Jehovah's Witnesses Ban Convalescent Plasma Therapy

Jehovah’s Witnesses have been directed that they are forbidden from accepting Convalescent Plasma Therapy, a new treatment that appears to offer hope for patients stricken with coronavirus.

A leaked memo from a Jehovah’s Witness Circuit Overseer instructs elders in his circuit that accepting plasma treatments to ward off COVID-19 is “unacceptable.”

While these instructions are in harmony with current Witness teachings on blood and are for dissemination among a limited number of congregations, the material emphasizes the organization’s willingness to place their theology above the need to preserve life.

The two-page letter, received under conditions of anonymity, cites the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement on March 24th that certain patients may be eligible to receive plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19.

Evidence collected by researchers suggests that the antibodies present in the plasma of recovered patients may help neutralize the COVID-19 virus.

The use of plasma, however, is strictly forbidden by Jehovah’s Witnesses, who adhere to a controversial ban on blood treatments dating back to 1945.

Multiple reports have focused on the implementation and success of this new treatment, which has been approved for testing in New York State. Jehovah’s Witnesses, headquartered in New York, promptly seized the opportunity to enforce their ban on whole blood, including red and white cells, platelets, and plasma.

The new directive from a Jehovah’s Witness representatives says:

The Blood Issue: There’s talk about the FDA allowing doctors to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients with “convalescent plasma therapy”. It would be wise to advise the publishers that, it’s understood that this is giving the patient the whole plasma of the person who has developed the antibodies which would be unacceptable for a Jehovah’s Witness.”

“However if the antibodies were extracted from the plasma (fractions/immunoglobulins) and then given to the patient, it would be a conscience matter for a Jehovah’s Witness. Some doctors may view plasma as a fraction. Therefore the publisher may need to explain their personal decision not to accept any of the blood’s 4 main components, one of them being plasma. (Regarding the main components and fractions, see lvs pp. 246-249 & km 11/06 p. 5 Work Sheet 1)”

Witness leaders appear concerned that amidst the pandemic dimensions of the Coronavirus, some critically ill church members may be tempted to accept plasma therapy treatment.

… it’s understood that this is giving the patient the whole plasma of the person who has developed the antibodies which would be unacceptable for a Jehovah’s Witness

Letter from Governing Body Representative and Circuit Overseer

For decades Jehovah’s Witness leaders have, with relative ease, managed to exercise jurisdiction over their members’ medical decisions related to blood by means of a global network of Hospital Liasion Committees (HLC). Witness elders assigned to these Committees are pejoratively referred to as the “Blood Police” due to their enforcement of the transfusion ban in hospitals around the world.

When Witnesses are “threatened” with transfusion

However, the rapidly spreading Coronavirus has triggered numerous global responses from upper Witness management, indicating that enforcement of their deadly blood policy may prove abnormally challenging. Among the complications of policy execution is the likelihood that church elders will no longer be permitted to enter the wards of critically ill members stricken with the virus.

Watchtower Enforces Past Policy

The letter cites the Witness publication “How to Remain in God’s Love” – a 2017 book which outlines the rules and regulations followed by Witnesses, and enforced by congregation elders.

Jehovah's Witness Blood Policy
Jehovah’s Witness Blood Restrictions

Willingly failing to participate in the Jehovah’s Witness ban on all life-saving blood treatments results in the designation “Disassociated” – which carries the same penalty of shunning as disfellowshipping.

Disassociation is a term contrived by the Watchtower organization in an attempt to shield the religion from legal liability and loss of charity status.

According to the secret Elder’s manual Shepherd the Flock of God, “disassociation is an action taken by a baptized individual in the congregation who no longer desires to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

[October 2019 edition, Shepherd the Flock of God, chapter 18, paragraph 1]

Yet the acceptance of medical treatments involving blood components almost never involves resignation from the Witness religion.

Also cited is the November 2006 Witness newsletter Our Kingdom Ministry in which Witnesses were advised that they might choose to accept certain fractionalized derivatives of blood, but under no circumstances would they accept the four primary components of blood, including plasma.

2006 Our Kingdom Ministry, Blood Fractions Work Sheet

It is noteworthy that Watchtower’s latest directive states that “if the antibodies were extracted from the plasma (fractions/immunoglobulins) and then given to the patient, it would be a conscience matter for a Jehovah’s Witness.” What the Organization fails to communicate is the fact that fractionalized immunoglobulin (plasma) for the COVID-19 virus does not yet exist.

According to a March 28th article in the Atlantic, “Eventually, pharmaceutical companies might be interested in pooling and purifying plasma down to a concentrated dose of antibodies—at which point convalescent plasma truly would be a standardized product you pull off the shelf.”

JW Survey researcher Sherrie D’Souza interviewed noted Australian surgeon and Professor John Thompson, who confirmed that it may be possible to extract antibodies from plasma but [Professor Thompson] has not heard of any hospitals, universities or pharma companies doing this yet.  [Professor Thompson] also said that such transfusions do not contain any blood cells, that it [is] an acellular transfusion and that plasma [is] simply the fluid that antibodies [are] suspended in.

Jehovah’s Witnesses reason that if the antibodies can be extracted from the plasma, they become a viable treatment that does not violate their interpretation of God’s law.

Thus, Witness leadership has postulated on a hypothetical Jehovah-approved treatment that might be several years away from deployment. Effectively, it’s a dangling medicinal carrot that does little good in the thick of a global epidemic.

Of course, this reasoning does not necessarily represent the thinking of individual Witnesses. Rather it is the collective voice of Watchtower policymakers, including Governing Body Helper Gene Smalley, the Organization’s blood czar for decades.

Unfortunately, Witness beliefs are not a-la-carte, and decisions made in New York must never be questioned by individual members.

The blood policy has been carefully adjusted to balance the load between hemophilia-related deaths and casualties from childbirth, accident trauma, and diseases like leukemia. Charts and graphs and blood cards and Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) forms have been published and distributed and explained to more than 8 million Witnesses who would likely prefer to simply say “I respect life” – and take the blood.

Centrifuging blood

JW Survey interviewed former Witness clergyman Lee Elder, the founder of AJWRB, Advocates for Jehovah’s Witness Reform on Blood. Elder said that “The irony is that Watchtower policy permits the use of 100% of all blood fractions – just not simultaneously.”

Fractions of blood have been a hot topic among Jehovah’s Witnesses since the technology became available to separate human blood into individual components. The spinning of vials of blood, called blood fractionation, results in multiple component layers inside test tubes, including red cells, white cells, and plasma.

Lee’s comments reinforce the paradox where Jehovah’s Witnesses are presently permitted to accept certain “minor” derivatives of blood, but are forbidden from donating their own blood to save the lives of fellow citizens.

The Watchtower Organization has coercively prevented more than 8 million people from contributing to global blood banks, thus disabling the charitable aspirations of members who would otherwise be willing to help save lives.

And then there is the obvious threat to the personal well-being of each member of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization, which has made it clear that Convalescent Plasma Therapy is not an option.

For Jehovah’s Witnesses, the difference between life and death might just be a centrifuge.


Resources:

FDA: https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/investigational-new-drug-ind-or-device-exemption-ide-process-cber/investigational-covid-19-convalescent-plasma-emergency-inds

Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/2020/collecting-convalescent-plasma-for-treatment-of-covid-19.html

National Convalescent Plasma Project: https://ccpp19.org/index.html

NBC News: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/plasma-treatment-being-tested-new-york-may-be-coronavirus-gamechanger-n1178436

Johns Hopkins University: https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/04/08/arturo-casadevall-blood-sera-profile/

Mark O'Donnell

Mark O'Donnell is a former Jehovah's Witness turned whistleblower after discovering the disturbing child abuse epidemic within the religion. His story, along with the revelation of a secret database of child molesters were featured in the March 2019 online issue of the Atlantic Magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/03/the-secret-jehovahs-witness-database-of-child-molesters/584311/ O'Donnell continues to investigate allegations of child abuse within the Witness organization, and works with law enforcement, attorneys, and survivors of abuse, writing about his findings on jwsurvey.org and other outlets.

17 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witnesses Denied Plasma Treatment Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

  • April 9, 2020 at 5:17 pm
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    Now I understand. So immunoglobins, albumin and clotting factors are all OK with god. So it just the other component of plasma that is wrong. Water makes up 95% of plasma so it must be that water is forbidden to take orally or intravenously. All makes sense now.

    Reply
    • May 1, 2020 at 9:32 am
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      My thoughts exactly this the number one issue that caused me to leave.

      Reply
  • April 9, 2020 at 10:36 pm
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    Once more the lunacy of being devout and pious rears its ugly head. Just another control factor. So, if we pull the antibodies from the blood (creating fractions) that would be ‘okay,’ but the efficient and expedient use of whole plasma is crossing a line. Mumbo-jumbo, voo-doo hoo-doo nonsense. There is no equivalent for modern medical treatments being forbidden by patriarchs who viewed blood as “life” and as containing the “soul”.

    Reply
  • April 9, 2020 at 10:53 pm
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    Thank you for pointing out the ban on visitors in a COVID ward at a hospital. I remember when the elders visited my husband before he had surgery, to remind him of their views on the matter of blood. We were Bible students at the time, and my husband was really quite frankly, put off by their overbearing approach into his personal affairs.

    No one can visit a terminally ill patient in a hospital ward riding this pandemic… not even those self-declared to be the mouthpiece of God himself. They also can’t access your medical records, so any decisions about appropriate treatment, can be made between you, your doctors, and God himself.

    I’m really hoping no one in my family faces this decision, or worse. This is going to have a lasting impact on our population worldwide. Very sad.

    Reply
  • April 10, 2020 at 3:03 am
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    Odd how the language used in this article shows the writer has no knowledge of the JDubs. Using terms such as church, clergyman, and the awkward A Jehovah Witness instead of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows they were never a JW.
    Seeing these JW moron leaders nit-pick around blood-based treatments is embarrasing, silly and petty.
    So God is sat up there very pleased at the interpretations laid down by ‘Tight-pants Tony and his cronies on which bits of blood you can infuse to save your life? Bollocks! Mind you, Darwin Awards to them for thinning the idiot gene pool.

    Reply
    • April 10, 2020 at 7:52 am
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      I think that the language used is to help non jdubs that maybe reading this article.
      The cults mumbo jumbo for Church (- kingdom hall) for example could possibly baffle normal folk :)
      (Heaven help non witnesses when they hear terms like ‘circuit overseer’, the term shows no relation to the equivqlent – Bishop!)

      Reply
  • April 10, 2020 at 7:19 am
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    Part of this statement is false. “Some doctors may view plasma as a fraction. Therefore the publisher may need to explain their personal decision not to accept any of the blood’s 4 main components, one of them being plasma.” It is not a personal decision to not accept the plasma, a publisher is being told by the organization they can not accept the treatment. (The idea it is a person choice is laughable, because if a person did accept such treatment they would be removed from the organization.) That is a directive or command. A choice is when a person has been provided with information and the decision is up to them. I sure would like to have copy of the letter.

    Reply
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  • April 12, 2020 at 1:03 am
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    The WTBTS blood doctrine has been the cause of many, many unnecessary deaths and this lunacy will potentially result in many more. I hope this will be the needed wake-up’ call for the rank and file.

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  • April 12, 2020 at 8:30 am
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    Given reinforcements to the treatment ban will be absent from the hospital area, some may choose to accept the plasma and live with it literally. Just imagine you have the choice to fight for your life and win, or just die. I know what I would choose.

    Reply
  • April 12, 2020 at 6:23 pm
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    Not sure how these imperfect, uninspired men are qualified to determine what parts of blood are okay with God and which aren’t. The scriptures simply say abstain from blood. BTW the scriptures regarding blood always had to do with sacrificed animals. Respectfully pouring out the blood. The scriptures obviously couldn’t address blood transfusions since such didn’t exist. It should be up to each Christian’s conscience to decide for themselves whether or not to accept blood.

    Reply
    • April 12, 2020 at 6:49 pm
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      I should have included animals killed for food as well. These men have said they don’t have more Holy Spirit or insight than anyone else, it’s in print, and yet they will make rules and laws they expect others to obey. They are attempting to be the voice of God and failing miserably. The voice we need to concern ourselves with as christians is that of Jesus. It’s recorded in the Bible, we need nothing more or less. These men need to clean up their own house before interfering in someone else’s.

      Reply
  • April 14, 2020 at 9:28 pm
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    Is it possible for an Jehovah’s witness to give is blood if he recovered from covid19 ??

    Reply
  • April 22, 2020 at 4:48 am
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    When I Was an Active JW and also an Elder My mind would get BOGGLED trying to figure out all these “LEGALITIES” the Wt would put on us.

    I wanted to be a Helper to the Congregation when I became an Elder little did I know that you ctually become an enforcerof ever Changing WT policy and when they are done with you , you will be cast out like a stone to the water.

    I remember thinking what in the world did I sign up for here. I am not a lawyer and I am not a Doctor. I did not go to medical school or pass the Bar ( although I have gone in Several Bars .LOL ) How can nay normal person without Medical Education REALLY pretend to dictate to another human about what is acceptable and what Is not. hen the Bible was written about blood there was no Scientifically medical world with Studies and Technology to examine these things. The average person has no Idea about these fractions and the 4 components that make up Whole blood etc.

    Another interesting Contradiction is the Fact that JW’s May take blood fractions right? Well Blood fractions comes from Whole blood that must be Donated a from Other people who Gave Blood.

    So the accepting of blood particles from a NON Witness is OK but a JW cannot give blood to HELP a NON Witness or even a Witness where those fractions are used
    for JW’s. JW can take but the JW cannot give.

    This reminds me of the Scripture of how the Pharisees would make tons of rules and create MOUNTAINS of Religious burdens on the People. True, Think about it.

    Reply
  • May 2, 2020 at 12:46 pm
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    I feel the governing body will be trying to come up with ‘new light’ so jw’s will be allowed to accept corona treatment from plasma. There is a big difference in hoping as a jw the issue of needing a blood transfusion will not come up but the corona virus is here and frightening the whole world. now so any treatment to find a cure all jw’s would want it. There has been a lot of dumbing down from their leaders, ie, transplants are now accepted and also blood fractions, when I was ‘in the truth’ neither were so I’m sure the governing body will be able to come up with ‘new light’. I’m sure it won’t be that difficult to come up with some reason why they think Jehovah won’t mind. It’s how they operate.

    Reply
  • May 7, 2020 at 4:58 pm
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    What is the view point of jw about surrogacy, when wives give their maidservants to bare children in the Bible times? Should Mary be consider as a surrogate mother for Jesus?

    Reply

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