A Jehovah’s Witness criticizes me for criticizing their policy on blood transfusions

September 1, 2014 • 9:52 am

In my talk on the incompatibility of science and religion, I gave a “worst-case” scenarios of the harm inflicted by choosing religion over science. I’ve written about this before, so won’t belabor it here, but it involves the denial of medical care to sick or injured children on religious grounds.  In most (48/50) U.S., states, parents get a legal break (even exculpation) if their children are harmed or die because medical care is withheld on religious grounds. Christian Scientists and Pentecostal Christians are the biggest offenders, and if you want to read all about this, read When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law by Shawn Francis Peters or  God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church by Caroline Fraser (the former is more legally oriented, the latter a history of the Christian Science Church which is a great book and a real eye-opener.

But Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) are also guilty, for their religion, based on two Bible verses prohibiting “eating blood,” does not allow blood transfusions. While some blood fractions are permitted, like hemoglobin itself or clotting factors, the transfusion of whole blood, plasma, red or white cells, and platelets are all prohibited. Also prohibited is the transfusion of “self-donated” blood, whereby you give blood in advance of an operation, giving you time to make new blood, and then you have a reserve should you need it. But you can’t do that—Bible says no.

As a result, many, many Jehovah’s Witnesses have died from refusing blood. Not only that, but they brainwash their children into refusing blood, too. Below is a cover and a picture taken from a 1994 issue of Awake! magazine: an official publication of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every child shown died from refusing blood.

How are they characterized?  As “Youths Who Put God First”! When I showed this picture during my talk, there was an audible shudder in the audience.  The children are seen as martyrs for their faith’s delusions.

Screen shot 2014-09-01 at 6.26.12 AM

But don’t forget that even those parents who refused blood were once children, too, and most of them were probably brainwashed as well, so to say that they had the “choice” to take a transfusion ignores their own upbringing.

I won’t go into Christian Science, but read Carolyn Fraser’s book if you want to see the children killed in the name of Christian Science. What is curious in these stories—and I’ve read many—is the lack of affect the parents show after having killed their children by refusing medical care (often simple procedures like insulin injections or antibiotics).  It is as if they see their kids in the hands of God, and it’s His decision, not theirs. Most maintain that they were good parents, even though their neglect killed their children. And virtually all of those parents get off legally, or are given a slap on the wrist. (In contrast, if you neglect medical care on nonreligious grounds, there is no protection: you are guilty of child abuse or even manslaughter. This is one of the unconscionable privileges that religion gets in our country.)

At any rate, a Jehovah’s Witness came up to me at the meeting (I am curious why they want to attend an atheist/humanist meeting!) and tried to argue with me. Fortunately, I had another appointment, and couldn’t talk. But later that day I got an email from a JW, which I reproduce here without divulging names or identifying information. Note that techniques of “bloodless surgery” have been developed by doctors who deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses and other people who don’t want blood transfusions, though it’s always better to have the option of full transfusion. At any rate, here’s what I received. I have no idea how this person knew I talked about the JWs and blood transfusion (my emphasis below):

I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who takes exception to your opinion regarding blood transfusions.  On [date redacted], our [age redacted] year old daughter was pronounced DOA after a car accident in which  she sustained an aortic tear.  Long story short, she is alive today because she did not receive a blood transfusion. The physician who operated on her is convinced she survived because she did not receive blood. According to  [name redacted] the loss of blood served to lower her blood pressure and  other bodily functions compensating for the loss of blood. It gave him the opportunity to repair the damaged aorta and she survived an operation with an 85% death rate-W/O blood!  Her hemoglobin count at one point while in an induced coma was 2.9.  She survived the very same accident from which Princess Diana died two weeks prior.  Princess Diana according to published reports was transfused right in the ambulance.  Is it possible that the added pressure on the aortic tear made the opening larger and put her body under even more stress?  As a result of this surgery, Dr. [name redacted] was asked to a Bloodless Convention to explain his findings in our daughters case. I don’t consider myself a religious fanatic nor am I easily persuaded.  I like to do objective research and am convinced that the Bible is inspired of God. His mandate re. the taking of blood is due to his knowledge of his creation.  Many doctors and scientist are revisiting their position on bloodless surgery. I would like to suggest you look at our website JW.ORG, if you are not to biased against us on general principle.

Well, even if you believe a transfusion would have killed the daughter, and I am not sure I believe it, there are many more kids who died because they didn’t get transfusions. They are the Children Who Put God First.  All doctors would like to have the option of transfusion, but they can’t use if if the patient (even a child) refuses.

The bit in bold shows the true irrationality of this stand, one that is not a simple academic dispute between science and religion, but costs people their lives. And yet this writer claims that he/she is not a religious fanatic, and makes decisions based on “objective research.” This person is wrong on both counts.

I wish there were some way to eliminate religious exemptions from medical care for children. Yet those exemptions were put in place by our own lawmakers—not because they are JWs or Christian Scientists or faith-healing Pentecostal Christians, but because they give the usual unwarranted American deference to religion. They are our laws, and we must be held to account for them. It’s time to change them. Every child should have the chance to live, and that includes getting medical care based on science rather than ambiguous passages in a fictional Iron Age document.



204 thoughts on “A Jehovah’s Witness criticizes me for criticizing their policy on blood transfusions

  1. I am aware of people that refuse the blood transfusion and are given something else. Those people healed faster then the norm.

    When I went in for surgery they knew I did not want a blood transfusion. They have other alternatives, so why not make this part of the procedure in a hospital.

    Save our Republic and sign the drafting for Dr. Carson 2016http://www.runbenrun.org/petition?recruiter_id=207883

    1. As a health care professional I can assure you that alternatives to blood, such as volume expanders, may work in some cases but, in other cases, there is NO alternative to products such as platelets, packed red cells or plasma.

      1. While the reasoning behind why one may reject a blood transfusion can come into question, there is new scientific evidence with regards to medicine that fewer blood transfusions or no blood transfusions at all in some patients, can lead to better outcomes. Many doctors today now avoid ordering blood transfusions in many patients that would have previously qualified for them. Doctors who have stable patients with a hemoglobin above 7 are now advised not to order blood transfusions for these patients, when doing so in the pays was the norm. Surgeons now have better approaches and tools to use during surgery that lessens blood loss. A recent New York Times article covers the shrinkage of the blood industry because of less transfusions.


        A Johns Hopkins Study found that blood transfusions can do more harm than good. We are not talking about life threatening blood loss from trauma and other causes where death may be likely.


        So while the reasoning behind refusing blood transfusions based on religious beliefs is questionable, especially life threatening blood loss, new scientific evidence shows that in some cases, avoiding blood transfusions is actually better for the patients.

        1. Paul, I doubt if anyone is arguing against the best evidence based approach to the use of blood transfusions. JW’s oppose ALL blood transfusions. This is based on their particular interpretation of biblical nonsense like:- “that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. If ye keep yourselves from these things, ye shall do well. Fare ye well!”.

          1. Yes I agree too, and the original letter-writer makes the same mistake that Paul does. Sure there are going to be instances where a transfusion may not help, and in those cases a doctor would be justified in not using one. But that is a very different thing than religiously refusing them for your children in all cases.

            There is a big difference between arguing that it is good for transfusions to be medically accessible when doctors think they will help (what the mainstream actually argues), and arguing that transfusions be medically required (the strawman that Paul and the original letter writer seem to be arguing against).

        2. As others have said, there is a difference between not allowing any blood transfusions under any circumstances and medically determining that under certain circumstances better outcomes are achieved without transfusions. If valid studies are done that show that under certain circumstances blood transfusions are not the ideal treatment, then by all means doctors should adopt those conventions. On the other hand, to just reject blood transfusions altogether because of an ancient book that has no basis in valid medical practice is delusional. If anybody dies because of such delusional beliefs then it should be criminal, it doesn’t matter how fervently they hold those beliefs.

        3. In some instances a blood transfusion may not be the best option, but I’d rather put my trust in someone who has studied the subject for many years rather than a 2000 year old book.

    2. Even if that is true, there’s a JW publication about children that died because they did not get a transfusion, reproduced on this very webpage. Did you notice it?

    3. In 1999 I had a car accident and lost a tremendous amount of blood. My knee, femur and hip were shattered. I got blood and not only survived but I can walk perfectly with my titanium replacement parts.
      How does my anecdotal evidence compare to yours?

  2. I live in a state that’s had a number of high-profile child deaths due to their parents being members of the Christian Scientists or other cults that don’t believe in medical treatment. It never ceases to boggle my mind just how everyone wants to bend over backwards to make excuses for the parents’ behavior whenever it happens.

  3. Whichever way we lean is the way we fall. It is easy and ignorant for Christians and scientists to choose sides, but it is never as easy to expand your perspective through life experience. We get caught up being a thesis or antithesis and fail to reach the synthesis. Left and right, black and white, believer and non believers all do the same dance just behind different masks.

    1. Have you considered that there is no “synthesis” between praying for a kid who has a severe infection and giving him/her antibiotics? There’s only one thing that will cure the kid. “The same dance between different masks,” is, I’m sorry to say, complete garbage. Curing through scientific medicine is completely inimical to withholding medicine and trying to cure through prayer and withholding drugs.

      You have said what seems to be a bunch of conciliatory mishmash that means exactly nothing.

      1. I point to balance and not fighting what will not go away. You emotionally reject that and refuse to see the dance. Should we scientifically save the lives of every sick and dying thing that breathes or would that be bad for the ecosystem and result in more sickness throughout? The truth is not desired by scientists who lean as far as you do. The truth is not desired by the religious fanatics you point to either. Again, I say balance friend or you will fall the way you lean.

          1. It’s fascinating the way you’re stringing words together without actually saying anything.

          2. I think it’s worse than new age nonsense. Read the third and fourth sentence again, carefully, together. Travis seems to be advocating that we let people die because it’s better for the ecosystem if we have fewer people.

          3. It would be much better for the ecosystem to have an order of magnitude fewer people than we do today — but the only civilized way to attain that goal is though birth control, not death and destruction.


          1. First we define our goal. Is it to save lives or is it to create an optimal living standard? If it is to save lives, then we can save all the lives we want. If it is to create an optimal living standard then we will have to understand natural processes further than the intent to fight them. We could do that forever and get nowhere.

        1. I point to balance and not fighting what will not go away.

          While the charlatans and their marks will likely always be with us, the numbers and scale of both are steadily diminishing at historical timescales — and in some proportion closely associated with the advance of human knowledge and public education of the state of said knowledge. Your claim that it will not go away is as trivially refuted as the superstitious claims you defend.

          The truth is not desired by scientists who lean as far as you do.

          You clearly haven’t the first idea of what science is. And, almost certainly, your notion of “truth” is equally distorted and includes propositions which are held to be true with certainties not indicated by a rational analysis of objective observation.

          What you see as “truth” is rather, “faith,” which is the ultimate form of deception and the universal favored tool of confidence artists.


          1. So you’d just lay down in misery and do nothing to improve your lot in life because it’s too hard?

            …and you want us to respect you for that, to cheer you on…?


          2. As the squidly one put it in one of his more lucid moments, “squatting in between those on the side of reason and evidence and those worshipping superstition and myth is not a better place. It just means you’re halfway to crazy town.”


          3. “The diseases we treat do not go away.” Seriously?

            How many people do you know who have died of Polio? Smallpox? Tuberculosis? How many children do you know who are disabled by Rickets? Left deaf or blind by Scarlet Fever?

            Through science, not prayer or mumbo jumbo, many diseases have been eradicated, or soon will be. The primary block to full eradication is science denial, often religion based.

          4. Not an organized religion, obviously, but everything you’ve posted here has been New Age babble.

          5. You bla bla about science with a tiny perspective to suit your own intentions based on your tiny perspective of a larger process. It is nonsensical to apply science without perspective my friend.

          6. Right. So you’re going to believe whatever you damned well want to believe and to Hell with evidence and reason.

            Count me out. You witch doctors have already shat on so much that the rest of us are stuck with cleaning up after.


          7. What exactly do you mean when you say “balance”? It appears you are changing the topic of this post and speaking about wider, more abstract things of which I am not sure exactly.

        2. lots of stupid things have gone away when we’ve fought them. Slavery for one. So much for your “let people do what they want, golly, I can’t do a thing so I don’t even have to try” nonsense.

          1. We worked hard and used science to eliminate smallpox.

            Ferchrissake, look around you! You can’t shake a stick without hitting some major improvement in quality of life we’ve worked hard to achieve compared to centuries or even just decades ago.

            Just because you are not smart and don’t have any vision doesn’t mean there are no solutions to problems we currently face.

          2. hilarious. Yep, people want to help and save everyone. Most people want people to help and save them. Now, Travis, are you willing to allow yourself to suffer and die? or are you too important to make that sacrifice that you demand others make?

          3. I wouldn’t hold my breath. He smells like hit-and-run…and, even if not, I don’t think it’d be that much longer before the Invisible Paw of the Ceiling Cat strikes him down….


          4. ah, the blessed Ceiling Cat. Oh Ceiling Cat, please let this twit hoist himself on his own petard.

            Ben, I don’t now if you’ve followed the story of the televangelist who challenged the head of ISIL to the altar challenge that Elijah supposedly did. I asked him to do the same challenge and well, you can imagine the response. on my blog. you might find it entertaining.

          5. Hadn’t heard of that. Dude’s an idiot…if the Caliph hears about it, he’ll take up the offer. Either the guy chickens out, which is a win for the Caliph, or the guy shows up in Iraq and promptly gets his head cut off, which is an even bigger win for the Caliph.

            That you weren’t even able to get a response for him would tend to suggest that his neck is safe, for better or worse….


          6. I probably do not fit in any box you carry friend.

            Of course you do – troll.

            I also doubt any one here is your friend.

          7. You mean, if Travis the Traveler ends up in car accident, we can spare us the ambulance ride? Notice taken.

        3. “Should we scientifically save the lives of every sick and dying thing that breathes or would that be bad for the ecosystem and result in more sickness throughout? ”

          Couldn’t agree more! Bring on the plague!

        4. There can be no balance between empirical evidence and belief with no basis in any facts whatsoever. If humans have the ability to save others, should be just let them die because that is what would have happened without intervention or because the world is better off for it? That is what you seem to be implying.

          What you call truth is just your delusional belief. There is no reason to consider any of it to represent any epistemological validity.

        1. If an adult wants to make the choice not to be treated, leave them alone, even if they’re clearly brainwashed by religion.

          However, in this balance argument you seem to forget we’re talking about vulnerable children, who need to be protected. In many countries, including mine (NZ), in these situations guardianship can be transferred by the court to the child’s doctor. However we still have cases where children suffer physically because the religion of their parents precludes them from getting medical treatment or even advice. In my opinion that’s child abuse and completely unconscionable. Balance be damned.

          1. How often has the NZ state taken children from parental care into state care (however implemented – children’s home, fostering, whatever) on the grounds that the parents were harming the children because of the parent’s religious convictions.
            (If there are any examples, are there any where the parents were not also dangerously mentally ill, regardless of their religious delusions?)

    2. You realize that your comment, in no way, assess any of these opposing viewpoints on their merits according to the facts. You act as though disagreement between atheists and the faithful is a shouting match in which no one is arguing in good faith. Assess the humanist position on religion on its merits according to the facts. Then assess the JW position on religion on its merits according to the facts. I doubt you’ll come through that with the same perspective.

    3. Expanding perspective through experience is exactly what science is about. Yours is therefore a strange statement to make.

      As for the “everything is relative” viewpoint: there is no middle ground between a left-handed and a right-handed salt crystal, and so it is with many things in life. Not every opinion has to be relative to reflect mature thinking. The point here, pertaining to blood transfusion, is that some say “no blood transfusion should ever be permitted under any condition whatsoever” while some say “that is not so”. There is no possible middle ground between those two options, and that has nothing to do with taking sides or intellectual laziness. It has to do with observed facts, controlled experiments and the conclusions we derive therefrom. One of these opinions is derived from medical experience, the other from a religious diktat. Which is best applicable to the real world?

  4. In Britain, it is standard practice for medical staff to have a court appoint a guardian who can over-ride the parents, except when the child is deemed old enough (precedent shows that 12 can be old enough) to make an informed choice, and chooses to refuse blood.

    1. Substitute “England” for “Britain” ; I’m not sure one way or another if the same holds in the Scottish legal system.
      I know that such cases have happened, in both the English and Scottish legal systems ; whether it’s common enough to describe as “standard practice” is another question. It may be that there are sufficient cases of precedent against the parents that their legal advisers recommend them to comply with the medical advice on the blood transfusion front, in order to retain some degree of influence in the rest of the treatment. Which is a victory for rationality, but not a comprehensive victory.
      (WordPress just bowfed on me ; I hope I don’t have to re-type that lot!)

  5. A few weeks ago, I had to go to the emergency department at the local hospital because I couldn’t walk 30 feet without getting winded, got dizzy every time I rose, had hearing problems and had trouble urinating.

    This was all due gastrointestinal bleeding which made me anemic and was shutting down my kidneys. I received 2 units of blood plus an iron infusion and within 12 hours I returned to normal (well, at least to my normal).

    My BP had been as low as 65/35. Without the blood transfusion, I probably wouldn’t have survived much longer.

        1. It must be lunch time. I type

          plague of leeches.

          and I think of “plate of leeches”.
          I’m sure someone, somewhere has a recipe. Blood puddings, “black pudding” etc being common enough dishes around the world. Any gastronomes (JAC ?) got a field report?

    1. Wow!! about 6 years after you- EXACT same issue- complications from Plavix… I ad 4.4 iron… received 5 units!!! Two years later – I am able to donate my fine O+ blood once more, and payback blood I received. … If I did not receive blood… I would not be around!! No substitutions for blood in my case. I am Jewish; We smart people accept life saving medicine.

  6. The correspondent’s story reminds me of all those we used to hear about how not wearing a seatbelt saved someone’s life. Of course, we aren’t told what the child’s other injuries were, and that leads me to think that they were not as severe as Diana’s. That is, assumimg that any of that tale happened.

    Coincidentally, a JW stopped by yesterday with a flyer advertising their new website, which makes it easier than ever to ignore their proseltyzing.

    1. The correspondent’s story reminds me of all those we used to hear about how not wearing a seatbelt saved someone’s life

      About 3 or 4 years before the UK introduced compulsory seat-belt laws, I attended an accident (right outside the house) which would have been the classic for “If I’d worn a seatbelt, I’d have been in a wheelchair.”
      Take a standard Mini ; impact it on a tree, hard enough to put the engine into the back seat. Throw the driver, drunk as a skunk, out of the door.
      If he’d worn a seat belt, his legs would have been jelly. But because he didn’t wear a seat belt, he was thrown clear and his legs were almost undamaged.
      This being reality, I should add that he spread about half of his brain around on the road, and if he survived at all (I never bothered to find out after hosing the watery fat off the road) would be an expensive vegetable.
      But I passed the chemistry exam that morning! Despite the 02:00 kerfuffle.

    2. Well of course stuff like that will occasionally happen. And people occasionally got sick or died from the smallpox vaccine (IIRC, one out of every million or so who took it had a bad negative reaction to it). That doesn’t change the fact that these types of procedures (seatbelts, vaccines, transfusions) save far, far more people than they injure.

      1. It’s all about statistics, honestly I feel unsafe NOT wearing a seatbelt. A couple of spins due to water and wind more than convinced me it is necessary and really works. Just as receiving blood when you lack blood – it’s a proven fact.

        Religious rules that might have some historical reason of being but in a totally different time period with different conditions, should be cancelled as soon as those conditions change.

        Pity that believers of any faith (humanity has not moved on a lot on this from fearing whatever god made the heavens light up and filled the skies with loud thunder) are poor people that cannot make their own lives. Hence it’s easier to follow the rules of some imaginary friend, passed on from the forefathers (all as delusional as the previous ones). The rare exception that puts those stupid rules into question tended to end up as well burnt toast on the village square.

        What makes me laugh is that the same delusional people, using faith to guide their poor lives, try to convince people believing in science … by making up “pseudo-scientific” counterarguments. Pity they’re not very good at it 😀

    3. It’s interesting you brought up the seatbelt thing. My father is a retired paramedic. Every time someone brings up Princess Di and says “that’s why I don’t wear a seatbelt” my father will enumerate the one or two instances in a 35 year career in which a motorist was aided by not wearing a seatbelt. He ill recall, in stunningly graphic detail, the dozens of bodies (sometimes just parts) he’s scraped off of the road when a motorist was ejected from a vehicle because they failed to wear their seatbelt.

  7. This profoundly anti-realism anti-scientific fantastic worldview is exactly why religion is fundamentally evil and rotten to the core. It is precisely this why I am an antitheismist.

    Until society as an whole finally comprehends that religion is pure, distilled, undiluted essence of evil, we shall all suffer needlessly.

    Religions only become benign when watered down with secular values, especially those that trace their roots to the Enlightenment. The degree to which religions abandon their religious beliefs in favor of evidence and reason is the degree to which they are tolerable and civilized — yet even the most liberal of religions is still tainted with the stench.


    1. Ben, that very much opened my eyes on the probabilities of modern christian practices, how secular values and enlightenment have likely changed them in many ways. I hesitate to say these influences of change are for the better, but perhaps it is so. Certainly not enough of an influence yet to eradicate complete faith in the ultimate ghost, but perhaps signs indicate that we’re headed in that direction? I simply had never thought of this aspect before, so thank you.

    2. Absolutely! I went to school with a JW who used to tell us that she knew someone who got a blood transfusion and his entire personality changed. She went on to infer that you got the personality of the person whose blood you received. Funny, you’d probably have a lot of personalities then since they mix it all up!

      1. If true, her hypothesis could be world changing. Arrange for atheists to donate blood in large numbers. This should shift the balance of power from embarrassing religious personalities to scientifically-minded. What a transformation!

      2. Funny, you’d probably have a lot of personalities then since they mix it all up!

        I thought they’d reduced that – for whole blood, certainly – after the Hepatitis A, AIDS, possible vCJD and probable other blood-borne pathogen problems.
        They do do that for extracting blood products – factor VII for haemophiliacs, for example – but they’re very strict on donor screening.
        Caveat : UK practice. Some countries still pay donors, don’t they?

        1. In the States, it depends on the product.

          Whole blood and platelets — and, if I remember right, anything intended for transfusion or generally falling under the label of, “tissue transplant” — is unpaid.

          However, plasma “donations” are a paid affair for at least some circumstances, and even constitute a non-trivial source of income for certain college students. I don’t remember what the plasma from paid “donations” is used for.


          1. You mean they’ve mixed cheeses in with the candy? I suppose that might not be so tasty, after all.

            …unless it’s mascarpone? I bet that goes well with peanut butter and chocolate!


          2. add just a touch of honey, and if you happen so have ginger snaps about, crumble some of those in, too. Kind of instant cheesecake.

        1. Ha — I wish. I could make a fortune!

          …but it’s merely somebody who’s opposed to theism. An atheist is without gods. An antitheist is either one who opposes the gods or who opposes theists, depending on how you squint at it and who’s doing the squinting. But an antitheismist isn’t particularly concerned with the gods or their followers so much as the religions themselves.


          1. When I Googled it, I got a bunch of hits on blogs including a christian one where the guy says he’s coining a new word, 2005 [Antitheismist – n. One who not only does not believe in a deity (an atheist) but who tends to aggressively attack believers and ideas having to do with theology or theism]. I don’t see any earlier references, so this might be its origin. Also one hit on WEIT where you’re explaining the meaning to MKG. Appears to be an internet word, which is fine.

          2. I couldn’t give you dates, but I know I used the term (and may or may not have invented it independently) way back in the day on USENET.


          3. Ooooh like the part about aggressively attacks believers … wonder is slapping with a large trout is allowed in that case

  8. I was born and raised third generation JW and I can testify today that as a 52 yr old with HCP (Porphyria) who never received proper treatment a a child for it (the JW stance on blood fractions was not changed until AFTER I became an adult and was ready to get out of the cult altogether)–that I will not have a normal lifespan. the damage has been done and it is permanent and life-threatening. I have seen many many die because of that cult because of their refusal of medically necessary treatment. And do not let the JWs fool you–it is not just blood that is refused. I never received proper denistry or many other “normal” maintenance medical proceedures because I was told that the End would come soon and I would be perfected and living in Paradise and would not have to worry about it. And if I died, oh well, I would be resurrected.

    1. I am so sorry for you.

      Your short bio at your WP site was eye-opening; I had to Google “JW 1975” to understand what you were referring to; you have quite the story to tell.

    2. Basically the whole cult is an excuse to be a thoroughly shitty parent because nothing matters in this life. And my sister-in-law accuses ME of nihilism!

    3. As a person raised JW, I sympathize. My father believed that crap until his death, my mother still lives by that idiocy.

  9. In Canada as in UK the child is made a ward of the court and the transfusion can go ahead.I’ve often wondered what happens to the family following the procedure. Do the parents ditch the kid or what ? An interesting situation !

    1. A fair number of such parents *want* to be over-ruled. They can’t justify a blood transfusion within their faith, but if the courts and doctors over-rule them then they can explain to their god that it wasn’t their fault. So they’re, sorta, ok with being over-ruled.

        1. I am so grateful for the 3 units of blood I received after almost bleeding out ( something didn’t get tied off properly) after a routineish hysterectomy at 39. I had asked about banking some of my own blood, just in case, because blood was not being as well-tested for HIV back then. The nurses kind of scoffed and asked if I was a doctor’s wife ( which it happens I was at the time). I ended up not banking any, but am very grateful to whoever’s blood I did get ( and I don’t believe my personality changed:-)) (I did get tested for HIV a few months later, just to be sure…). I adopted my second child 4 months later.

    2. one wonders. The whole nonsense reminds me of a episode of Babylon 5, where a child’s parents are refusing treatment. The station’s doctor goes ahead and does the treatment anyway. The parents kill the child.

    3. Not being a doctor, I base this on some research for a fiction project, but I believe here in Finland the children’s transfusion refusals are dealt with by routinely taking an underage (<18) child into custody of the hospital. There is actually an express procedure for it which apparently takes only a few minutes.

      As for adults, there seems to be a standard "don't ask, don't tell" policy. We have this wonderful Nordic option of skipping communication entirely, as it's socially quite acceptable to not speak at all. So, the doctors exploit their priviledge to stay silent, look busy and mumble something undecipherable, and then do what's needed. Usually the JW patients just thank their god afterwards — apparently for giving them a doc with a backbone and a thick skin for sin.

      However, if the anti-transfusion position of the adult patient is made perfectly clear in advance, it becomes trickier. Sometimes there's even a local religious leader present to make sure the doctor's hands are as tied as possible. If it actually went to court, I doubt any judge would be ridiculous enough to prioritize freedom of religious idiocy over saving a human life, but obviously most doctors prefer to use their limited time and energy on patients who actually want stay alive.

  10. Years ago I worked as a nurse in what was, at the time, the busiest L&D unit in NYC. So many of our patients were Jehovah’s Witnesses, we had all incoming patients either sign a consent for blood or sign a waiver agreeing to hold the hospital blameless. One woman who hemorrhaged and was close to death refused blood, but her nurse thought the husband was the more adamant of the two, so she invented an errand for him to get him off the unit. Once he was gone, she leaned in close to the patient and told her, “your baby will never know his mother if you die; you need blood.” The woman agreed on the condition that we not let her husband, or anyone else know, so we sent her to a procedure room in the ICU where no visitors were allowed so we could secretly give her blood. You probably know how this backfired on us; a few weeks later, another JW arrived in labor and we explained the risks of not agreeing to blood transfusions before she signed the waiver. She told us she had a friend who had recently given birth who was told she would die without blood and guess what, she survived and did just fine, which only proved that we had lied about the need for blood. That friend was, of course, the woman who had gotten the blood in secret.

    1. It appears that some of the most adamant adherents never give a thought to the anguish they create for those who have to deal with them.

  11. it’s a shame that idiots kill their children for magic.

    I donate blood (5 gallons so far and yep,I’m damn proud of it). I’m an atheist who doesn’t want people do die if I can help it. I’ll take some pain to do this. Asshole parents can’t even make that real sacrifice.

    1. Many thanks for your donations, clubschadenfreude. I too am a long-time donor. I think between the two of us we have saved a few lives. That’s why I do it, and the Bible be damned!

      1. indeed we have. thank you too! Once I went in and the local blood bank had a sign that had a note that said the local level one trauma center had gone through 21 units of whole blood for 2 (or 3, I forget exactly) patients in one day.

        so, everyone, please donate. My husband does and he hates needles, but he deals with it.

    2. From the link in Tod’s post at #11, I learned that you can give plasma every 2 – 3 weeks. That can build the numbers quickly. Over 57 years, James Harrison, OAM has donated over 1000 times.

      It all began when he needed 13 litres (3.4 US gal) of blood during a surgery. A man who pays his debts, many times over, and that’s without considering how valuable his blood has been for so many people.

      1. I worked in a Blood Donor Centre for a couple of years. There were many regular donors of both whole blood and platelets, and they’re all wonderful. They quietly contribute more to the betterment of society than many who hog the media telling us how wonderful they are. And we don’t pay them in NZ either.

        Thank you so much to those of you who can and do donate. (I can’t myself, and have needed blood, so am particularly appreciative of those who do this.)

        1. I got up to 11 units on my Red Cross donor card before I tried to reassure the nurse that my fainting was no big deal because it had happened on several previous occasions.

          She took my card away and said I should never give again. Spoil sport.

      2. I used to give whole blood as often as they allowed and platelets every few days; I cannot donate now because of my own health conditions and medications but, I am thrilled to report, my children started donating blood as soon as they were old enough!
        Did you know that pets can also donate blood? Not for humans, of course, but my dog needed transfusions of packed red cells and plasma to save her life after she ate rat poison at a relative’s cabin and I was so grateful others had brought their dogs in to donate blood.

    3. Plus you get those comfy chairs to sit in and cookies after. I used to give blood all the time until I started feeling sick and didn’t want to poison someone or make myself sicker. Plus I’m constantly getting anemic (I think iron supplements help now but it sucked to get that jab in the finger for nothing because the jab machine, which reminds me of the gom jabbar from Dune, hurts!)

    4. I was disbarred from donating 2 pints short of the 25 pint mark, when I’d have got my little gold tie pin.

      1. I’m disbarred from giving blood in the US because I lived in the UK before moving here. CJD risk apparently.

  12. “His [God’s] mandate re. the taking of blood is due to his knowledge of his creation.”

    Wow- so God knows all about our bodies and so was able to warn us off having blood transfusions.

    Yet nowhere in the bible did he ever mention hand washing. “Had a crap? Now wash your hands!” Surely it would have been simple enough to have slipped that into the bible somewhere? I guess he was just too pre-occupied doling out narcissistic commands about having no other gods but him and not take his name in vain- real important stuff like that.

    1. Worse yet, this passage is so ambiguous.
      “that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. If ye keep yourselves from these things, ye shall do well. Fare ye well!”.

      The logical interpretation is that EATING blood is prohibited i.e. the animal must be bled before being eaten. Blood, it seems, is the food of gods,not mere mortals.
      It is so typical that a religious cult would find an interpretation beyond any that the original authors of the text would have even considered.

      1. That’s a curious list.
        Idols – nope, don’t have any idols around. Check.
        Nope, not a vampire. Check.
        I’m not the Boston Strangler either. Check.
        Point 4 – oh bugger. I’m doomed. 🙁

        1. Pop-idols? Look at Wacko Jacko, guess he had dark blood and he lost it

          Not eating blood? You bleed your meat too before you eat? Even bled there must be some blood left in the meat we eat. And let’s not forget black pudding … very yummy.

          As for the fornication … they already skip on the steak tartare and the black pudding and now you can’t have any fun either??

          That would really make you strangle someone …

  13. Has anyone else noted the bittersweet irony in having Awake! printed in boldface over a page which photos of children who needlessly died?

    Why yes, Watchtower, I’m very much awoken now.

  14. Show me a kid that put God first and I’ll show you a kid that never got to grow up, that never got to fall in love, that never got to see their own kids, that never got to grow old, that never got to meet their grandkids, that never got to die satisfied that they’d lived the fullest life they could. Show me a kid that put God first and I’ll show you a terrible waste of potential.

  15. Here in UK the child would be made a ward of court & given the blood. The rationale is that whilst adults can follow their religion to their death, they cannot inflict that religion on their child (who hasn’t the capacity to have chosen a religion by virtue of immaturity). Older children may make the same choice but only if they can demonstrate capacity (Gillick/Frasier competence).


    1. That seems like a very reasonable approach. I think America is not very reasonable about these issues. The initial instinct was pretty good. As a nation of immegrants, let’s have as much personal and religious freedom as possible. Let a thousand blossoms bloom. But there is a point at which the societies secular moral standards are much superior. How do we get to the point where most folks and enough legislators see the value in this?

  16. Speaking of “objective research”, I wonder how many peer-reviewed papers Dr. [name redacted] has published on the relative morbidity of surgeries with and without blood transfusions?

    I’m guessing zero.

  17. Well that would be a test of ones faith, killing your child. Which is probably their point and the only one..
    we or rather I can see the folly of this stance but they clearly do not. At this, the parents become imbeciles and some other agency should do their thinking for them.
    The law should give the child a chance to life since it’s the only one we have, which IS the point.
    In a nutshell, I’m trying to resist seeing the forest and not the trees.

  18. It’s interesting that hemoglobin and clotting factor are OK- aren’t they in blood, too? I wonder what the scriptural gyrations were that had to be gone through for THAT to be accepted! Looks like another case of sanity, driven by reality, “creeping” into an otherwise fantasy-based cult.

    1. The guidelines regarding a hemoglobin level of 7 in an otherwise healthy, asymptomatic ADULT, are already in effect in health care. I would remind you, though, that we are discussing CHILDREN, who are physiologically different from adults and furthermore, we are not discussing mere anemia, we are discussing LIFE THREATENING blood loss, which can result in irreversible organ failure.
      And, by the way, there is no such thing as a transfusion of hemoglobin; hemoglobin is carried by red blood cells, so the treatment for dangerously low hemoglobin levels is a transfusion of packed red cells.

  19. I just don’t understand these religo-fascists! During WW2 Germans enrolled their kids in the Hitler-Jugend SS Division to die for their tyrant-leader. At least he was real, if evil. So these folks want their kids to die for an imaginary tyrant-leader. I really don’t know which is worse. [facepalm].

  20. Fine essay…There ought to be some engagement with this discussion by the legal community. How can such asymmetry in the legal penalty for killing your child exist in our system. It is interesting that the old joke (the devil made me do it) seems to reflect reality here.

    1. The asymmetry seems at least partially sensible to me. People who allow their children to die from lack of a transfusion are not a danger to the public, so the public safety justification for throwing them in jail is largely missing. The deterrent justification for judicial punishment may be missing too (if they don’t have other kids, for instance). I think it makes more sense (than jail) in this case to take their kids away from them, or at least take their power to make such parent/guardian medical decisions away from them.

      We also want to walk a fine line when calling refusal of some medical care murder, because in many cases it’s a risk assessment, and even doctors can disagree on the risks associated with some refusal. Medicine is not like driving someone over with a car; the outcome is not as predictable. Though I would agree that in most transfusion cases, the outcome is predictable enough that it should count as reckless endangerment at last. I’m writing this second paragraph not about transfusions specifically but about the general potential downsides of charging people for murder because they didn’t accept some medical intervention.

      1. The point being the JW don’t even review the options or the possible problems. They don’t even want to discuss it. If doctors have diverging opinions at least the problem was evaluated and a solution is being sought. The first is total lack of empathy and care of the child, the second is a medical dilemma stemming from precisely the opposite

  21. but because they give the usual unwarranted American deference to religion.

    I suspect that they’re giving the usual politician’s deference to not pissing off populous and vocal fractions of their electorate.
    Which is an argument for continuing, as Prof CC and most contributors do, to be a vocal and public example of a person who is not of faith. And politically, it means that non-believers (of all stripes, and also followers of the one true FSM) need to make their politicians aware that by sucking the gonads of religion, they’re pissing off another group of their electorate – us.
    Politicians may not be the sharpest knives in the torturer’s tool box (sorry, I’ve been thinking of Sithrak again), but their political advisers are not so dumb.

  22. This is one of the unconscionable privileges that religion gets in our country.

    The First Amendment says, in pertinent part, “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting the free exercise [of religion] … .” Do you really want to do away with that? Are you sure? Have you considered the consequences? (Closing your eyes and covering your ears and saying over and over that there will be no ill consequences is neither an acceptable nor realistic response.)

    Once you start prohibiting some religious practices, then you start privileging those religions with different practices. Under today’s law, that amounts to an establishment of religion. So if you abolish the free exercise of religion, then you necessarily enable the establishment of religion. Is that what you want?

    1. The free exercise of religion has already been limited by the courts, like using drugs as part of religious rituals. And yes, I don’t think that prohibiting parents from withholding medical care from their children on religious grounds is a violation of the First Amendment, and the courts have never said that. Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to ban religious practices if they are injurious to society. What if your “religion” mandates that you sacrifice children? Is that okay by you? Well, in fact, that’s precisely what Christian Science and other faith-healing sects do.

      Give me a break.

    2. How do you feel about human sacrifice, as in the Aztecs exercising their religion freely with no restrictions? Or children being burnt alive to worship Baal? I’m sure both are somehow represented in the contemporary American religious spectrum (not to mention several other fringe denominations) and their adherents must be very displeased with the human sacrifice restrictions set by the US government.

    3. Suppose instead the parents wanted to directly sacrifice their child to some god or whatever. Would you be ok with *that*? The first amendment has (and has been) to be interpreted to mean freedom *from*, too, and that’s what children need here. (In both the actual case and my hypothetical example.)

    4. When a state is ruled by religion we know what kind of sufferings will follow. Unfortunately history is rife with these. Come to think of it, religion was at the base of a lot of conflicts in the past … that and hunger for territory/power. The Aztecs as Coldthinker said, the Spanish inquisition, the crusades …

      The state should be run without interference of religion. Leave the religion for your own privacy.

      There is no such amendment in most other countries, yet the same crap religions are still present there.

  23. “In most (48/50) U.S., states, parents get a legal break (even exculpation) if their children are harmed or die because medical care is withheld on religious grounds.” – Seriously???? I can’t imagine living in such country…insane!

    1. What if one (regardless of his [ir-]religiosity) claimed a religious exemption and entitlement, but declined to identify that religion? No gov’t official nowadays can presume to legally compel one to reveal that info, as there is no official listing of “approved” religions (despite the fulminating opinions of religious zealots who have their lists of “cults,” such as one I saw originating from pious Southern Baptists).

  24. “She survived the very same accident from which Princess Diana died two weeks prior.”

    What does that /mean/? Not all accidents are created equal; they range from fender-benders to car explosions. Just because they both were in an accident doesn’t mean they’re identical cases. I don’t understand the writers comparison.

    1. Well said. The JW individual has betrayed their own narrow view that everything can be seen in black and white. We don’t live in a black and white world–and we don’t get a black and white world by wishing for it. That’s childish behavior–now is the time for “putting away childish things.”

  25. Middle child had a particularly severe presentation of spherocytosis.

    If we had been JW, I wonder how we would be mourning him today.

    I suppose I could always ask those who so neatly kempt, knock on my door.

  26. I’m curious as to the age of the child, as excess pressure in a small child MAY play a role in increasing the size of the tear; but not an adult woman. Diana’s death was more likely due to the distance from a hospital (being trapped in a tunnel where the crash occurred). The transfusion only increased her chances of survival until she could be brought to a proper surgical suite. The issue in her case was getting her there in a timely fashion.

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