if blood is dangerous, and there are safe alternatives to its use, then why are millions of people transfused unnecessarily-many of them without knowing it, others actually against their will? The report of the presidential commission on AIDS notes in part the failure to educate doctors and hospitals about the alternatives. It blames another factor too: "Some regional blood centers have been hesitant to promote strategies that minimize the use of transfusion therapies, since their operating income is derived from the sale of blood and blood products."
In other words: Selling blood is big business.
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The Most Precious Fluid in the World
Even if blood transfusions could be dismissed as the dangerous and unnecessary products of a frequently greedy industry, that still would not explain why Jehovah's Witnesses refuse them. Their reasons are altogether different and much more important. What are they?
A DROP of blood is so easy to take for granted. It wells up from a scratch or a pinprick, a tiny dome of glittering red, and we rinse it away or wipe it off without a thought.
But if we could shrink ourselves down until we were so small that this dome loomed overhead like a mountain, we would find in its crimson depths a world of incredible complexity and order. Within that single drop, there bustle great armies of cells: 250,000,000 red blood cells, 400,000 white blood cells, and 15,000,000 platelets, which are but some of the ranks. Launched into action in the bloodstream, each army sets about its separate task.
The red cells scurry through the intricate network of the vascular system, carrying oxygen from the lungs to every cell in the body and removing the carbon dioxide. So tiny are these cells that a stack of 500 of them would only be 0.04 inches [0.1 cm] high. Yet, a stack of all the red cells in your body would soar up to 31,000 miles [50,000 km]! After about 120 days of making the trip through the body 1,440 times a day, the red cell is retired. Its iron-rich core is efficiently recycled, the rest disposed of. Every second, three million red cells are removed, while the same number of new ones are made in the marrow. How does the body know that a red cell has reached the right age for retirement? Scientists are mystified. But without this system of replacing old red cells, according to one chemist, "our blood would be thick as concrete in a couple of weeks."
Meanwhile, the white cells prowl the system, seeking out and destroying unwanted invaders. The platelets gather instantly where there is a cut and start the process of clotting and sealing off the break. All these cells are suspended in a clear, ivory-colored fluid called plasma, which is itself made up of hundreds of ingredients, many of them playing vital roles in carrying out the blood's long list of duties.
Scientists with all their collective brainpower are at a loss to understand everything that blood does, let alone duplicate it. Could this miraculously complex fluid be anything but the work of a Master Designer? And doesn't it stand to reason that this superhuman Creator has every right to regulate how his creations should be used?
Jehovah's Witnesses have always thought so. They view the Bible as a letter from our Creator that contains his guidelines on how to live the best life possible; it is a book that is not silent on this matter of blood. Leviticus 17:14 says: "The soul of every sort of flesh is its blood"-not literally, of course, since the Bible also says that the living organism itself is a soul. Rather, the life of all souls is so inextricably tied up with and sustained by the blood in them that blood is appropriately viewed as a sacred fluid representing life.
For some, that is hard to understand. We live in a world that holds very little as sacred. Life itself is rarely valued as it should be. Little wonder, then, that blood is bought and sold like any other commodity. But those who respect the Creator's wishes do not treat it that way. 'You must not eat blood' was God's command to Noah and his descendants-all mankind. (Genesis 9:4) Eight centuries later He put that command in his Law to the Israelites. Fifteen centuries later he reaffirmed it once again to the Christian congregation: 'Abstain from blood.'-Acts 15:20.
Jehovah's Witnesses hold to that law primarily because they want to obey their Creator. By means of the sacrificial death of his own beloved Son, the Creator has already provided mankind with lifesaving blood. It can prolong life not just for a few months or years but forever.-John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7.
Furthermore, abstaining from blood transfusions has protected Witnesses from myriads of dangers. More and more people besides Jehovah's Witnesses are refusing blood transfusions today. Slowly the medical community is responding and reducing its use of blood. As the Surgery Annual put it: "Clearly, the safest transfusion is the one not given." The journal Pathologist noted that Jehovah's Witnesses have long insisted that blood transfusions are not advisable treatment. It added: "There is considerable evidence to support their contention, despite protestations from blood bankers to the contrary."
Whom would you rather trust? The wise Being who designed blood? Or the people who have made the selling of blood a big business?
[Pictures on page 15]
The human vascular system, with capillaries (inset) that are so fine that blood cells are forced to travel through them single file
Awake 12/8/94, p.27
The Rh Factor and YouTHE proud father looks down happily at his newborn baby sleeping quietly in its mother's arms. It was a long night in the delivery room, but now all of that is in the past. In comes the doctor to check on his patients and to congratulate all. "There's just one thing, routine really," he says. The mother's blood is Rh-negative, and a check showed that the baby's is Rh-positive, so the mother will need to be given an immunizing shot. "It's just a small injection made up of human antibodies but quite important," the doctor assures them, "for preventing complications with future pregnancies." Though the doctor may consider the shot routine, the mention of it and possible "complications" brings up a set of questions in the minds of the concerned parents. What does this shot actually do? How necessary is it? What would happen if the parents did not want it? For the Christian another question emerges. Since the Bible says, 'Keep abstaining from blood,' can the Christian accept the shot in good conscience if it contains human antibodies from someone else's blood?-Acts 15:20, 29.
History of the Rh ProblemDecades ago scientists discovered that human blood contains many factors, or antigens, that make each person's blood unique. In time they learned that two antigen systems in the red blood cells caused most of the medical problems if one person's blood was put in contact with another person's. One of these antigens is termed "ABO"; the other is termed "Rh." A brief review of the Rh system will help us answer the important questions these concerned parents have and that you too may have wondered about. In 1939, doctors published the puzzling case of a 25-year-old woman whose second baby died during pregnancy. Following the delivery of the dead baby, the woman was given blood transfusions and developed severe reactions even though the blood was from her husband and apparently compatible with her own as respects ABO antigens. Doctors later surmised that some unknown factor from the blood of her first baby had mixed with her blood and had "sensitized" her blood, leading both to her reaction to her husband's blood and to the loss of her second baby. This unknown factor was later identified through experiments involving rhesus monkeys, so it was termed "Rh factor." This blood factor was the subject of intense medical interest through the 1960's because it was discovered to be the cause of a somewhat common and often tragic illness of babies called erythroblastosis fetalis. As doctors studied the Rh factor and the disease, a fascinating medical story unfolded.
Rh, Genetics, and Sick BabiesMost people are touched when a newborn baby is seriously ill or dies. Merely seeing an infant sick or in distress is hard on many, and doctors are no different. Two other reasons made this baby-killing Rh factor of especial concern to physicians. The first was that doctors began to see a pattern with the disease and to understand how the Rh factor was involved in sickness and death. Rh factor is present in the red blood cells of about 85 to 95 percent of people, both men and women. They are termed "Rh-positive." The 5 to 15 percent without it are labeled "Rh-negative." If an Rh-negative person is exposed to the blood of an Rh-positive person, he or she may form molecules called antibodies that destroy Rh-positive blood. This is really a common, normal response of the body's immune system as it fights off foreign invaders. The problem is, an Rh-negative mother may have a baby who inherits Rh-positive blood from its father. This presents no problem when the placenta works perfectly and the baby's blood is kept separate from the mother's. (Compare Psalm 139:13.) But because our bodies are imperfect, a small amount of the baby's blood may sometimes leak through and come into contact with the mother's. Occasionally, this happens because of some medical procedure, such as an amniocentesis (drawing a sample of the fluid in the birth sac surrounding the developing baby). Or some of the baby's blood may intermingle with the mother's during delivery. Whatever the cause, the mother may become sensitized and make antibodies against the Rh-positive blood. Picture the problem: Once the mother develops such antibodies, all succeeding babies are at risk if they should inherit Rh-positive blood from the father. This is because the mother now has antibodies to Rh-positive blood. You see, certain antibodies pass the placenta normally. This is a good thing, causing all babies to be born with a degree of temporary natural immunity by way of their mothers. With Rh disease, however, the sensitized mother's Rh antibodies pass the placenta and attack the Rh-positive baby's blood. This rarely affects the first baby, being more common with any succeeding babies. It causes sickness, called Rh hemolytic disease of the newborn (erythroblastosis fetalis if the damage is severe). There are many ways to manage this disease, though often with limited success, as we will see. Let us now focus on one medical aspect of the problem-a possible means of prevention.
A Breakthrough in PreventionYou may recall that there were two reasons this disease became so exciting to doctors. The first was that the mechanism of illness became known and understandable. What was the second reason? It showed up in 1968. After years of research and frustrating attempts by doctors to treat these very sick babies, which met with limited success, an immunization was developed that was effective in preventing the problem of "Rh babies." This was good news. But how did it work? Recall that the Rh problem (for the second and succeeding Rh-positive babies) developed when blood from the first Rh-positive baby "leaked" into the Rh-negative mother's bloodstream and caused her to produce antibodies. Could there be a way to snatch up the baby's red blood cells in the mother's system before they had a chance to sensitize her? The method devised was an immunizing shot for the mother called Rh immune globulin, or RhIG, known in some countries by brand names, such as RhoGAM and Rhesonativ. It is composed of antibodies against the Rh-positive antigen. Exactly how it works is complex, and even unclear, but it basically seems to work the following way. When an Rh-negative mother is suspected of having been exposed to Rh-positive blood, such as after the delivery of an Rh-positive baby, the mother is given an RhIG shot. These antibodies quickly attack any leaked Rh-positive red blood cells from the baby and destroy them before they sensitize the mother. This effectively eliminates the danger to the next baby, since no antibodies against Rh-positive blood are produced by the mother. The real advantage that doctors see in this is that it serves to prevent disease rather than treat it after it develops. This sounds good in theory, yet has it worked? Apparently, yes. In one country, the United States, the incidence of Rh hemolytic disease dropped 65 percent during the 1970's. Though many things could have contributed to this, 60 to 70 percent of this drop was attributable to the use of RhIG. In one Canadian province, the number of babies dying from Rh hemolytic disease decreased from 29 in 1964 to 1 between 1974 and 1975. The medical community saw this as verification of the principle that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." With this basic background, we can consider some specific questions that often arise concerning Rh disease.
What are the risks of having a problem with Rh disease during my pregnancy?A simple blood test can determine the Rh blood types of mother and father; roughly 1 in 7 marriages is of an Rh-negative woman to an Rh-positive man. Aspects of the father's genetic makeup bring the overall risk down to about 10 percent. Those are overall population statistics, however. If you are an Rh-negative woman married to an Rh-positive man, your chances are either 50 percent or 100 percent of having an Rh-positive baby, depending on the genetic makeup of your husband. (There is no sure way to determine the genetics of the husband, just as there is yet no simple way to determine whether a baby in the womb is Rh-positive.) For the Rh-negative mother carrying an Rh-positive baby, there is a 16-percent chance with each pregnancy that she will be sensitized, thus putting future pregnancies at risk. Of course, that is merely an average. Barring prior blood transfusion or other exposure of the mother to blood, the first baby of a marriage is usually free from the risk of Rh disease. After that first baby, the risk is actually somewhat difficult to predict in any given case. One woman may be sensitized with her very first Rh-positive baby. Another may have five or more Rh-positive babies and never be sensitized. If a mother becomes sensitized, the risk of death to each succeeding Rh-positive fetus is 30 percent, and this is not altered by the interval between pregnancies. So this is not to be taken lightly.
Can laboratory testing tell me if my developing baby is at risk?Yes, to an extent. Antibody levels in the mother's blood can be measured during pregnancy to tell if she is producing antibodies against the baby's blood. Also, amniocentesis can help tell if the baby's blood is being destroyed and the baby is in danger. Yet, amniocentesis sometimes presents its own complications, and so there ought to be caution about undergoing it.
Does the RhIG shot have side effects?There is still some controversy about its use during pregnancy because of possible immunologic damage to the developing embryo. Yet, most experts conclude that the immunization is relatively safe both for the mother and for the developing baby inside her.
According to doctors, how often should I take the shot?Authorities say that the shot should be given soon after any event that may have caused Rh-positive blood to enter the bloodstream of an Rh-negative woman. Thus, current recommendations are that the shot be given within 72 hours of delivery of the baby if the baby's blood is found to be Rh-positive. The same recommendation holds for an amniocentesis or a miscarriage. Furthermore, since studies have shown that a small amount of the baby's blood may enter the mother's bloodstream during normal pregnancy, some doctors recommend that the shot be given at 28 weeks into the pregnancy to prevent sensitization. In that case the shot would still be recommended again after the baby is born.
Is there any treatment for a baby once it gets Rh disease?Yes. Though hemolytic disease of the newborn is a serious illness, there is good evidence supporting treatments that do not involve exchange blood transfusions for the baby. The most feared complication of this disease involves the buildup of a chemical called bilirubin, which results from the breakdown of red blood cells. This produces jaundice and can in some instances cause damage to the baby's organs. (Incidentally, a mild jaundice may be caused when there is an ABO incompatibility between the mother's blood and the baby's blood, but this is usually not as serious.) For some years doctors thought that a specific level of jaundice was indication for exchange blood transfusion in these babies, but further research has revealed various alternative treatments. Early delivery or cesarean section, phototherapy (blue light), and medications such as phenobarbital, activated charcoal, and other treatments have proved helpful and have dramatically decreased the push to resort to transfusion. In fact, some recent reports have highlighted the futility and even the danger of exchange transfusions in babies with Rh disease.-See box, page 26. Nevertheless, there are extreme cases when doctors still insist that exchange transfusion is the only acceptable treatment. Therefore, some parents feel that it is better to avoid the whole problem with a shot that will prevent the disease and thus the jaundice.
Is the RhIG shot made from blood?Yes. The antibodies that make up the shot are harvested from the blood of individuals who have become immunized or sensitized to the Rh factor. Genetically-engineered RhIG not derived from blood may become available in the future.
Can the Christian conscientiously take RhIG?The issue involved is the possible misuse of blood. The Scriptures quite emphatically prohibit the eating or other misuse of blood. (Leviticus 17:11, 12; Acts 15:28, 29) Since RhIG is produced from blood, would it be in violation of the Bible command to abstain from blood if a Christian woman were to accept the shot? This journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have commented consistently on the matter. We have noted that in all pregnancies antibodies freely pass the placenta between mother and baby. Hence some Christians have concluded that to them it does not seem a violation of Bible law to take a shot consisting of antibodies, like RhIG, since the process is essentially like what happens naturally. The decision whether to take RhIG remains finally, though, a matter for each Christian couple to decide conscientiously. However, if a husband and wife facing the Rh issue decide not to take the RhIG when medically indicated, they need to be willing to accept the risk of having a future child seriously affected by an illness that could possibly have been prevented. In this situation they might even decide that the course of wisdom is to take extra precautions so they do not have more children and expose themselves to the possibility of such a tragedy. Concerned Christian parents should prayerfully consider all aspects before making such weighty decisions.
[Footnotes]These statistics vary with different races. In most whites the incidence of Rh-negativity is 15 percent; American blacks, 7 to 8 percent; Indo-Eurasians, about 2 percent; Asiatic Chinese and Japanese, almost zero.-Transfusion Medicine Reviews, September 1988, page 130. Some women in this situation have had a number of babies, and all turned out to be Rh-negative, so the mother did not become sensitized. But in other cases, the very first child was Rh-positive, and the mother became sensitized. See The Watchtower of June 1, 1990, pages 30, 31; June 15, 1978, pages 30, 31; and How Can Blood Save Your Life?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Box on page 26] Elevated Bilirubin-Reason for Transfusion?Doctors have long been fearful of the consequences of elevated bilirubin in babies, so much so that when the bilirubin begins to rise-especially toward the number 20 mg/100 ml-doctors often insist on exchange transfusion "to prevent brain damage" (kernicterus). Is their fear, and the value of blood transfusion, justified? Notes Dr. Anthony Dixon: "Several studies of such infants have been unable to detect any consequences, whether short or longterm, of bilirubin levels between 18 mg-51 mg per 100 ml." Dr. Dixon goes on to discuss "vigintiphobia: the fear of 20." Though no advantage has been proved from treating these elevated bilirubin levels, Dr. Dixon concludes: "The dilemma is clear. Aggressive treatment of elevated serum bilirubin levels is now standard practice. Standard practice should not be challenged until it has been proved to be wrong, yet any attempt to demonstrate that it is wrong is unethical!"-Canadian Family Physician, October 1984, page 1981. On the other hand, an Italian authority, Dr. Ersilia Garbagnati, has written about a protective role of bilirubin and the "potential unexpected dangers from inappropriately low serum bilirubin levels." (Italics ours.) (Pediatrics, March 1990, page 380) Going a step further, Dr. Joan Hodgman writes in Western Journal of Medicine: "Exchange transfusion will not prevent bilirubin staining of the brain at low levels of bilirubin and, in view of the experimental work quoted above, may actually be harmful."-June 1984, page 933.
Watchtower 8/1/95, p. 30
Blood Transfusions Reconsidered
IN THIS gloomy age of AIDS, the greatest threat to a hospital patient's health may lurk in the operating room. "There is no way we can make the blood supply completely sterile," says Dr. Richard Spence, who for more than a decade has directed the Center for Bloodless Surgery at Cooper Hospital-University Medical Center in Camden, New Jersey, U.S.A. Not surprisingly, the center treats many of Jehovah's Witnesses, whose Bible-based refusal of blood transfusions is well-known. (Leviticus 17:11; Acts 15:28, 29) However, a number of non-Witness patients are showing up at the center as well, concerned about the potential dangers of transfusing blood, which include the contracting of hepatitis, AIDS, and other diseases. "The rise of AIDS has shown the need for screening blood," notes the Courier-Post Weekly Report on Science and Medicine. "But some cases can still slip through the screening process because someone could have the virus before it would show up on a test." Because of such dangers, the Center for Bloodless Surgery utilizes alternatives to blood transfusions, including the reinfusion of a patient's own blood-a technique that some Witnesses may find unobjectionable under certain circumstances. Another treatment involves the use of drugs that stimulate the patient's blood production. Additionally, a synthetic blood substitute is occasionally employed to bolster the delivery of oxygen without the need for transfused blood. "Jehovah's Witnesses want the best medical care," says Dr. Spence, "but they want alternatives to transfusions." Jehovah's Witnesses are thankful for the cooperation and assistance they have received from doctors who respect their religious convictions. As a result, they have indeed received "the best medical care" and have maintained a clean conscience before Jehovah God.-2 Timothy 1:3.
[Footnotes] A detailed discussion of this process and the factors involved in making a personal, conscientious decision is set out in The Watchtower of March 1, 1989, pages 30-1.
Watchtower 2/15/97, p.19-20
Bioethics and Bloodless Surgery
RECENT years have seen unprecedented progress in the field of medicine. However, while solving medical problems, some advances have created ethical ones. Doctors have to ponder such dilemmas as: Should aggressive medical treatment sometimes be abandoned so that a patient can die with dignity? Should a doctor overrule a patient's decision if he feels it is in the patient's best interests? How should health care be rationed when expensive treatment is not available for everyone? Such complex issues have brought into focus the medical discipline called bioethics. This speciality aims to help doctors and scientists to deal with the ethical implications of biological research and medical advances. Since many of the most difficult decisions arise in hospitals, many hospitals have established bioethical committees. Usually the committee members-including doctors and lawyers-attend seminars on bioethics, where ethical problems in medicine are analyzed. Some questions frequently raised in such seminars are: To what extent should doctors respect the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses who, primarily for religious reasons, refuse to accept blood transfusions? Should a doctor transfuse a patient against the patient's will if that seems medically "advisable"? Would it be ethical to do so without the patient's knowledge, as if 'what the patient doesn't know won't hurt him'? To handle such issues appropriately, doctors need an objective understanding of the Witnesses' viewpoint. On their part, Jehovah's Witnesses are eager to explain their position to doctors, realizing that mutual understanding can serve to avoid confrontation.
A Meeting of Minds
Professor Diego Gracia, a prominent Spanish authority in bioethics, wanted his class to have such a dialogue. "It is only right that you [Jehovah's Witnesses] be given an opportunity to express your concerns . . . in view of the difficulties you have had in connection with blood transfusions," the professor said. Thus, on June 5, 1996, three representatives of Jehovah's Witnesses were invited to the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, to explain their viewpoint. Some 40 doctors and other professionals were present. After the Witnesses made a brief presentation, the session was opened to questions. All present concurred that an adult patient should have the right to refuse a particular medical treatment. The class also believed that a transfusion should never be administered without the patient's informed consent. Yet some aspects of the Witnesses' stand concerned them. One question concerned money. Sometimes bloodless surgery involves special equipment, such as laser surgery, as well as costly drugs, such as erythropoietin, used to stimulate red blood cell production. One doctor wondered if by refusing a less expensive option (homologous blood), the Witnesses might be expecting public-health services to give them special privileges. While recognizing that money is necessarily a factor that doctors have to consider, a Witness representative referred to published studies that analyze the hidden costs of homologous blood transfusions. These include the cost of treating transfusion-related complications, as well as the loss of income resulting from such complications. He quoted a comprehensive study from the United States that indicated that the average unit of blood, although initially costing only $250, actually generated expenses of over $1,300-more than five times the original sum. Hence, he pointed out, when all factors are taken into account, bloodless surgery is cost-effective. Furthermore, much of the so-called extra cost of bloodless surgery is equipment that is reusable. Another question on the minds of several doctors related to group pressure. What would happen, they wondered, if a Witness wavered and accepted a blood transfusion? Would he be ostracized by the Witness community? The response would depend on the actual situation, for disobeying God's law certainly is a serious matter, something for the congregation's elders to examine. The Witnesses would want to help any person who has undergone the traumatic experience of life-threatening surgery and who has accepted a transfusion. Doubtless such a Witness would feel very bad and be concerned about his relationship with God. Such a person may need help and understanding. Since the backbone of Christianity is love, the elders would want, as in all judicial cases, to temper firmness with mercy.-Matthew 9:12, 13; John 7:24. "Won't you be reassessing your ethical stand before long?" asked a professor in bioethics, who was visiting from the United States. "Other religions have done that in recent years." The stand of the Witnesses respecting the sanctity of blood is a doctrinal belief rather than an ethical viewpoint subject to periodic review, he was told. The clear Biblical command leaves no room for compromise. (Acts 15:28, 29) Violating such a divine law would be as unacceptable to a Witness as condoning idolatry or fornication. Jehovah's Witnesses appreciate very much the willingness of doctors-like the ones present at the bioethics seminar in Madrid-to respect their decision to seek alternative treatment that accords with their Bible-based convictions. Doubtless, bioethics will play an important role in improving doctor-patient relationships and fostering greater respect for the wishes of the patient. As a famous Spanish physician is reported to have said, doctors must always remember that they "work with imperfect instruments and fallible means." They therefore need the "conviction that love should always extend to where knowledge cannot reach."
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