Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Finally Coming to Their Senses About Blood Transfusions?

Most religious beliefs aren’t matters of life and death. You might waste your time praying to a god. You might have to eat a tasteless communion wafer sometimes. Even accepting Creationism just prevents you from understanding the beauty of science. But that’s usually the worst of it.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, hold a belief that makes no sense and has led to multiple deaths: They refuse to undergo blood transfusions even if it means saving their own lives, a belief that stems from irresponsible interpretations of the Bible. It’s especially disgusting when the children of JW parents are the ones who are suffering and their parents would rather see their kids die than have the life-saving procedure done.

In some cases, even when JWs have said no to the transfusions, doctors have ignored their wishes in order to save a life. Unless the patient is an adult JW saying “I don’t want a blood transfusion,” it’s exactly what the doctors should be doing. Children don’t deserve to die because their parents are deluded by religion.

What boggles my mind is that JWs still hold this ridiculous belief despite all the unnecessary deaths that have occurred as a result of it.

That’s why I’m feeling a bit of relief at this article in the National Post that suggests JWs are trying to avoid “messy legal confrontations” by just letting the transfusions happen:

As institutions show more respect toward parents’ faith and try harder not to use blood, Witnesses often seem eager to avoid involving child-welfare authorities to facilitate transfusions, and more accepting that Canadian case law is firmly on the doctors’ side, some hospital officials say.

“They get it that we’re going to transfuse where it’s medically necessary. They’ve lost that battle; they understand that,” said Andrea Frolic, a bioethicist at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ont. “But it’s kind of an affront to their community to involve child-welfare services where there aren’t concerns about neglect, there aren’t concerns about abuse. … Part of the thing was ‘Just go on and do it. Why do we need to involve CAS [Children’s Aid Services]? It makes us feel like bad parents.’”

Witnesses are essentially doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. They’re willing to accept the transfusions, but only because they don’t want to deal with judges who will inevitably rule against them, anyway.

What’s even more interesting is that some JWs are now willing to get a transfusion for themselves or their family members, but their biggest worry isn’t that they’re violating some religious belief. It’s that other JWs will find out about it:

evidence suggests that the number of cases that end up before a judge has dropped significantly. The Canlii website, which catalogues many Canadian court decisions, includes nine separate child blood-transfusion rulings from 2000 to 2007, but just three in the five years since then.

All the ethicists stress, as well, that some Jehovah’s Witnesses do not agree with the blood ban, but are anxious that their green light to transfusion be kept confidential.

“Some families are really more concerned about other Jehovah’s Witnesses finding out they consented to the blood transfusion,” said Ms. Seller.

Peer pressure: The most powerful tool at religion’s disposal.

Still, good news overall. If the Jehovah’s Witnesses can soften their stance, it might not be long before Christian Scientists stop the faith-healing nonsense and start seeing doctors in medical emergencies. We can dream, right?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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