CMAJ • April 3, 2001; 164 (7)
© 2001 Canadian Medical Association or its licensors

Jehovah's Witnesses and artificial blood

Osamu Muramoto

Regional Ethics Council Kaiser Permanente Northwest Division Medical Adviser Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood Portland, Ore.

As a medical adviser for the Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood, I would like to challenge some statements made by Zenon Bodnaruk in his response1 to John Doyle's letter regarding Jehovah's Witnesses and artificial blood.2 Bodnaruk states that our Web site ( "purports to present the position of Jehovah's Witnesses." This is incorrect. The site does not represent the position of Jehovah's Witnesses in general, but rather the dissenting views among Witnesses regarding this controversial policy.3

Bodnaruk is also not completely correct in saying that "individual members make their own personal decisions with respect to fractions of blood components" and that this is "the long- standing position" of the religion. Official church publications show that the use of serum was prohibited by the church from 1964 to 1973, the use of clotting factors by hemophiliacs was prohibited until 1978 and the use of albumin was forbidden until 1981. More details of the history of the blood policy are available at our Web site, with references to Watchtower Society literature. The total reversal of the policy surrounding the use of hemoglobin in only 2 years, as reported by Doyle,2 raises further concerns about the ever-changing nature of the policy.

The Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood does not disagree with the blood-conservation strategy used by so-called bloodless programs. However, the bloodless medicine Bodnaruk and the Watchtower Society are advocating is not just a blood- conservation strategy. They fully expect members to lay down their lives when all alternatives to blood transfusion are exhausted. Bodnaruk is again disingenuous in ignoring the fact that the "life-saving blood conservation techniques" he advocates do not save the lives of many Witness patients who could otherwise survive if blood transfusions were used as a last resort.


  1. Bodnaruk ZM. Jehovah's Witnesses and artificial blood [letter]. CMAJ 2000;163(5):496-7.
  2. Doyle JD. Jehovah's Witnesses and artificial blood [letter]. CMAJ 2000;163(5):495-6.
  3. Elder L. Why some Jehovah's Witnesses accept blood and conscientiously reject official Watchtower Society blood policy. J Med Ethics 2000;26:375-80.