Blood Transfusion is not a sin to some, to others, it is. If you know a Jehovah’s Witness then the possibility that you have had this discussion is high. Witnesses are of the opinion that taking in the blood into the body via any means is a sin. This includes blood transfusion. They hold this belief regardless of the condition that would require the transfusion of blood.
The question then arises, is blood transfusion a sin?
As believers, we are to follow a doctrine based on the bible. Especially in situations such as this. What exactly is a blood transfusion? Is the Bible silent on blood transfusion? How does the position of the bible affect our views on blood transfusion? These and a few other questions would be attended to here.
What is a Blood transfusion?
MedicineNet gives a comprehensive definition of the term Blood Transfusion as the transfer of blood or blood components from one person (the donor) into the bloodstream of another person (the recipient). A blood transfusion may be done as a lifesaving manoeuvre to replace blood cells or blood products lost through bleeding or due to depression of the bone marrow.
From MedicineNet’s definition, it becomes important to note the reasons highlighted for the transfusion of blood. They are;
- Replacement of lost blood,
- Depression of the bone marrow
The above reasons are basically connected to life. If a person losses blood at a rapid rate, the only lifesaving option is blood transfusion. Why then do some Christians (Jehova witness) frown vehemently at the transfusion of blood?
What does the Bible say about transfusion?
The parts of the scripture, some Christian’s use with regards to transfusion of blood, are; primarily Genesis 9:3-4 and Leviticus 17:10-12.
(Genesis 9:3-4) “Every creature that lives and moves will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything. However, you must not eat meat with its lifeblood in it. And I will require a penalty for your lifeblood; I will require it from any animal and from any human; if someone murders a fellow human, I will require that person’s life
(Leviticus 17:10) “Anyone from the house of Israel from the aliens who reside among them who eats any blood, I will turn against that person who eats blood and cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. Therefore I say to the Israelite: None of you and no aliens who reside among you may eat blood.
The scripture is the foundation of a believer’s belief, Witnesses are no exception. Witnesses hold on to the scriptures above and other scriptures, as evidence that the bible frowns at blood transfusion.
After the flood, God made a covenant with Noah. This covenant ensured that the earth would no longer be destroyed by the flood. In this covenant, he also reinforced the authority of man over all living creatures, ensuring that man could take any animal for food. In this covenant, he made the consumption of blood a sin. Anyone who consumes blood would be facing a penalty from God.
Why is this? God in Genesis 9:4 makes it clear, that the life of a thing is in its blood. Thus, the eating of blood would be seen as the eating of a life. This act could be equated to killing a man. Killing of a man is punishable by death.
In Leviticus, God was giving his laws through Moses to the Israelites, in (Leviticus 3:17) he excluded the eating of fat and any blood. Further in (Leviticus 17:10-12) he explains the reason for the law, for the life of a thing, is in its blood.
Witnesses firmly hold on to this scripture. They further believe that with any form of ingestion of blood is the same as the consuming of blood. This belief has built an aversion for blood transfusion as it involves the intake of blood into the body via tubes.
In explaining the eating of blood and how it isn’t the same as blood transfusion, Beyond Today asks believers to understand the context of which the verses were written. During the time of Moses, the Israelites were surrounded by the people who still inhabited the Promised Land.
These people held various rituals. One of which was the consuming of blood as a source of connection to their idols. God did not want such to be found among the Israelites. As a result, he gave them those laws. The laws were not given in the context of saving someone’s life
Primarily, the bible does not in any way expressly outlaw blood transfusion. In the time the bible was written, medicine had not advanced to such levels and as a result, the bible could not have been referring to the act of blood transfusion.
Blood transfusion and the consumption of blood.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have argued, that blood transfusion is like the transfusion of food into a person when they cannot eat solid food. Thus they further argue that as the food is being ingested through tubes, that is how the blood is being ingested in the body. And that there really is no difference between consuming blood and blood transfusion.
In actual fact, the transfusion of blood and the consumption of blood cannot be classified as the same activity. Medically, this is not at all the case. If you eat blood, you break it down into nutrients, which your body then uses. Jesus Himself speaks of eating in Mark 7:19 specifically and necessarily as “what goes into the stomach and is eliminated” (or literally, “passed out into the latrine”).
A transfusion is quite different. The blood stays blood. It does not nourish you as a food will. It does what your blood does. It carries oxygen that your body receives from your lungs and nutrients that your body receives from food and takes them throughout your body. In this way, it is different even from “feeding” through an IV, which puts simple nutrients straight into your blood to be carried about and used. Notice that even this kind of “feeding” is not actually food at all, but rather a substitute for what food would normally provide for you.
Food needs to be digested. That’s what it means to eat. Intravenous “feeding” is not really feeding at all, but a temporary substitute for feeding.
How much less, then, can a blood transfusion be considered eating, which does not even so much as a substitute for eating at all! For all these reasons, medically speaking, eating blood and transfusing blood is not remotely the same thing.
Where in the bible does it say you can’t have a blood transfusion?
As stated, the bible does not in any passage state anything with regards to blood transfusion. The passages that speak against the eating of blood by Noah and the children of God are the only references to anything related to blood transfusion.
Is there an alternative to blood transfusion?
Due to the progress of science, and also due to the fact that blood transfusion is not perfect, thus not completely safe, there have been developments of alternatives to blood transfusions.
1. Volume expanders – When a patient has lost a lot of fluids, the body can go into a type of shock. This may be treated or prevented by giving solutions to expand fluid volume in order to keep blood circulating through vital organs. The solutions are put right into the bloodstream through a vein. They boost fluid volume and help with circulation, but don’t carry oxygen or raise the number of blood cells.
2. Growth Factors – The body naturally makes hormone-like substances called hematopoietic growth factors. This causes the bone marrow to make more blood cells. Man-made versions of some of these growth factors are available to help people with low blood cell counts. Growth factors can be used to boost red blood cell, white blood cell, or platelet counts.
3. Intra-operative or post-operative blood salvage – Here, a machine is used to store the patient’s blood before the operation or used to salvage or save the patient’s blood when bleeding occurs. This blood is then returned into the patient’s body when it is needed. The drawback of this method includes the fact that some recovered blood is shown to have tumours. Also, not every patient can undergo this procedure.
4. Blood substitutes- there has been some advancement in the production of blood like supplements, but these imitations are still far from perfect to be used. Maybe the not too far future, science would be able to replicate the creation of blood.
5. Erythropoiesis Stimulating Agents (ESAs). – This refers to medications that aid in increasing the production of red blood cells.
The argument that blood transfusion is a violation of God’s laws is quite flawed. Though it is important to state that everyone has a right to their own beliefs, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of a life.