Jehovah`s Witness/Organ Transplants


QUESTION: Hello Mr. Hepburn, I read your answer regarding organ transplants and found it fascinating. You left this part out.....From November 1967 until March 29 1980, the understanding was that organ transplants was viewed by The Watchtower Society as being the same as cannibalism and therefore was NOT allowed. Please refer to your very own publications November 15th, 1967 pages 702-706 that said...."Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another. This is cannibalistic. God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others." Mr. Hepburn, how could you not know this?? This cost people their lives. The Watchtower is grossly misinterpreting the Bible. Case in point. I am sure one day their "interpretation" of blood transfusions will change as well. In the mean time, how many human lives are lost at the hands of the Watchtower Society and their misinterpretations of the Bible???? Good Day.

ANSWER: Hello Linda,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the information I presented.  I failed to mention the exact place where I quoted from, so perhaps you did not notice that the portion you mention was in that quote.  I actually  quoted that full article in my reply to show context not just a portion of the article, and at the end it said


It should be evident from this discussion that Christians who have been enlightened by God’s Word do not need to make these decisions simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles recorded in the Scriptures and use these in making personal decisions as they look to God for direction, trusting him and putting their confidence in the future that he has in store for those who love him.—Prov. 3:5, 6; Ps. 119:105.

end quote

When you read the article the writer was referring to a view that was published in "the Encyclopœdia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, Volume 3, page 199,"  where the idea of transplants being cannibalism came from.  The article was giving different point of view in order for JWs to make their own informed decision.  

In between the two quotes I made this comment


This next quote is from 1980 and is also a question from readers.  In my opinion (I do not know for sure) it is the result of mixed messages from the first article as some JWs would have a transplant and some thought it was wrong. Again please take notice of the last paragraph. The topic of the question relates to JWS and shows that some were willingly accepting transplants but the conscience of others were in doubt about the procedure  

end quote

After the first article was published, there were JWS having transplants.  Their “personal decision” was that it did not violate any Biblical requirements. However some JWs must have thought it wrong, thus the question was in regard to if the congregation should be taking any action against any JWS that had a transplant.  Evidently some felt their should be some action and others felt that there should not be, thus the “Question from readers”

The overall result is, transplants were NEVER band for JWs

Just to add to that here is another article from a Watchtower relating to bone marrow transplants

w84 5/15 p. 31 Questions From Readers

Could a Christian accept a bone-marrow transplant, since blood is made in the marrow ?

Doctors perform most bone-marrow transplants by withdrawing some marrow from a donor (often a near relative) and then injecting or transfusing it into the sick patient. They hope that the marrow graft will reach the patient’s marrow cavities and later function normally. Usually this procedure is considered only in critical cases (such as aplastic anemia or acute leukemia) for there are acknowledged hazards in preparing a person for a marrow graft and in treating him afterward.

As the question itself notes, red blood cells are formed in the marrow of certain bones such as the ribs, sternum and pelvic bones. Hence, it is understandable why, in the light of the Bible’s prohibition on blood, the question arises whether a Christian could accept a graft of human bone marrow.

The Bible states clearly that God’s servants must ‘abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:28, 29; Deuteronomy 12:15, 16) But, since red cells originate in the red bone marrow, do the Scriptures class marrow with blood? No. In fact, animal marrow is spoken of like any other flesh that could be eaten. Isaiah 25:6 says that God will prepare for his people a banquet that includes “well-oiled dishes filled with marrow.” Normal slaughtering and drainage procedures never drain all blood cells from the marrow. Yet once a carcass is drained, then any of the tissue may be eaten, including the marrow.

Of course, marrow used in human marrow transplants is from live donors, and the withdrawn marrow may have some blood with it. Hence, the Christian would have to resolve for himself whether—to him—the bone-marrow graft would amount to simple flesh or would be unbled tissue. Additionally, since a marrow graft is a form of transplant, the Scriptural aspects of human organ transplants should be considered. See “Questions From Readers” in our issue of March 15, 1980. Finally, writing in Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine (Update I, 1981, page 138), Dr. D. E. Thomas observes that “virtually all marrow transplant recipients will require platelet transfusions” and many are given “packed red blood cells.” So the Christian should consider what additional issues he would have to face if he submitted to a marrow transplant.—Proverbs 22:3.

Though a personal decision has to be made on this matter , the Bible’s comments about blood and marrow should help the individual to decide.

end quote

So again a JW must weigh up all the evidence, not just biblical but medical as well and in the end it is a personal decision.

 A search of the internet using "problems with transplants" shows that medical advances (since those articles) have made transplant safer (better success rate) but that there ares still difficulties. 

AM I correct in assuming that you have a problem with  JWs not taking blood?.  I honestly do not understand why people get so upset about JWs not accepting blood transfusions. Blood transfusions are dangerous and there are better alternatives to blood available.  The fact is very few JWs die as a result of not accepting a blood transfusion. There is more risk to human life by having a blood transfusion than by avoiding them.

Did you know that the US army have adopted bloodless surgery. Here are a couple of pages to look at

Here are some web sites for you to look up that show the risks. PLEASE read them

Now  PLEASE do an internet search using "bloodless medicine" and become better informed.  For JWs blood is a none issue.

Please feel free to ask any more questions

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello Mr. Hepburn, Thank you for clarifying Jw's policy on organ transplants. I think we could probably both agree that the Watchtower Society could have been a bit more straightforward with their message regarding transplants The article we were discussing, especially the pages I refer too, may not have been direct opinion of the W.S., but by including such wording, still sends a mixed message, whether intentional or not. Also, could you possibly clarify this message too, ...Awake 6/8/1968 page21....Christian Witnesses of Jehovah consider all transplants between humans as cannibalism". Also the WS 7/8/1972 page28 says" and here again,it might be noted, that the stand of the Christian Witness of Jehovah that such transplants are in effect a form of cannibalism." I am confused as to why they would keep making reference to organ transplants as being cannibalistic when that was never their understanding???  Yes, I do agree that a organ transplant comes with a certain amount of risk. No medical procedure is without risk. There have even been instances where some have died from complications of the removal of their wisdom teeth! No, I do not have a problem with Jw's not taking blood. I have a problem with why they do not. You say blood transfusions are dangerous. This is true, and like mentioned before, no medical procedure is without risk. I did not agree with your statement saying, "There is more risk to human life by having a blood transfusion than by avoiding them". This simply is not true. If you are medically in need, and do not have the procedure, you will most likely die. So that was just a silly statement. I will however research percentages of how many people who rejected a blood transfusions that lived, versus how many that died without one. Keep in mind, I am referring to when "alternative methods" were not available. The fact that now a life can saved with less risk is great! Good for the Army, and all those men and women who protect us everyday. I do not need to follow your links to better inform myself, but thanks for supplying them. Have a great day.

ANSWER: Hello Linda,

This is a long reply.  Please read it all.

First on the issue of blood.  Did you read any of those links I gave?  Did you see that the USA army has adopted bloodless surgery? Did you research “bloodless medicine”.  I am going to make the assumption (my opinion) you did not otherwise you would not have made those comments on blood.

I doubt you would find statistics on who many people died from not taking blood.  The facts are no one knows for a certainty who would survive with or without a blood transfusion.  Blood as a medicine has NEVER undergone the same medical testing as other “drugs” so they really do not know how good blood is.  It is all circumstantial evidence that suggest blood saves lives.


"Transfusion has …. never been FDA-tested. In other words, just the way we test drugs in terms of safety and efficacy, we've never taken it to the rigorous tests that every other medical therapeutic has to be put to. So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better."

end quote

Now as far as if transplants were "banned" for JWs I agree that the statements were not real clear and could have been clearer.  The bottom line was though that it was a personal decision  and I will stand by that. The information that was published reflected some common views of the time.

Now as regard the other two articles I  wish I could let them speak for themselves by reproducing them in full.  By the way they are both from the Awake magazine not the Watchtower so I gather you do not have the articles in question so I assume you found the quotes on some internet site.  

What people do not realise that that there is a difference between the Watchtower and the Awake magazines. The Watchtower is the magazine designed specifically for JWs .  The Awake for the general public it. Though there is information in both for everyone.  The comments must be understood in the context of what JWs are taught as in the Watchtower as well as the  events of the day. The inside cover  the magazine gave the reason for the magazine



News sources  that are able to keep you awake to the vital issue of our times must be unfettered by censorship and selfish interests. "Awake'" has no fetters. It recognises fads, faces facts. Is free to publish facts. It is not bound by political ties it is unhampered by traditional creeds. This magazine keeps itself free, that It may speak freely to you. But it does not abuse its l freedom. It maintains integrity to truth.

The viewpoint of "Awake!" is not narrow, but is International. "Awake!" has Its own correspondents in scores of nations. Its articles, are. read in many lands, in many languages, by millions of persons.

In every issue "Awake!" presents viral topic; on which you should be informed. It features penetrating articles on social conditions and offers sound counsel for meeting the problems of everyday life. Current news from every continent passes in quick review. Attention is focused on activities in the fields of government and commerce about which you should know. Straightforward d:discussions of religious issues alert you to matters of vital concern. Customs and people in many lands, the marvels of creation, practical sciences and points of human interest are all embraced in its coverage. "Awake" provides wholesome, instructive reading for every member of the family.

"Awakel" pledges itself to righteous principles, to exposing hidden foes and subtle dangers" to championing freedom for all, to comforting mourners and strengthening those disheartened by the failures of a delinquent world, reflecting sure hope for the establishment of God's righteous new order In this generation.”

end quote

One of the hidden foes AT THAT TIME were the experiments in transplants For example “In 1964 , a team of surgeons in Jackson, Miss., performed the first animal-to-human heart transplant on record, placing a chimpanzee's heart into a dying man's chest. It beat for an hour and a half but proved too small to keep him alive, a failure that revealed surgeons would have to use human hearts if transplants were to achieve enduring success.
By 1967 , at least four surgeons were poised to try. On Dec. 3  Dr Christian Barnard  of South Africa got there first, sewing the heart of a young woman killed in a  car accident,  into the chest of a middle-aged man. After nearly four hours of surgery, a single jolt of electricity started it beating. "Christ," Barnard said. "It's going to work." And for a while, it did. The patient survived the operation, but the immunosuppressant drugs used to keep his body from rejecting the new organ weakened him. Eighteen days after the operation, he succumbed to pneumonia.”  -( Bold & underline mine),8599,1939493,00.html#ixzz2cUMFk6cE

The comments you quoted must be understood in the context of what JWs are taught, as in the Watchtower, as well as the  events of the day .  The Watchtower you mention in your first question that talked about cannibalism was  is from 1967. The first quote in this question is from 1968.  JWs had already been told (in our teaching publication) it was a conscience matter

Now, keep in mind the reason for the Awake  magazine.  The first article you mentioned from the 1968 Awake was part of a  “Special Edition” Awake with the main heading “MEDICAL EXPERIMENTS AND YOUR HEALTH”   The whole magazine brought together what was being said at the time by the “medical world” about problems with some medical practices.  Some of the articles were ....

Your Health - the  Responsibility  More than One.          
Misuse of Humans for Medical Experiments
What Kind of  Doctor Treats you?
Experimenting with Transplants not knew
Moses and Man's Life-Span
Heart Transplants Pose Staggering Problems
Professional Responsibly
Using Good Sense in. Caring for Your Health
Human Dignity and Moral Behaviour
God's Provisions to Heal Mankind

Your quote came from the article “Heart Transplants Pose Staggering Problems”. I will post the paragraphs around where the quote came from.  I wonder if the internet site where you got the quote from mentioned the other people that held held similar views.  Now remember that this is a general article for the wider public.  Not a teaching article like the one from 1967


The Scriptural Aspect

Not to be overlooked are the religious, the Scriptual issues involved. There are those, such as the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, who consider all transplants between hunans as cannibalism; and is not the utilizing of the flesh of another human for one's own life cannibalistic? Nor are they by any means alone in this view , Thus Newsweek, December 18, 1968, stated: "An artificial heart that could be mass produced would alleviate the shortage of hearts and-the need to cannibalise bodies."

And Dr. Donald F. Scott consultant cardiologist at the London Hospital, condemned  heart transplanting as "almost amounting to cannibalism . . . It is not a procedure within our bounds as doctors."

The same point was made in an extensive review of the heart-transplant problems by two of the editors of the Miami News~ January 22, 1968. The article, several pages in length, opened with
the questions: "Medical miracle or cannibalism? New hope for man or a step to ultimate destruction? God's will or anathema?"

End quote

During the course of this “special edition “ of Awake, the writers provide lots of source material about the the various topics covered. Again for emphasis the Awake is making general comments to the wider public. The Watchtower is for instruction and the Watchtower a year earlier said   it is a personal decision that a JW had to make after weighing up all the then available evidence.

I will post the complete article from the 1972 AWAKE that you tried to quote from (Again keep in the nature and purpose of the Awake)  This article discusses “some” of the biblical principles regarding the missus of blood

 Awake  July 8 1972  “Keep Abstaining from . . . Blood”

“BLOOD transfusions now kill at least 3,500 Americans and medically injure another 50,000 each year.” So says Dr. J. G. Allen of Stanford University, considered by many researchers as one of the foremost authorities on the blood problem in the United States. However, because of poor reporting habits on the part of many physicians the real rate, according to the Center for Disease Controls, could be as high as 35,000 deaths and 500,000 illnesses each year due to blood transfusions.—The National Observer, January 29, 1972.

Included in those statistics, let it be noted, are none of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Why not? Not merely because they are unwilling to risk the dangers of blood transfusions but primarily because they do not want to incur God’s displeasure. God is displeased with blood transfusions. ‘Where does the Bible forbid blood transfusions?’ do you ask?

Since there were no blood transfusions when the Bible was written, we should not expect the Bible to mention them in so many words. But God in his Word does plainly forbid the use of blood of another creature to sustain one’s own life, and this he did on three specific occasions. Therefore the use of blood for transfusions comes under that prohibition.

Thus after the flood Jehovah God told Noah and his sons that “every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you.” With that permission went two prohibitions: “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat,” and, “Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed.” Neither of these two bans was ever rescinded.—Gen. 9:3-6.

Some eight centuries later God again forbade the eating of blood, and that in the strongest of terms, because the penalty for eating “any sort of blood” was death. Blood was to be used only “to make atonement for your souls” upon the altar.—Lev. 17:10-14.

While Christians are not under the Mosaic law, they nevertheless are not free to eat blood. Why not? First of all because the prohibition on eating blood, given to Noah and his sons long before the time of Moses, still applies to all mankind, as already noted. And secondly, the Christian Greek Scriptures specifically show that that prohibition still applies to Christians. Thus the Christian council that met at Jerusalem to consider circumcision and related questions sent out instructions to the effect that Christians were “to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication.”—Acts 15:20, 29.

More and more medical authorities are warning against widespread use of blood transfusions. In fact, it may be only a matter of time, and not a long time either, before the medical profession will discard blood transfusions as a passing fad, even as years ago they dropped bloodletting. Typical of this trend is what Swedish and German authorities on blood transfusions told a symposium of twenty-five Norwegian professors of medicine and medical directors regarding the superiority of plasma expanders over whole blood:

“It is no overstatement that there is today a waste of blood at hospitals all over the world. . . . It is today possible with a neutral preparation to expand the volume of blood plasma—the fluid which carries the corpuscles throughout the body. . . . Every individual has his own ‘saturation point’ in the relation between the amount of red blood cells and the intake of oxygen. If the amount of blood cells gets too high, there is a decrease of the intake of oxygen because the blood is too viscous [too thick].” Because of this “a patient in many cases would be better off with less blood cells, consequently, only the lost plasma is substituted. Most important in this connection is the fact that the risk of blood clots thereby is reduced. A number of examinations have proved dextran to have this effect. To prevent blood clots we can almost say as a rule the first bottle used at a transfusion should be dextran.”

Noting other benefits from using dextran rather than blood, these authorities went on to say: “Certain serious diseases may be transmitted via blood. There have been so many such cases recently that one at least should not take unnecessary risks. Moreover, a blood transfusion is to be regarded as any other transplantation, for example, of kidney or other tissue. ‘Foreign’ blood also alarms the body’s antibodies, although the consequences may not be as obvious as when a kidney is rejected.”—Dagbladet, April 22, 1971.

Yes, blood is a tissue, just as the heart and the kidneys are tissue. Because it is a “liquid tissue” this fact is not generally appreciated. Immunological forces, placed in the body by the Creator to protect it, oppose any foreign tissue and raise up antibodies to fight against it. That is why the popularity of heart transplants was so short-lived.

Life magazine, September 17, 1971, showed a picture on the front cover of six persons who had received heart transplants and who seemed to be well and happy at the time. But within just eight months after the picture was taken all six of these had succumbed to their body’s efforts to reject foreign tissue . The article told how “the rejection drugs triggered bizarre acts,” and that “their ballooning faces haunted one doctor.” The author of the article, who has written a book on the subject, Hearts , also reported that the death rate for heart transplants for the first three years was more than 85 percent . One surgeon, who transplanted twenty-two hearts, had every last one of his patients die. And while he dismissed the entire matter as “a procedure which we tried and—for the time being—discarded,” the patients were not able to be so casual about it. And here again, it might be noted, that the stand of the Christian witnesses of Jehovah—that such transplants are in effect a form of cannibalism—proved a safeguard. How so? In that it spared them much frustration, grief and anxiety, which were experienced not only by the patients and their relatives but even by many of the assisting medical personnel .

‘If blood transfusions also violate the immunological principle, then why do they not prove as lethal as do heart transplants?’ you may ask. The reason is that blood is a temporary tissue. A temporary tissue? Yes, for in every second of time millions of red blood cells die and are replaced. So any ‘foreign’ transfused blood cells do not remain for long in the body.

Surely the Bible unequivocally testifies that God’s servants must “keep abstaining from . . . blood.” Those who heed that command not only have the satisfaction that they are obeying God, but may well save themselves much grief because of the risks involved in blood transfusions.

(Italics original bold etc. mine)
End quote

Even though transplants were seen by JWs and others as having a possible link to cannibalism, it was still a personal decision. It is up to you to accept that fact or not

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Again, the medical "facts" you give on blood transfusions are incorrect. For every link you provide (which I already stated I did not read) I could provide hundreds more to refute what you say. I also said I was referring to when bloodless procedures WERE NOT available. I guess you missed that part too. I never said blood was considered a "medicine" or a "drug", so of course it would not have the same testing?????? The FDA (you do know what that is right??) would not be involved at all. Why would they be? Do they approve heart bypass procedures???? No, they do not. There job is to examine drugs and their effects. I am not sure what point you were trying to make there? Again, silly comment. I am most certain that Jw's would love nothing more than to think OR AGREE WITH ANOTHER that blood transfusions are not necessary. Showing articles of opinions (that just happen to support what you hope) does not make it fact. Heres a fact>>>>in 1991 (BEFORE newer advancements) I gave birth to my son, there were complications, I lost a lot of blood. I was on the verge of death. I received a blood transfusion. I was in the hospital for days. That transfusion saved my life. My husband still has his wife, and my children still have their mother today. So, what is worth the risk???? Yes, without question. As far as the organ transplants, at least you agree that the Watchtower could have made it clearer and maybe provided more a supportive message to its members instead of a subliminal approach. I understood the it was a choice (as you keep pointing out) as did you. How many did not because of the repeated mention of cannibalism?????  I think the WS knew exactly what they were doing. Have a great day!

HELLO Linda,

Perhaps you should read some of those articles first, to get a broader picture of the issue. The information about the FDA  never testing blood is is from a medical site.

JWs want, and expect, the BEST medical treatment that is available.  The truth is Blood is NOT THE BEST MEDICAL TREATMENT

Would it not be prudent to look at all the evidence and not just one side?  The evidence comes from the medical field itself and not what anti blood lay persons are trying to say. It is from their own ranks. The medical world is slowly turning its back on blood.

Here is a fact sheet from the Government Of Western Australia .  They are trying to educate and implement across the whole sate the reduced use of blood.

Ask yourself why would the Government of a state want to do such a thing. Educate yourself by reading some the the web sites

I understand that people can looses a lot of blood from giving birth.   Doctors generally feel that the safe level of hemoglobin is around 10 g/dl  I know of several people whose hemoglobin levels dropped to around 3 g/dl and survived very well without blood.

Just because blood is given and a person lives does not mean that blood saved the life.  There is every change the person would have lived without it.

Even in emergencies people can be pumped full of blood and not live, blood does NOT guarantee a person will live.  Neither does non blood volume expoanders.  But people do just as well with non blood expanders as with blood, and in most cases do EVEN BETTER   

You, by chance, were fortunate to have survived, the process of having a blood transfusion after having you child.  Many patients do not survive having blood.  What would you say to them?  

Some JWs have died in medical emergencies because, instead of getting on with the job of doing their best, some doctors STOP, waist precious time and arguing the point.  I have known of a few cases locally here.  There was one case here recently that made the news about a child of a JW.  Time was wasted going to court to get a judges order.  The papers made a big deal of it.  What the papers did not report was that while time was being wasted going to court the child improved and no blood was necessary. In the mean time the general public were stirred into an emotional state by the news reports of the  "emergency" court hearing.. The public were not informed  the child survived.  The same thing happened back in the 1970's  with a JW that had a motorcycle accident.  It was splashed over the papers in big headlines "JW refuses blood". This man is still alive.  The papers never reported on his survival.

People only get one side of the story. and when people seem to refuse to want to get both sides of the medical story it makes us wonder why.  

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Brenton Hepburn


I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .


I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

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