According to an article on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is a myth that many Jehovah’s Witnesses die each year as a result of refusing blood transfusions, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Approximately 594 Jehovah’s Witnesses die each year as a result of not being allowed blood transfusions, based on a study by Dr. Osamu Muramoto. It is estimated that by 2016, more than 30,000 witnesses have died since 1961 when blood transfusions were first prohibited among Jehovah’s Witnesses.
This study was based on very conservative numbers and the calculations were based on actual medical research by professionals and data from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Let’s look at how the figure was calculated by Dr. Muramoto, and compare this to what the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses claims.
How many Jehovahs Witnesses died because of refusing a blood transfusion, according to medical experts?
In 2001, Dr. Osamu Muramoto set out to do an in-depth study to determine how many Jehovah’s Witnesses have died as a direct result of not being allowed blood transfusions, since the inception of the prohibition of blood transfusions.
Using a study by Kitchens CS: “Are transfusions overrated? Surgical outcome of Jehovah’s Witnesses.“ it came to light that around 1.4% of Jehovah’s Witness patients died due to a lack of blood as a primary or contributing cause of death. Dr. Muramoto rounded this figure down to 1% to account for those who may have died regardless of a transfusion.
In that same year, the American Association of Blood Banks reported that approximately 4 million patients received blood transfusions, that equated to 15 out of every 1,000 Americans needed blood that year.
According to data from the Watchtower, out of the total population of America that year, around 1,000,000 were Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant that in that year, around 15,000 Witnesses would have needed a lifesaving blood transfusion.
By applying the conservative death of 1%, we can determine that in that year, 150 Jehovah’s Witnesses would have died as a direct result of not being allowed a blood transfusion.
To take this a step further, the study was extended to include all Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, since the date the blood policy was first implemented as prohibited in 1961.
Based on data published by the Watchtower, the average number of publishers per year since 1961 is 3,957,868. If 15 out of every 1,000 persons would need a life-saving blood transfusion, there would be 59,368. And finally, by applying the 1% death rate, we find that approximately 594 Jehovah’s Witnesses died each year as a direct result of not being allowed a blood transfusion.
Based on this data, more than 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses have lost their lives as a direct result of not being allowed a blood transfusion.
How many Jehovah’s Witnesses die as a result of refusing a blood transfusion, according to the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
It was admitted that thousands of Jehovah’s Witness children have died by being refused a blood transfusion. This is according to a statement made by Jehovah’s Witnesses in an article entitled “Youths Who Put God First“, in a 1994 Awake Magazine.
Despite this statement being made in black and white in one of their most popular magazines, the organization conveniently changed their answer in a recent FAQ on their website, saying that the death of many witnesses, including children resulting from the refusal of blood transfusions is a myth. In fact, they go as far as to say that that statement is completely unfounded.
JW.ORG continues to state that surgeons complete complex procedures without the use of blood transfusions and that patients who are denied blood transfusions fare better than those who are allowed. But does that paint an accurate picture?
The truth is that the writer of this article is avoiding the most important aspect of the question. They are only responding in part, only discussing scenarios where blood transfusions can be avoided during a planned surgical procedure. What the organization fails to address, are the thousands of cases where a blood transfusion is critical and determines whether a person, a child, lives or dies.
A further statement is made on their FAQ that no one can say for certain that a blood transfusion will or will not save a life, however, thousands of medical professionals and organizations prove that blood transfusions are vital to saving lives and as much as 4.5 million Americans would die each year without life saving blood transfusions.
Does the Bible teach that accepting a blood transfusion is a sin?
The Bible does not teach that accepting a blood transfusion is a sin. In fact, most of the scriptures Jehovah’s Witnesses quote in support of this rule are part of the mosaic law, under which Christians are not obligated.
In addition, all these scriptures are talking about eating blood, or meat that still had blood in it which was considered unclean. This was believed to be to prevent taking part in blood sacrifices to idols or to consume animals that weren’t bled properly, which could make a person sick.
The only part of the new testament which talks about abstaining from blood, which was a reference of the old law, and would have had to do with eating blood.
Some scholars also believe that when Paul made the statement that the congregation should abstain from blood, it was meant that one should abstain of shedding blood.
Anyway, regardless of whether or not abstaining from blood is still a law that must be observed by Christians today, Jesus taught a principle of the greater good, that life always trumps law. He explained that breaking the Sabbath (in those days, an offense just as serious as eating blood) would be acceptable when saving the life of an animal. Surely the failure to observe law with similar consequences, to save the life of a child would be acceptable in the eyes of God?
This was in fact a principle that was in force even before Jesus’ time but was ignored by the Pharisees as he pointed out. This principle of the greater good is still practiced by the Jewish people today, and is called Pikuach nefesh, and is explained as:
“Pikuach nefesh is the principle in Jewish law that the preservation of human life overrides virtually any other religious rule. When the life of a specific person is in danger, almost any mitzvah lo ta’aseh of the Torah becomes inapplicable.”
What happens if a Jehovah’s Witnesses receives a blood transfusion?
Jehovah’s Witnesses are under tremendous pressure to refuse a blood transfusion. But what stops a Jehovah’s Witness from accepting a blood transfusion in a life-threatening situation? What happens if a Jehovah’s Witness accepts a blood transfusion?
Anyone “Willingly and unrepentantly taking blood”, is automatically disassociated from the organization, thereafter they will be subject to shunning, which includes cutting off from all fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses, including immediate family members.
Accepting one would mean being disfellowshipped and shunned by their community, including their families. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also taught that by accepting a blood transfusion, they will be forfeiting their salvation.
Even if a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t agree with the belief that taking blood is a sin, they are still obligated to reject this life-saving treatment, otherwise, they will lose everything they have ever known.
When there is an incredible amount of pressure on an individual to comply, and with such harsh consequences if a Jehovah’s Witness accepts a blood transfusion, one must call into question whether that individual is being deprived of their freedom of expression, belief and most importantly, their freedom of life.