Today would have been my brother’s fifty-eighth birthday. My brother, Donald, died ten days before turning twenty-eight. He was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) on December 11th, 1985 and died on February 2nd, 1986.
A diagnosis of AML, for a faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses, is a death sentence. Leukemia is cancer of the blood and the main treatment for AML is a bone marrow transplant and blood transfusions. Donald was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was a Ministerial Servant, well on his way to becoming an elder. As one who believed Watchtower doctrine, he would not consider a bone marrow transplant or blood transfusions, even when faced with a terminal diagnosis. His physicians told him that without treatment, he could expect to die within one to six weeks.
Although bone marrow transplants were once forbidden, in the Watchtower magazine’s March 15th, 1980 edition, there was a reversal in their position regarding organ transplants. Bone marrow transplants are placed in this category, so you would think it is allowed. However, in order to assure that a patient’s body will be strong enough to receive a bone marrow transplant, many pints of blood are transfused into a patient’s body prior to receiving a bone marrow transplant. Therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses will refuse a bone marrow transplant.
Watchtower’s blood stance has evolved through the decades. In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been told that they can receive “blood fractions” as a matter of conscience. Although this new change of position would not have helped my brother (as he needed whole blood), it matters to those whose family members died before these changes were implemented. The Watchtower’s current stance on whole blood and blood components is complicated and somewhat nonsensical. I will provide links to websites devoted to that subject at the end of this article*.
Before you read my brother’s story, it will help you to know that he was the only one in my family who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He became a Witness at age twenty, along with his wife.
He was not raised as a Witness and our parents were not Witnesses. I studied and attended the Kingdom Hall for eleven years (even after his death), but was never baptized.
I’m not sure why he looks so serious in this picture! What I notice most in this picture is how colorful he looks. His lips are a healthy shade of pink and his cheeks and nose have color to them. Months later, his face was extremely pale and his lips were completely white.
Like many Jehovah’s Witness parents, my brother and his wife home-schooled their kids. In the autumn of 1985, they drove from their home in Florida to Arizona. They called their adventure a “field trip” and my brother sent postcards to me and my mother while he traveled. In a few of his messages, he mentioned having a cold that would not go away. He visited a physician in Arizona and was told that he had pleurisy. The physician gave him medicine and suggested that he cut his trip short.
He and his wife, Carole, traveled back to their home in Florida. By the time they got home, he was feeling much worse. He was so short-of-breath, he couldn’t complete a sentence in one breath. Every three words or so, he would need to inhale. He went to see his physician in December 1985 and learned that he did not have pleurisy. Bloodwork and a bone marrow biopsy revealed that Donald had tons of immature white blood cells (leukocytes) that were interfering with his bone marrow’s ability to produce normal red blood cells. His red blood cells were misshapen (not round) and were not able to do their job of transporting oxygen. His bone marrow was full of these immature white blood cells and misshapen red blood cells. That was the reason he felt so sick and was having trouble catching his breath. In order to live, he needed to have his bone marrow replaced.
Prognosis: One to Six Weeks
On December 11th, 1985, I was at home in Connecticut. I just got home from the library when my father told me to call my sister-in-law Carole. When I called her, she told me that I needed to fly to Florida as soon as possible. She explained the situation to me and said that the doctor told her that my brother might die within one week. Just in case he was going to die that quickly, my father bought tickets for my mother, me and my brother Mike to fly down to Florida. My father chose to stay home because he couldn’t believe that Donald was really going to die. He didn’t think anyone was lying. He just couldn’t grasp that it was really happening.
The next day, I was sitting on a plane with my mother and brother Mike. The plane was filled to capacity and I felt claustrophobic. I closed my eyes to escape my surroundings, but I couldn’t escape my thoughts. I kept trying to imagine what Donald would look like when I finally got to see him. I envisioned walking into his bedroom and seeing him looking ashen, with a gray face. All of a sudden, I felt like I had to vomit. My brother Mike held the bag (those bags on an airplane that you think you will never need.) Mike held my hair back with one hand and held the bag with his other hand. I never felt his love for me as strongly as I did in those moments. We were both scared about what we would face when we got to Donald’s house.
When we finally got to his house, a lady came out onto the porch and told us to wait. She was the wife of an elder who was “visiting” Donald.
One-by-one, my sister-in-law, Carole, let us go into Donald’s bedroom. My mother went first, then Mike, then me. Carole didn’t let us all go in at once because she thought Donald would try to talk and might get out-of-breath. When I saw him, I made the following observations: he was wrapped in a sheet; his lips were completely white and he was breathing like a rabbit—rapid and shallow breaths. (Later on, I tried to mimic his breathing to see what it felt like and I immediately became dizzy. I couldn’t even do it for one minute.)
I asked him why he had a sheet wrapped around him. He said, “My skin hurts.” The skin on his entire body hurt. Can you imagine?
Elders Hovering Around the Room
Three elders were in Donald’s bedroom during the day. They stayed for hours and came back day-after-day. They actually took shifts so that my brother was never alone with me, my brother Mike or my mother. Looking back, I believe it is because the elders knew we were not Jehovah’s Witnesses. They must have thought we would try to talk Donald into receiving a blood transfusion and bone marrow transplant.
After five days of having these strangers hovering around Donald, I had enough. I asked them to go home. I told them that my time with Donald was limited and I wanted them to give us time to be a family. Thankfully, the elders respected my wishes and left. I was only able to be in Florida for one week, so by the time the elders finally went home, I only had two full days to spend with Donald.
A few years later, the Watchtower implemented “Hospital Liaison Committees”. However, in late 1985-early 1986, the HLC didn’t exist yet. Instead, the three elders in my brother’s bedroom were serving in that capacity under the guise of having a “Bible Study” with him. I could hear them reading scriptures to Donald, mostly about “keeping his eyes on the prize”.
Donald did not want to die, but he also did not want to “betray Jehovah” by receiving a blood transfusion or a bone marrow transplant. His wife, Carole, read about nutritional supplementation that would build up the iron in his blood. She began to make juice out of beet roots and leaves. She also crushed various herbs and put them into oatmeal for him to ingest. (You can see the beet juice and pink oatmeal in the image of him wrapped in a sheet).
The Nights Spent Holding My Hand
At night, while everyone was sleeping, I stayed awake all through the night. I lay on the floor beside his bed. He would put his hand over the edge of his bed and I would reach up and hold it. While we were holding hands, he would watch “Cheers” and “The Three Stooges” on video tape. He also watched episodes of “I Love Lucy”. He told me that he wanted to watch things that made him laugh.
One night, while we were watching “The Three Stooges”, I fell asleep and my hand let go of his hand. All of a sudden, I heard him say “Karen!” really loud. (Keep in mind, he had been whispering and breathing shallow for a week). I woke up in a panic! Donald explained to me that the reason he wanted me to hold his hand all night was because he wanted someone to be awake in case he died. He didn’t want to die in the middle of the night, all alone, while everyone slept.
It was at that moment when I realized just how important my presence was to him. Another thing that made me feel special was that I was the only person (besides Carole) that he felt comfortable having empty his urinal. It may seem trivial (and maybe even gross), but I felt honored that he chose me to hold his hand in the middle of the night and to empty his urinal. As I write this, I still feel honored.
Typing His Assigned “Blood Talk”
Donald was a Ministerial Servant. He was eager to become an elder, so he was thrilled when he was assigned to give a talk. It was assigned to him before he felt sick. The topic: “Why it is better NOT to have a blood transfusion”. When he became sick and his skin hurt, he still continued to type his talk. He began working on it before he felt sick and was determined to finish it before he died. During the time I was with him in Florida, he typed until his finger pads hurt. I offered to type, but he said that he must do it. He wanted to finish the task. He was using a manual typewriter, so it required pushing down hard on the keys. He told me that he preferred typing instead of writing because his vision was getting blurry.
My mother, my brother Mike and I eventually had to go back to Connecticut. Donald kept in touch with us through typed letters. Last night, as I prepared the images to go along with this article, I found the last note my brother ever typed to my mother. He died ten days after my mother received this note in the mail.
Here is page one:
Here is page two:
Going out to eat was a huge ordeal since the clothes against his skin caused him a lot of pain. Walking, even a few steps, made him get out of breath. Chewing, swallowing and digesting food requires a lot of energy so going out to eat was a huge ordeal. Since his blood was not delivering adequate amounts of oxygen to his organs, it must have been completely exhausting. Yet, in his final note to my mother, he tells her that it was worth it.
Throughout his illness and six weeks of suffering, he never lost his sense of humor or his gratitude. I asked him how he felt about dying. He said to me, “Don’t feel bad for me. I have the easy part. All I have to do is go to sleep. Then I get to wake up in the New System.”
Although he was speaking as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, his peace of mind was incredible to me. I was so amazed by his attitude toward his impending death that I became a hospice nurse a few years later.
My brother continued to lose his vision and eventually wasn’t able to type or write. However, he did manage to finish his “blood talk” before he died.
My brother died sitting up in bed. He was leaning against his wife, Carole, and kept saying, “I’m going to die today.” Carole said, “Don’t say that. You will be fine. We’re going to get through this.” Then he said, “I can’t see.” Carole told me that Donald didn’t speak for another ten minutes.
Then, Donald said, “I’ll see you when I wake up.” Those were his last words.
As we know, Donald believed that when he died, he would be asleep in his grave. He believed that he would wake up in the New System. To anyone else, his last words would make no sense. However, to any Jehovah’s Witness, it makes perfect (although misguided) sense.
After Donald’s Death
Donald and his wife celebrated their wedding anniversary on January 27th. He was able to sit up and eat a piece of fish. On February 2nd, 1986, he died sitting up next to his wife (as I described above).
On February 5th, 1986, one of the brothers at the Largo North (Florida) congregation read Donald’s talk on behalf of Donald. I have a cassette recording of the talk. I can’t bring myself to listen to it because the “Brother” begins the talk by describing how Donald was a ‘martyr’ and that it was no coincidence that my brother was assigned this talk. The “Brother” implied that my brother getting leukemia and dying after refusing treatment only made the talk that much more meaningful.
On February 7th, 1986 the Largo North congregation held a memorial for Donald. My family was in Connecticut, so my sister-in-law made sure we received a recording of the talk. On the outside of the cassette, the words “196 in attendance” are written. I have only heard the tape one time. A different “Brother” gave his memorial talk. That “Brother” also referred to Donald as a martyr.
My brother was not a martyr. He was a card-carrying victim.
(Source for images 7 and 8: https://www.rcseng.ac.uk/publications/docs/jehovahs_witness.html/@@download/pdffile/Jehovah’s%20Witnesses.pdf)
In the September 15, 2015 Watchtower magazine, the following can be found on pages 9 – 10:
Thirty years after my brother’s death, Jehovah’s Witnesses are still instructed to refuse blood transfusions. My brother is just one of thousands who have lost their lives due to this doctrine.
Today, February 12, 2016, my brother will not get to turn fifty-eight years old.
*For further information on this story and other matters of interest Jehovah’s Witnesses who wish to be set free from the Watchtower religion, please visit Karenne’s website at:
* JW Facts: “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusions”
* AJWRB: “Watchtower Approved Blood Transfusions”
79 thoughts on “The Friday Column: The Blood Issue and Leukemia: One Man’s Story”
Beautifully written Karenne.
The utter folly and conceit of The Watchtower is heartbreaking.
I can not imagine what you went through. I am so sorry you lost your brother. This Watchtower doctrine prohibiting blood transfusions has cost so many lives. When I was a kid I used to be so afraid of getting sick and needing blood. I knew my parents would let me die. They would have told me I would just go to sleep and wake up in paradise. Believe me I know many who died refusing this life saving medical treatment. When I was fading a few years ago, I needed surgery. I decided not to tell any of the elders. I signed my hospital consent to have a blood transfusion if necessary. It felt so very strange. But, I wasn’t about to die, and leave my kids with out a mom. I wish those elders would have given you more time alone with your brother. It angers me. It is not right. Thank you for this article. I hope it will help someone to see the senseless waste of precious life.
Me too Peggy…I lived in fear of nosebleeds and any cut or accident because I knew my parents would have let me die…to me that in itself is child abuse ….and living in a home where you were loved…but on condition that you obeyed the rules and realised you were subject to the rules under all circumstances…Im bitter towards my parents… one has passed away and one is mentally ill and left poor by the decisions she made to stay faithful…Karenne’s story has actually left me heartbroken it is sad beyond belief…what a waste of a wonderful man.
Thank you, Karenne, for sharing your brother’s story. Maybe it will help others to see the senseless folly of the Watchtower’s blood policy.
Here is another link: to a series of articles on JWB showing how baseless and stupid the ‘no blood’ policy really is: http://www.jehovahswitnessblog.com/blood-transfusions/why-jehovahs-witnesses-dont-accept-blood/
Karen . My heart goes out to you. Thank you for writing this . You are a brave,kind & warm person .
What is so annoying is before 2000 Hemoglobin which is a fraction ( a flipping big fraction)was prohibited which is 33% of Red blood but now after year 2000 it is allowed by the GB . I said to an Elder ‘thank goodness for worldly people for donating blood as that is the only way JWs can get fractions .
Winston Churchill: Not being able to donate blood, yet being able to accept blood fractions does seem like a conflict of interests.
I’ve got to remember that one!
Yes that does make you stop and think doesn’t it. What was the reaction WC? ……. oh dear that sounds like I am calling you a water closet/toilet lol.
The fact that no apology was ever uttered in print or verbally for their stubborn stance on blood fractions and organ transplants for years is appalling. The fact that it makes no sense is even worse.
I remember a brother calling me and asking what they should do about a pioneer who donated blood because she needed money. At the time I said “I don’t think you should do anything”. Naturally like anything that they aren’t sure of they called the branch office. They told that body of elders that donating blood is an act of disassociation. I didn’t want to hear anymore after that. It’s like they want you to play this game to see which step you take actually leads into a bottomless pit.
It is inexcusably ignorant to make someone accountable even for just donating blood. It as if they are unaware that the blood fractions they depend on comes from ACTUAL DONATED BLOOD. No blood equals no blood fractions which makes the whole thing incredibly stupid. But that’s day to day operations at Watchtower.
The bloodguilt on the account of the GB must be massive. So sad and inexcusable.
Karenne, thanks for sharing Donald’s story with us. I found it beautifully written and incredibly moving.
This is so tragic. As others have mentioned, thank you for sharing Donald’s story.
Watchtower demands complete obedience to its morally/ethically and medically faulty no blood doctrine. I thought you treated your brother Donald’s story with much respect and love. These stories need to be out there in the public domain. Thankyou for a well written article.
This is a disgusting cult. I know because my 2 brothers and I spent our entire childhood under Watchtower fear as our mother was under their mind control.
Thank you for this article Karenne, I really appreciate your courage and I’m sorry for your pain.
Ten years ago my youngest some was born with a congenital heart condition that usually required open heart surgery in the first 3-6 months. It was diagnosed in utero and, before he was born, we had to negotiate with the director of the Royal Children’s Hospital here in Melbourne (Australia), who is a world class heart surgeon, to ensure the surgery could be performed without blood. It was a very confronting situation and he would not acquiesce to our beliefs other than to say that if our child made it to 10 months old they would perform the operation without blood anyway, as that was their policy when weighing up the risks of blood transfusions with the benefits. It meant we had to face risking him dying from his condition before the 10 month mark by refusing surgery, or accepting blood and offending Jehovah. I remember praying at the time, “please Jehovah, don’t let me have to make that choice.”
Fortunately, he made it to 18 months before he needed the surgery (a rare case with his condition) and the whole thing was performed without blood. Of course, at the time I saw it as an answer to my prayer, now I just see it as good fortune and I am grateful to the medical community, particularly the aforementioned surgeon, as well as his cardiologist, for their professionalism and for saving our son’s life. It frightens me to think that Watchtower might have robbed us of that if we had been forced into that choice, and now that my wife and I are completely faded, having realised that this is not “the truth” after all, I would be living with that regret now too. As it is, we have a healthy, happy, delightful 10 year old boy who lights up our life every day. And he has never looked back. The only evidence that he ever had a heart condition is the scar on his chest.
In a strange way though, this is one of the many things along the way that led to my awakening. The lasting legacy of that experience was the lack of love and support we received from our “brothers and sisters.” Despite being an MS at the time (and soon after appointed as an elder, largely as a consequence of the “faith” we had shown) we didn’t receive one visit the whole week our child was in intensive care – from any elder or any of our “friends.” While my wife and I kept a bedside vigil and juggled the care of our other son, 2 years old at the time, between us (we had no family who could help,) we didn’t get a shepherding call or anything. The only person who dropped by to offer us comfort from the scriptures was the hospital chaplain! It was the same the week our son was born – although he was only given a 50/50 chance of surviving birth, and despite the hospital being in the next territory to our congregation, and despite all the hard work, hospitality and generosity we had shown in the congregation over many years, there was nobody there to support us when we a faced a crisis.
It really bothered me at the time, but I pressed on believing this still to be the truth and putting all that down to human imperfection. However, I wasn’t an elder long before I started to realise the real truth about the watchtower society, and within two years of my appointment I was deleted for speaking out about the child abuse policy, amongst many other things that were just plain wrong. It was an agonising time, and I floundered for the next five years before finally cutting ties last year once and for all. I felt like I had come out of a long dark tunnel, and I am still adjusting to the light! Mostly I am grateful that we have our son and the sanity of the medical community prevailed over my cult indoctrinated mindset.
On reflection it is a good reminder to me that the cult undoes itself at times. I kept thinking of John 13:34,35 and saying to my wife ” I just don’t see it.” But it’s also a reminder of how strong the indoctrination is and how hard it is to break through that mindset. Articles like this help, thank you again Karenne.
@Eric Arthur Blair.
I to lived in fear that my kids might need a blood transfusion and I did have the strength to let them die for the teachings of the WT.I prayed I never had to face it .I do not know what I would have done.I am so glad to be out of the cult and use common scientific medical sense and make my own medical decisions. One Brother was distraught one time and very depressed. I talked with him and he had 2 young girls and he said he had been doing a lot of thinking and said if his kids needed a blood transfusion he could not let them die.
When under the Watchtower’s control an already stressful and frightening medical situation becomes even more horrifying. It puts parents at odds with the doctors that are trying to save your child’s life. Fortunately, here in the States the hospitals have gotten quite good at getting a court order to force a transfusion for children in only a matter of hours. I find most witness parents are simply relieved when this happens as the matter is out of their hands and they are not forced to make a horrible decision.
I knew a witness couple whose young son was diagnosed with leukemia. The hospital simply got a court order and the little boy responded to treatment and fully recovered. The HLC simply accepted it as a matter of fact when the court order was given. A while back the father gave me some grief because he found out I had stopped attending meetings. I wanted to bring up that if he been allowed to follow this organization without the government’s intervention, his little boy would be dead, but I just didn’t have the heart to say that to him. But it’s amazing how people who are still under the control of this cult simply don’t see the connection.
In that circumstance, I would also have been tempted to remind this parent of what would have happened if the court order hadn’t been put in place for his child. I agree that most JW parents hope that a hospital will get a court order so their child can receive treatment without the parents having to voice their desire to go against Watchtower doctrine.
@WS. I don’t think most JW’s know what they re signing up for when they become JW’s. Especially new ones. Born ins know it to a larger degree but then when they are faced with a life or death situation it starts to become reality that they might b in a dictatorial Cult. Unfortunately too many have lost their lives over this archaic unscriptural policy.How about those that refused to have a needed organ transplant and now are long dead. How about those who refused a simple vaccine bc of WT teaching and now maybe have polio or some other disease or something else. TH WT is not a Medical institution and they do not know jack Squat! They ruin so many lives with this nonsense and other things. The list goes on. So glad to be out. The wife is still in BIG time and a true WT Fanatic and has caused tremendous marital issues. She even had an Elder sign her blood card and make him POA over me! That hurt but I guess she figured I would not honor her request for no Blood even in the face of death. Another reason we are no longer living together.
To a born-in JW (as I was) the concept of accepting a blood transfusion was absolutely foreign to the mind. This stand is indoctrinated on you from the time you are very young. You are taught to look at doctors as if they have some evil intention to violate you with a blood transfusion almost on par with rape.
Then there is the pseudo-science in the Watchtower magazine and brochures like “How Can Blood Save Your Life” which upon critical review are simply full of fallacies. There certainly are risks associated with blood transfusions. But good doctors are willing to help patients weigh those risks against the risk of not transfusing.
An Australian man, James Harrison, who himself was saved at age 14 by a blood transfusion, has donated blood plasma over 1,000 times and saved an estimated 2.4 million unborn babies due to the discovery of strong antibodies in his blood. Posted a video about it on my Youtube channel.
Unbelievable that the GB still can’t see the clear distinction between eating blood as part of your daily meals and receiving blood into your veins during a life-saving medical procedure. How incompetent can they possibly be?
Thank you Karenne. That took enormous courage to write. I send you my love and respect.
I removed my blood card from my wallet late last year. It felt strange doing it as we had always been told to carry it with us no matter what. After I took it out a feeling of relief swept over me. I told my kids what I had done. My son told me he was proud of me – he is df’d and hasn’t carried a card in years. My daughter hugged me and said she had removed hers ages ago but out of respect had not mentioned it to me. What a relief to know our health care is back in our own hands and not that of some misguided rule handed down with an iron fist from the Borg.
I removed the blood card from my wallet 7 years before leaving. The folly of this doctrine was clear to us. If Jesus said that one should be willing to give his life for his friends and if the “blood is the life” then shouldn’t one fight for the privilege to give his blood to a dying friend?
I am sure have posted this thought before, but as it is germane to this article I will reiterate: In the Bible blood is used as a SYMBOL for life. The whole sanction on eating blood is to teach respect for life. The Watchtower completely misses the point here. They assign more value to respecting the symbol than that which it represents: LIFE.
So in the final analysis, they disrespect life in order to show reverence for a symbol for life. How backwards!
Thank you so much Karenne for sharing with us about your brother Donald and how he died because of following the dictates of a bunch of imperfect men called the Watchtower Society. It is such a shame that he got involved in the religion that in the end made it impossible for him to be cured of cancer.
The only good thing about a person who is at the end of their life and they are a Witness is that they have the hope of waking up in the new world. That is the ONLY good thing about being a Witness in my opinion.
My husband has cancer and unless some miracle comes through for him, he is also facing death sometime in the near future and it is so very sad and at this time in his life, I won’t take that hope away from him, even though I know that the Society is nothing but a bunch of hypocritical, arrogant, self appointed boorish and lying ignorant dictators over the lives of eight million and counting.
The saddest thing is when a child’s life is taken away from them because of the brainwashed parents who think they are following what the Bible tells them to do. At least when it comes to adults, they can make the choice to take blood to save their life but if they do take the blood, then according to the Society, they are disassociating themselves and will be shunned. That isn’t a very appealing future either. It’s either die without the blood or live with blood and be shunned for taking it for the rest of their lives.
When a person dies for the “truth”, they will be quickly forgotten by the people in the congregation that they were trying to please. When they are dead, so much for the love that they were craving. If they live through the ordeal, nobody will pat them on the back for more than a few days. After that, their story is boring to them. They only want to talk about themselves. They could care less what happened to anybody else and how they made it through without taking blood.
It is so much better to take the blood and live and F***k the Society. We only get one chance at life and it’s a gift. Why throw it away to please a bunch of stupid men????
I’m sorry that your husband is going through a similar circumsance as my brother. I completely understand your desire to let your husband think whatever makes him feel hope as he faces his impending death. When I was spending time with my brother, I didn’t try to talk him out of refusing treatment. He knew what he wanted and was unable to have a conversation because he was having trouble taking deep breaths. I didn’t want to make him have to talk, which would have been required if I wanted to try to convince him to accept blood/bone marrow transfusions. Instead, I just cherished the time we had together and made it as comfortable for him as I could. You are SO right… we only get one chance at life and it is a gift. It’s devestating to see lives cut short when the medical technology is available to help Jehovah’s Witneses who will opt out of treatment believing that to do so will “please Jehovah”. Please know that my thoughts are with you and your husband.
I’m sorry to hear about your hubby Caroline. xx
To Karenne and Tara, thank you for your comments and thoughts.
I really feel for you Karen…what a tragic waste of a valuable life. I a terrified this may happen to my only son one day. I managed to bring my two lovely daughters out with me when I left, but my son followed his father’s lead unfortunately. Thanks for sharing your story.
My next door neighbor was a long time Jehovah’s Witness elder who desperately needed an artificial knee. This medical procedure would cause a great deal of blood to be lost. However, the lost blood could be immediately reclaimed and pumped back into his body during the operation.
My neighbor said that his conscience would allow this procedure because he regarded the reclamation of his own blood to be nothing more than an extension of his own circulatory system. The operation was a complete success and he remained an elder until he died at age 96.
A few years earlier, Jehovah’s Witnesses were forbidden to use their own reclaimed blood during a medical procedure. The Watchtower’s original blood doctrine was, “NO BLOOD!” Then it was changed to “NO whole BLOOD!” Gradually, most of the other blood issues became a matter of conscience.
How can a Jehovah’s Witness properly train his or her conscience when Watchtower doctrines are constantly changing? Do Jehovah’s laws change? Or is it just the Watchtower’s misinterpretations of His laws that continually change?
The truth doesn’t change, but the understanding of it does.
Thank you Karen for sharing this touching story !
Its full of love although sad.
No matter what you believe at present Karen this is my believe for Donald based on his own words :
“Don’t feel bad for me. I have the easy part. All I have to do is go to sleep. Then I get to wake up in the New System.”
AND HE WILL !
love and peace
What matters to me is that, when he was dying, he was conscious and awake, sitting next to my sister-in-law. He was able to share his thoughts with her. He felt at peace (according to what she told me) and was not in terrible pain in those final moments.
I don’t like to think or write about how I feel regarding his post-mortem status, but I will in response to your comment. My brother was cremated and I have his cremains (in a sealed brass box). I do not believe that he is “sleeping”, spiritually or otherwise, in that box.
All that matters to me is that, at the moment of his death, it comforted him… and made him less afraid… to think he was just going to go to “sleep” and would get to wake up in the New System. As a hospice nurse, I have seen people die. Not all deaths are as pain-free and smooth as was my brother’s. Regardless of what I believe (and don’t believe), I only care that he had a comfortable dying experience.
Karenne, It was around the time of your brother’s tragic death that the Watchtower’s blood doctrine gained some respect from non-Witnesses:
“In 1983, scientists discovered the virus that causes AIDS. The virus was at first named HTLV-III/LAV (human T-cell lymphotropic virus-type III/lymphadenopathy-associated virus) by an international scientific committee. This name was later changed to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).”
I remember there was a lot of “we told you so” chatter among the Witnesses at that time whenever the blood doctrine was discussed. Was the risk of getting AIDS from a blood transfusion ever a topic of conversation when you talked to the elders who were stalking your brother?
The AIDS epidemic was a serious concern at the time my brother needed blood. My mother and I talk about it. We both had “O-negative” blood, which is the universal donor type. My mother and I were prepared to have our blood and bone marrow tested to see if it would have been a match for my brother, but he said that he didn’t want us to go through with it. He had a bone marrow biopsy and said it was extremely painful. He didn’t want us to go through that experience because he knew he would have refused treatment even if we had been a match.
Thank you for the quick response. You and your mother did all you could in an attempt to save your brother. Donald would have been spared the added worry of getting an AIDS tainted blood transfusion if either you or your mother had been a suitable match. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding Donald’s death only add to your grief. I am truly sorry for your loss.
When I was 12 I had an openheartsurgery without blood. All my “friends” and family thanked Jehovah…but less than a week later my bloodlevels dropped and I needed blood. This was 1975 and I knew that even if I died I would soon wake up in the paradise. I didn´t want blood, but the swedish Child care Agency said that they would take custody from my JV-mom and force blood on/in me. I got blood and survived and my people was praying to Jehovah to forgive me. I never understood that, I didn´t want the blood so why did I need forgiveness? I cried for days, imagined Satan and his demons sitting on my bed laughing, feeling great while I got that sinful blood into my body. During my whole time as a JW I felt dirty because of getting the blood. Today I can´t understand that the JW didn´t make sure that this JW-kid didn´t feel bad and guilty for something that she couldn´t do anything against. Some years after leaving JW I needed a new heartsurgery and this time I was greatful for the doctors and the blood and I recovered faster not feeling bloodguilty. The blood issue among other issues made me leave JW. How could a loving god encourage and demand that children got motherless because refusing a symbol of life?
I agree. It’s a terrible burden to put on a child. Even when adult choose to accept “fractions” as a matter of moral conscience, members in their congregation will see them as “less faithful” and as having “tainted blood”.
Thanks a lot for sharing.
The hands of the governing body are covered with blood.
Everyone should watch Peter Gregerson’s video. It was thinking about blood transfusion and he started thinking about what if one of his children had been in an accident and would need blood to live and that is what got him to question whether or not the JW religion was the one and only true religion and how he started researching the real history of the organization and realized it was all lies.
It is one of the best videos you will ever listen to.
This makes my heart hurt. I am sending you love and support. Thanks for sharing your story.
Karenne, what a heart-rending story. It certainly counterbalances all those glowing life stories that we seem to be reading in the Watchtower literature as of late. The quote of the article for me is: My brother was not a martyr. He was a card-carrying victim.
The late British politician Tony Benn once said: “I have all the time in the world for those who die for their faith. I have no time at all for those who kill for the doctrine.” Salutary words.
I have just found this info:
I just read two of the articles. That is incredible! I’m not thrilled with Vladimir Putin, but I must say… Russia is doing a good service to its citizens in this regard. Putting a stop to the spreading of JW extremist doctrine with regard to the blood doctrine and shunning is a good thing.
Great news. Putin is an odd ball but then which leaders are not. I wonder how the JW world will react to this one.
They will play the victim as usual. A story will be posted on JW.org about the unfair treatment they’re receiving. Same old crap.
Thank you for sharing this. Fantastic news.
A very tragic situation, and my condolences to you after these many years, Karenne.
The blood issue is yet another indictment of the erstwhile claims that the Organization and its current incarnation of the Governing Body as dreamed-up-in-1971 (Watchtower, Dec 15, 1971, first capitalization and entitlement of GB) were “appointed” and/or hand-picked by Jesus, as He tied on a dust-protecting bandana to begin cleansing and setting the sanctuary aright. It goes to the issue that prior to 1950’s blood transfusions and blood usage was not a Shibboleth matter, but after the 1940’s and 1950’s it becomes as sacrosanct as the 7DA Sabbath observance.
But, as medical-legal and medical articles advanced and showed the overwhelming benefits of blood by-products, like Evolution v. Creation, the Watchtower has had to scrape away crusty barnacles of old, obsolete statements.
What should put any potential adherent or current adherent on edge (on notice, even) is the telling details regarding Donald’s wife grinding up beets and other herbs thought to build up iron in the blood. I’m unsure what that medical benefit this purposed to do–it’s certainly a “cure” for some forms of anemia but I’d like to see the medical studies/research showing this creates needed mature white cells to reverse leukemia effects.
And, as the state of permitted for JW’s medically with blood is murky, it behooves any adherent or student of JW’s to do their own research in “current” Watchtower literature rather than be bound by statements and raised-disapproving-eyebrows of [human] elders, or other Jehovah-Witless/Clueless types, when it comes to protecting health.
**It is a broad and invalid assumption to conclude that the many of JW’s home-school–some, yes. Home-schooling is an expensive project and as discussed on this blog, most aren’t possessing the wealth to afford opening a “home school” that passes certifications of the government. Also, not to be discounted are the tendency of some JW’s to be a tad “eclectic and eccentric” regarding diet, healthcare and education which gets treated as “live and let live” (or enabled if not encouraged) by the leadership. So, the Watchtower doesn’t mandate home-schooling, but it doesn’t banish it either with a “come as queer as you are [unless you are queer or gay]”.
I am so so sorry for your loss I literally am crying at how descriptive and detailed your memories are of the last days you spent with your brother. I had a very good friend of mines die of leukemia as well about 4 years ago he jas just turned 21 and refused a bone marrow transplant, he was so kind and full of life as a matter of fact today is his bday….I have seen dozens of witnesses pass away or come damn near close to it for refusing blood. Even the jews who abstain from consuming blood will accept blood transfusions to save their lives, and hell they wrote the the hebrew scriptures. So sad and once again I am so sorry for your loss and thank you so much for sharing your story though I know it must have been so hard to recall these memories I hope that it reaches jws and their families to make them realize how idiotic and non bible based their blood abstinence is all it does is cause pain and loss.
Your reference to those of the Jewish faith who have a much more balanced view of blood reminded me of a great article on JWFACTS.com about Pikuach Nefesh – Life overrides Law.
I have been reluctant to add my voice to this discussion, as I tend to resort to sarcasm to vocalize my dissatisfaction with the rightly conversely doctrines of this faith. And this subject in particular, as in the case of child abuse, is all ready so painful. But, put simply, the current “understanding ” of what jwdubs stand on blood is beyond understanding. …there’s more loopholes and inconsistencies in this policy then the average publisher can imagine. …I know from experience that if you took 3 different brothers from 3 different hospital lesion committees, and they where giving a series of questions related to treatments involving a variety of products, there by no means would be uniformity in their answers. ….obviously, if this was in fact a clear bible directive, like say adultery, we would not need ever expanding guidelines and discussions to discern right and wrong. And we would not need specially trained men to attempt to give us the right answer at that moment, subject to change, later. In conclusion, my stance for sometime has been that the org. painted itself into a corner with this doctrine, and now is attempting to create so much confusion that in reality if the medical field just takes the blood and modifies it to a point where it’s now referred to by some other title, then “whole blood transfusion ” then it’s now a conscience matter. It’s a way of saving face.
One more comment in this regards,
IN the mid 90s the org. was attempting to legalize their activities in certain eastern European countries, and the blood issue was a real sticking point. At one point the societys legal team offered the concession that “blood transfusions would become a personal matter” well, when word got back stateside it was like a bomb went off, you see many families that had faced this issue including some who had lost members, as a result of this policy were outraged. ..in essence, we had to face this , so should you….how could this be a conscience matter for you, when my little son/daughter had to die?…the position was quickly reversed.
When did this happen? where? do you have proof? I am really interested…
There is some good documentation at this link: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/bulgaria-blood-transfusions.php.
I looked on the internet for info about eating blood and found out the scripture also reads not to eat a strangled animal. Bleeccchh! After reading that info it made me totally understand why people become completely grossed out at the thought of eating an animal and become vegetarian…I considered it…for like 15 minutes…
My fully indoctrinated sister explained to me they don’t accept blood transfusions in order to please Jehovah and out of love for him and to be obedient to him and in order to make it into the new systems of things. They don’t accept blood transfusions for those reasons, medical reasons have nothing to do with it.. My ‘worldly’ husband had blood transfusions. My family was scared from the propaganda. My husband had a bad ulcer. He fully recovered. Many years later he died from a heart attack. I was scared at the time that he would catch a disease from the blood. I was happy I was shown proof the donor blood was tested.
@Karenne, truly a heart wrenching and heartwarming experience. Thank you for revealing an “interworking’s of the JWs” practice. There’s no substitute for experience including laying it on the table for all to understand!
>>>My fully indoctrinated sister explained to me they don’t accept blood transfusions in order to please Jehovah and out of love for him and to be obedient to him and in order to make it into the new systems of things. They don’t accept blood transfusions for those reasons, medical reasons have nothing to do with it..
I’ve always been at odds with those touting “holier than thou” and hyping we own the truth because we have cracked the mysterious code others have been blinded by. Let me throw in my Ace card into the game of which-card-lands-closer-to-the-wall. In Islam, it too plays the same superiority guilt game but it has evolved into a higher plateau such as “a man becomes what he eats”. Here, consuming pork like consuming blood transfusions is harmful because consumption creates lowliness in character and destroys moral and spiritual faculties in a man. Abstention from eating pork is one of the steps taken by Islam to practice hygiene and to attain purity of soul. What a wonderful stealth way at pointing at all the ills of the west or the WTs, “worldly”. I’m waiting for the WT to attain this higher level of understanding or in WT’s level of intelligence “light gets brighter” logic. Will JWs eventually be required to be selective and distinguish between Halal/Kosher (Lawful) and Haram (Unlawful) foods next? Odd though, if you are what you are from eating and muslims avoid pork, then what foods causes a muslim to be a suicide bomber… as I want to avoid that diet!
Exactly. They don’t make sense. They allow organ transplant as long as no blood. My mother had cornea replacements in her eyes so she can see. She knew they were donated by someone who had died. My father who was an elder most of his life , and everyone else congratulated her and was happy for her. They are allowed a transplant but no blood. It doesn’t make sense. Donated blood is tested. It is safe.
i think it was in reference to organ transplants (when they were under ban by the watchtower), and I cannot recall if they ever applied it to blood, but the watchtower used to teach that when you accepted an organ transplant that you also got part of the personality of the donor too. So if the donor was a murderer, you might be inclined to commit murder too. What a bunch of hogwash!
Here’s the reference (thank you JWFacts):
“A peculiar factor sometimes noted is a so-called ‘personality transplant.’ That is, the recipient in some cases has seemed to adopt certain personality factors of the person from whom the organ came.” Watchtower 1975 Sep 1 p.519
It seems religions are nothing but illusions. Your brother is not alone as you can see…
*** g97 10/8 p. 14 The Crusades—A ‘Tragic Illusion’ ***
Albert of Aix states that when the Jews at Mainz “saw that the Christians did not spare even their little ones nor had pity on anyone, they threw themselves on their brothers, wives, mothers, and sisters and slew one another. The most heartrending thing was that mothers themselves cut their sucklings’ throats or ran them through, preferring them to die at their own hands rather than be killed by the arms of the uncircumcised.”
Me too Peggy…I lived in fear of nosebleeds and any cut or accident because I knew my parents would have let me die…to me that in itself is child abuse ….and living in a home where you were loved…but on condition that you obeyed the rules and realised you were subject to the rules under all circumstances…Im bitter towards my parents… one has passed away and one is mentally ill and left poor by the decisions she made to stay faithful…Karenne’s story has actually left me heartbroken it is sad beyond belief…what a waste of a wonderful man.
As we all know the GB are more than willing to cross lines and make rules. Their ever-changing rules on blood is clear evidence of that. Currently it is acceptable to have some of your blood removed, have some medicine mixed with it and then returned to your body. Yet they say we cannot store our blood. They fail to render a ruling on the appropriate amount of blood the mix can be made with. This is playing God and is ridiculous. Just another form of control and abuse. In the scriptures, to my knowledge, reference to the pouring out of blood was associated with the death of an animal you intended to eat. It was evidence of respect. It was used in sacrifice, again the animal dying. This would be relative to Jesus side being punctured and his blood poured out in sacrifice. The scrips say to avoid things strangled, again because blood was not poured out. The blood rulings in the scriptures always associated with death. Blood transfusion is something that should be a matter of conscience. The GB has no right to make decisions for someone else’s life. How much sadness they are responsible for. Too much to ever answer for.
@ eyes opened
Consider this you will find where the rules come from
1) *** w90 7/1 p. 22 par. 18 The Coming Finale of “the Book of the Wars of Jehovah” ***
In the six-day war of 1967, fleshly Israel took possession of all rebuilt earthly Jerusalem. However, there is not a shred of evidence that Jehovah God took any part in the fighting then. His enthroned King, Jesus Christ, does not reign in earthly Jerusalem, and it is no longer “the city of the great King,” that is, of Jehovah.—Matthew 5:35.
2)*** w85 9/1 pp. 17-18 par. 7 Kingdom Ministers Meet the Challenge ***
For some 53 years after 1914, or until the Six-Day War of 1967, earthly Jerusalem continued to be trodden down by non-Jewish nations. Evidently, however, Jesus was not referring finally to the Jewish Jerusalem of today but to what that city represented up until 607 B.C.E. And what did it represent? Why, the Kingdom of Jehovah God by means of his anointed King of the royal house of David!—Luke 1:32; 1 Chronicles 29:11
3)*** w83 8/1 p. 18 par. 5 Israel and the “Times of the Gentiles” ***
So earthly Jerusalem continued to be trampled upon by the Gentiles until 1967. But since then, to all outward appearances, Jerusalem has ceased to be trampled by the Gentiles. However, we feel obliged to say, “So what?” Did Israel’s putting a stop to Gentile trampling upon Jerusalem back in the year 1967 bring blessing to all mankind? Instead of accepting it as a blessing, many nations resent the existence of Israel. Certainly the creation of the modern nation of Israel has not led to the establishment of the Kingdom of the Jewish Messiah. Manifestly, Israel is not looking to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, namely, Jehovah, for help and salvation. Its government is no kingdom with a genuine descendant of the royal line of ancient King David seated on a throne at Jerusalem.
Let us wait for Jehovah’s Kingdom to solve the issue of blood transfusion…
Thank you for your reply. Most interesting, however I believe Jesus came into power in 33ce just as he said “all authority is given to me”. Also that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 was Armageddon. Since 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 says the scriptures make us fully competent and completely equipped, I feel that anything we need to know can be discerned by Bible study. I certainly appreciate the research you’ve done in making your reply but I don’t understand the relevance of the quoted Watchtowers with respect to the rule making. Again thanks for taking the time.
Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his time for making up a bunch of rules that went beyond God’s law. Ironic that professed Christians proceed to follow the same formula which Christ condemned.
How true the words “religion is a snare and a racket”. : )
I no longer carry a blood card, havnt done for years, i always wondered though how many JW would cave placed in the life or death situation, its ok to be strong when we are healthy, i watched both my parents die from cancer & leukemia, my dear dad had leukemia, he wasnt a JW so took blood, after his 1st transfusion he didnt want anymore because of upsetting my JW mum, i watched mum tell my dying father that she wasnt upset about the blood, as a human she didnt want to see him die, which is understandable, i found it quite conflicting watching my mum get happy when his health picked up breifly after a BT, i have also had a sister say to me whose young child had a BT forced on him through the courts, & survive that she was secretly happy.
Wonderfully written article!
My father in 1982 faced surgery , it was life threatening. Luckly my two non ‘ JW aunts were at the hospital to secretly push for my dad to have a transfusion. The elders showed up trying to argue with the surgeon,to do non blood surgery. while my aunt faught to get the blood as a medical treatment. Thanks to my auntie , My dad lived another 30 years , almost faced a JC hearing a year later after the news leaked that he had a blood transfusion.
The question , the JW leaderdhip pushed so hard against blood transfusions , why are they not teaching Kosher Koshrt laws? So far they banned blood for medical use but , dont follow strict jewish laws on food containg blood ?
In that situation as a blood relative you can ask the Doctors to remove any unwanted visitors
The odds of any one of us being conceived and seeing the light
of day, are just mind boggling. Therefore the value of life is
inestimable, a never to be repeated prize.
To needlessly throw life away on the basis of ancient writings, of
highly dubious origin, is a tragedy. To be influenced to that
extent by a bunch of flat earth’ers is just mental.
Any religion that can brainwash parents into allowing their children
to die, when the remedy is at hand, is immoral and dangerous.
It needs expunging, obliterating from normal society.
Anyone under such influence needs to look in the mirror and ask
themselves, am I really in my right mind?
Or…..you allow your relative to die, because the lifesaving medical procedure is Not on the official approved list…..then, 4 weeks later “new light” comes out, but it’s too late for your family. ..oh, well that’s what the resurrection is for.
This concept of the resurrection reversing injustices, has some philosophical implications, Since Jesus was resurrected 40 hours after his death, can anyone be held liable for his murder? Even Revelations deals with the cries of justice from those executed by the axe.
The point I’m making, when any person/persons determines for another the course of actions that one MUST take and it turns out to be the wrong decision, and even leads to death….that’s bloodguilt. Maybe not intentional, but still blood guilt.
Here’s a little more on this argument,
Let’s say I’m driving a forklift at bethel, and one day I’m overloaded and in a big hurry, I round a blind corner and run right over TONY MORRIS 3, and the result of that is he is now transferred to his new assignment in heaven with his big brother. Could it really be said that was manslaughter? Should I be rewarded or punished?
Good points Pow. It seems that the Watchtower’s ressurrection teaching leads them to devalue human life.
To add a bit of humor to a serious topic, I am reminded of the movie Tommy Boy where David Spade mocks Chris Farley by saying: “Hey everybody, I’m Big Tom Callahan’s son. My dad will take care of everything, so I’m allowed to be a moron.”
To apply to the Watchtower: “Our dad (God) is going to wave his magic wand and fix everything, so we can come up with whatever latest line of BS we want to and it doesn’t matter if we ruin people’s lives with it.”
Yes, the Watchtower in it’s wisdom sees all life as expendable and any claim to the contrary an unfortunate embarrassment, to be tidied up with untruths.
As one of the “expendables” I emphatically challenge that. I know I am “life”. There is nothing else I can be, because said life is all there is. Just like the seasons, we are born, grow, change and die. However life is not completely adrift, after sensing danger it responds and adapts.
There is a revolution of freedom overtaking us, we have responded. Anything that tries to halt that momentum will, sooner or later implode. Paradise regained.
Truth never changes, but the understanding of it does.
Sadly, I know exactly how you feel because my dear brother-in-law died a few years ago also from Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. I had tried talking to him and my sister about the insanity of the Organization’s misguided view of blood transfusions, but we all know that someone’s beliefs do not change over night.
After much debating, his sister and brother agreed to be tested for a stem-cell transplant and his sister was an exact match. Sadly, it had been left far too long. His lungs were slowly breaking down due to the lack of oxygen and his bone marrow could not make mature blood cells anymore. In addition, the hospital he was in was filled with a bunch of incompetent morons and they gave him incorrect medication which, because his lungs were so weak from lack of oxygen, basically fried them and he was in a drug-induced coma for the last month of his life.
My sister is now on half a dozen medications, she’s an alcoholic and her life has been completely shattered. My parents have had to endure the loss of a son-in-law they loved like a son and me and my siblings have to live with the loss of someone we loved like a brother. All due to the fact that this sick cult insists on viewing blood transfusions as ‘rape’.
The love for your brother can be felt in every word you have written. Thank you for taking the time to share his story. I grew up as a JW but never baptized. I always remember feeling scared at the thought that if I ever needed a blood transfusion as a child that my parents would let me die. As an adult and parent I can’t even imagine hesitating over any treatment that would save my child’s life. The scary part is that even though I have been out of that cult for 25+ years I still have a fear of blood transfusions. I would never refuse one but in my mind it just feels wrong, almost equivalent to poison. I have also tried donating blood because I do appreciate all of those who are able to do so to help save lives but I have never been able to donate because my mind has me so convinced that it is wrong that it shoots my pulse up to a rate that they won’t let me donate. I left this cult mentally at 12 years of age when I decided I would never get baptized and physically at 15 years of age when my parents divorced and were disfellowshipped. It is scary to consider how deep the indoctrination of young children really is when I can still feel those triggers in my mind even though it has been so long ago since I have given up their teachings.
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