Myth: Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in medicine or medical treatment.
Fact: We seek the best possible medical care for ourselves and our families. When we have health problems, we go to doctors who have skill in providing medical and surgical care without blood. We appreciate advancements that have been made in the medical field. In fact, bloodless treatments developed to help Witness patients are now being used to benefit all in the community. In many countries, any patient can now choose to avoid blood-transfusion risks, such as blood-borne diseases, immune-system reactions, and human errors.
Myth: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that faith will heal a person’s ailments.
Fact: We do not practice faith healing.
Myth: Avoiding blood transfusions is very costly.
Fact: Medical treatments that avoid blood transfusions are cost-effective. a
Myth: Many Witnesses, including children, die each year as a result of refusing blood transfusions.
Fact: This statement is totally unfounded. Surgeons regularly perform such complex procedures as heart operations, orthopedic surgery, and organ transplants without the use of blood transfusions. b Patients, including children, who do not receive transfusions usually fare as well as or better than those who do accept transfusions. c In any case, no one can say for certain that a patient will die because of refusing blood or will live because of accepting it.
Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses accept blood transfusions?
This is a religious issue rather than a medical one. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood. (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29) Also, God views blood as representing life. (Leviticus 17:14) So we avoid taking blood not only in obedience to God but also out of respect for him as the Giver of life.
At one time, the medical community generally viewed strategies for avoiding transfusions, so-called bloodless medicine, as extreme, even suicidal, but this has changed in recent years. For example, in 2004, an article published in a medical education journal stated that “many of the techniques developed for use in Jehovah’s Witness patients will become standard practice in years to come.” d An article in the journal Heart, Lung and Circulation said in 2010 that “‘bloodless surgery’ should not be limited to J[ehovah’s] W[itnesses] but should form an integral part of everyday surgical practice.”
Thousands of doctors worldwide now use blood-conservation techniques to perform complex surgeries without transfusions. Such alternatives to blood transfusions are used even in developing countries and are requested by many patients who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses.
a See Transfusion and Apheresis Science, Volume 33, No. 3, p. 349.
b See The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Volume 134, No. 2, pp. 287-288; Texas Heart Institute Journal, Volume 38, No. 5, p. 563; Basics of Blood Management, p. 2; and Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain, Volume 4, No. 2, p. 39.
c See The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, Volume 89, No. 6, p. 918; and Heart, Lung and Circulation, Volume 19, p. 658.
d Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain, Volume 4, No. 2, page 39.