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Blood Transfusions​—What Doctors Are Saying Now

Blood Transfusions​—What Doctors Are Saying Now

For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been criticized because of their refusal to accept blood transfusions. That refusal, based on the Biblical directive to ‘abstain from blood,’ has at times clashed with what doctors thought to be in the best medical interests of their patients.​—⁠Acts 15:29.

Increasingly, however, experienced voices within the medical community have been pointing to medical reasons for using clinical strategies that avoid blood transfusion.

The Spring 2013 issue of the journal Stanford Medicine Magazine, a publication of the Stanford University School of Medicine, contained a special report on blood, part of which was entitled “Against the Flow​—What’s Behind the Decline in Blood Transfusions?” The author of that article, Sarah C. P. Williams, states: “Over the past decade, a growing body of research has revealed that in hospitals around the world, donated blood is used more often, and in larger quantities, than is needed to help patients​—both in operating rooms and hospital wards.”

The author quotes Patricia Ford, M.D., founder and director of The Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. Dr. Ford said: “There’s this idea ingrained in the culture of medicine that people will die if they don’t have a certain level of blood, that blood is the ultimate lifesaver . . . That’s true in some specific situations, a but for most patients in most situations it’s just not true.”

Dr. Ford, who treats about 700 of Jehovah’s Witnesses each year, also said: “Many physicians I talked to . . . had this misperception that a lot of patients just can’t survive without receiving blood . . . I may have even thought that myself to some degree. But what I rapidly learned was you can care for these patients by just applying some easy strategies.”

In August 2012, the journal Archives of Internal Medicine published the results of a study of heart-surgery patients at one center during a period of 28 years. Jehovah’s Witnesses fared better than similarly-matched patients who received blood transfusions. The Witnesses had fewer in-hospital complications, better early survival rates, and similar 20-year survival rates when compared with patients who received transfusions.

An article in The Wall Street Journal published on April 8, 2013, stated: “Bloodless surgery​—⁠operations performed without the use of donated blood⁠—has been done for years on patients with religious objections to transfusions. Now, hospitals are embracing the practice more widely . . . Surgeons who champion bloodless surgery say that in addition to reducing costs related to buying, storing, processing, testing and transfusing blood, the technique reduces the risk of transfusion-related infections and complications that keep patients in the hospital longer.”

Not surprisingly, Robert Lorenz, medical director of blood management for the Cleveland Clinic, states: “You get an immediate feeling that you’re helping the patient if you transfuse them . . . But, the long-term data suggest it’s the opposite.”

a To learn Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view of blood, see the article “Frequently Asked Questions​—Why Don’t You Accept Blood Transfusions?