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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses allow the use of autologous blood (autotransfusion), such as by having their own blood stored and later put back into them?

'Homologous' blood is known by medical personnel as blood coming from another person, whereas 'autologous' blood is known as the patient’s own blood. It is well known that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood from other humans. But what about procedures using autologous blood - the patient’s own blood?

God’s view of blood is that it represents life and therefore is sacred:

“For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel: ‘No soul of you must eat blood.’” (Leviticus 17:11, 12)

He commanded that no human should sustain his life by taking in blood:

“Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. . . . Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.” (Genesis 9:3, 4; Leviticus 7:26, 27)

Though Christians are no longer under the Mosaic Law, the Bible says that it is “necessary” for us to ‘abstain from blood,’ viewing it as sacred. (Acts 15:28, 29) (See "Are the commands concerning blood applicable for us today?")

In one common procedure, prior to elective surgery, some units of a person’s whole blood are banked or the red cells are separated, frozen, and stored. Then if it seems that the patient needs blood during or following surgery, his own stored blood can be returned to him. Jehovah’s Witnesses, DO NOT accept this procedure since it is viewed that such stored blood is no longer part of the person. It has been completely removed from him, so it should be disposed of in line with God’s Law.

According to the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible, blood when taken from a body was to be poured out on the ground as water and covered over with dust. (Lev. 17:13, 14; Deut. 12:16, 23, 24; 15:23; 1 Chron. 11:18, 19) Because God Himself said that life is in the blood and such shed blood is held sacred before Him, we should recognize that all life comes from and belongs to God. By ‘pouring it out’ on the altar or on the ground, we, in effect, are returning the life to God. So the practice of voluntarily donating blood simply to be stored for some future use appears to conflict with the method of handling blood prescribed by the Bible.

In a somewhat different process, autologous blood can be diverted from a patient to a hemodialysis device (artificial kidney) or a heart-lung pump. The blood flows out through a tube to the artificial organ that pumps and filters (or oxygenates) it, and then it returns to the patient’s circulatory system. Some Christians have permitted this if the equipment is not primed with stored blood. They have viewed the external tubing as elongating their circulatory system so that blood might pass through an artificial organ. They have felt that the blood in this closed circuit was still part of them and did not need to be ‘poured out.’

The variety of equipment or techniques involving autologous blood continues to grow. So when faced with a question in this area, it is up to each Christian to make their own personal decision. If a Christian who is sincere in abiding by God's moral principle to blood is uncertain about whether to accept certain procedures related to blood-derived medicine or handling, he should learn what God’s Word says and strive to mold his conscience by it. That will equip him to decide in line with God’s guidance rather than asking someone else to make a decision for him. (Psalm 25:4, 5) He would also carefully consider as much accurate information as possible concerning the procedure(s) in question.

While modern medicine might be able to help us extend our lives for a time, we certainly would not want to extend our present life by doing anything that would violate our Christian conscience or would displease our Life-Giver. (Matthew 16:25; 1 Timothy 1:18, 19)

For more, see:
FAQs about the Sanctity of Blood

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