A Nigerian Jehovah's Witness, Blessing Nelson Udoh, 66, got "a new lease of life" when an operation helped her regain the use of her legs that had been crippled by arthritis. The surgery was aided by an auto-transfusion procedure.
The operation carried out at Moolchand Orthopedics Hospital, New Delhi, was a bilateral Total Knee Replacement surgery. Jehovah's Witnesses, as it is widely known, do not accept blood transfusion. However, surgical procedures for knee replacement require blood transfusions. Express Healthcare reports that a special technique was used in the surgery that allowed the Jehovah's Witness to satisfy her religious conscience which forbids receiving blood transfusions. Blessing Nelson Udoh received blood, but the blood she received was her own.
This procedure, in medical surgery, is termed auto-transfusion. Dr. Gupta, the surgeon who carried out the procedure, reported to be the first of its kind in India, describes it:
“An auto transfusion knee drain technique has been used in this case, wherein patient’s blood get collected in a filtered reservoir connected to the replaced knee. This blood is then transfused back to the patient within six hours. This obviates the need for any blood transfusion thus minimizing the risks associated with it."
However, a long standing critic of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Danny Haszard, thinks their doctrine which prohibits blood transfusions but approves transfusion if the blood is the patient's, is confused. Haszard comments:
"This shows Watch Tower is loosing grips over its confusing blood ban. An auto-transfusion makes perfect sense but it is against the Watch Tower ban on blood transfusion because the blood leaves the body before it is transfused back."
Danny Haszard may be right about this because the prohibition of blood transfusion by the Jehovah's Witnesses leadership includes a Jehovah's Witness allowing her blood taken from her and stored in any manner. Wikipedia confirms that Jehovah's Witnesses prohibition of blood transfusion also includes donating or storing blood:
"Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible prohibits ingesting blood and that Christians should therefore not accept blood transfusions or donate or store their own blood for transfusion."
Wikipedia quotes a 2006 issue of the Jehovah's Witnesses newsletter Our Kingdom Ministry, which confirms that prohibition against blood transfusion covers not only receiving blood but also donating and "storing" blood for transfusion purposes. The newsletter stated:
"...[Jehovah's Witnesses] do not donate or store their own blood for transfusion purposes..."
The statement by the surgeon Dr. Gupta, shows that "storing blood" was done in the case of Blessing Udoh. The blood was taken from the Nigerian lady, stored and then transfused back into her. The surgeon describing the procedure said:
"An auto transfusion [is a procedure] wherein patient’s blood get collected in a filtered reservoir connected to the replaced knee. This blood is then transfused back to the patient within six hours."
Many critics of the Jehovah's Witnesses have been pointing out the inconsistencies in the teaching of the leadership of the Jehovah's Witnesses on blood transfusion and warning Jehovah's Witnesses about their leadership's self-contradictory stance on matters that mean life and death to millions of members of the sect worldwide.
Jwfacts.com highlights the inconsistencies of the ruling body of the organization on a matter over which several Jehovah's Witnesses have lost their lives over the decades. Jwfacts.com describes the confusion in the Jehovah's Witnesses' teaching on blood transfusion:
"Since 2000, a Jehovah's Witness still may not have a blood transfusion, but are permitted certain blood fractions, such as immunoglobulin and hemoglobulin... Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept transfusions of whole blood or the four primary components of blood namely, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. They also do not donate or store their own blood for transfusion."
The organization's Watchtower edition of 2000, June 15, p.31, according to Jwfacts.com, states:
"....Jehovah's Witnesses refuse transfusions of both whole blood and its primary blood components. The Bible directs Christians to abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from fornication. (Acts 15:29) Beyond that, when it comes to fractions of any of the primary components, each Christian, after careful and prayerful meditation, must conscientiously decide for himself."
Jwfacts.com notes the inconsistency in the position that Jehovah's Witnesses may not accept whole blood and its primary blood components such as blood cells, platelets and plasma, but they are allowed certain "fractions of any of the primary components" such as immunoglobin and hemoglobulin. JWfacts.com asks:
"If it is wrong for a Witness to donate blood, [then from where or from who] do the blood fractions they use come from?"
According to JWfacts.com, the Jehovah's Witnesses leadership teaches members "that it is wrong to attempt to save life through a blood transfusion, as this risks forfeiting everlasting life" in the new world to come after Armageddon. The website quotes an edition (Watchtower 1970, Apr 15, p.249) of the group's magazine which states:
"But suppose one's wife or child were near death. Giving blood, no matter who the loved one might be, would still constitute a violation of God's law. Just because one is near death, this does not give one liberty to break God's commands. When one is near death is no time to tamper with or violate the law of God, but a time to draw as near as possible to God by remaining faithful. Everlasting life is the reward for faithfulness. How foolish it would be to gamble away the prospect of life eternal for the very uncertain promise of a cure by blood transfusion!"
Jwfacts.com warns that Jehovah's Witnesses who allow a group of men who call themselves leaders to dictate matters of life and death to them should note the vacillation and self-contradictory utterances of these men on such sensitive matter and keep in mind that their leaders are fallible humans. JWfacts.com warns Jehovah's Witnesses to remember that the same men changed their minds on the ban on organ transplants in the 1980s, and that they may yet in the future also change their minds on their present ban on blood transfusions given their present shift to accommodate "fractions of any of the primary components" of blood.
A revision of the doctrine on blood transfusion could come only after hundreds of Jehovah's Witnesses have lost their lives needlessly. Jwfacts.com warns Jehovah's Witnesses:
"Every Jehovah's Witness should seriously consider the implications of the Watchtower making such life and death doctrinal changes before deciding to refuse blood, when lives are at stake... Considering the changes that have occurred over the last decade, and the ongoing legal difficulties being experienced by the Watchtower Society, there will no doubt be more easing up in coming years."