Blood Transfusions – What are the risks?

revolver-704729-mThe typical Jehovah’s Witness believes that blood transfusions are bad medicine and the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette. They have been so thoroughly indoctrinated about the risks by the Watchtower Society that the mere thought is totally abhorrent to many of them. Oddly enough, it is not unusual to see these irrational fears persist even in former Jehovah’s Witnesses for many years after they leave the Watchtower Society.

Older Jehovah’s Witnesses can recall when members had basically this same attitude towards the use of vaccinations and organ transplants when these were banned from the 1930’s all the way into the late 1970’s but this is largely unknown by most current members under the age of 50.

It is a fair statement that Watchtower writers cannot be trusted when it comes to the presentation of science. They cherry pick stale statistics that demonstrate both their bias and dishonesty. The lack of objectivity is appalling when you consider that life and death decisions are made based on this information and frequently those decisions involve minor children and adolescents.

This is not to say that blood products are without risks. This includes the vast array of blood products approved for use by the Watchtower Society. The question really comes down to risk versus benefit. If there are alternatives that can do the job doctors generally prefer to use them for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, there are not always viable alternatives to blood products.

The following diagram is from an article written by attorney Kerry Louderback Wood in the Journal Church and State and shows what the risk of transfusion of Hepatitis B, C and HIV has been over the past four decades:


Clearly, the risks are far less than suggested by the Watchtower Society. You can view the Blood brochure online at the Watchtower Society website and see that even now in 2014 they continue to publish the risk rate of 1 death per 13,000 bottles. This despite the fact that the actual risk of death is less than 1 per 2,000,000. 1 


You have a greater chance of dying from a lightening strike than a blood transfusion.

If you are evaluating the risk of using a blood product, here is what you should know:

1. Risks must be weighed against benefits. Most of these blood products are prescribed to very sick individuals. You must consider not only the risk of using the blood product (whether or not its presently approved by the Watchtower Society) but also the risk of not taking it.

2. Neither the Watchtower Society, the elders in your congregation or even the Hospital Liaison Committee elders are qualified to help you evaluate the risk benefit ratio for your particular medical conditions or situation. Discuss the matter with your doctor, do your own research if possible and do not be unduly influenced by Watchtower Society implanted phobias.

3. Many of the most problematic blood products are the ones approved for use by the Watchtower Society. This is because they are fractions made from the pooled blood of hundreds or thousands of individuals thus increasing the risk of exposure. This doesn’t mean that risk exceeds benefit although it is quite ironic that Witnesses have permission from the Watchtower to use the most risky blood products available.

Rather than try to document all of the known risks in this article. We here present the following reference links for your consideration. In all cases, we are convinced that you will find they are much lower than the Watchtower Society would have you believe:

The Centers for Disease Control

The American Red Cross

The American Cancer Society


  1. Isaac J. Harris

    I’m a former Jehovah’s Witness training to become a Medical Lab Technician, which includes work preparing and testing for blood transfusions. I thought it worth mentioning that, when I was a JW, the Society made it sound like transfusions were things that doctors performed all willy-nilly, as if they were being used more often than needed. In fact, protocols for blood transfusions put a patient pretty close to a point of no return before they are used. Unless your doctor is ignoring the protocols, then if they say you need a transfusion to live, they really mean it and it’s quite true.

    Thanks for making this website. 🙂

  2. Richard Oliver

    The only complications to blood is not just that of infection from disease. Like all other treatments there are indications and contraindications. It is not as simple as just saying to give blood or not to give blood. Blood transfusions have the following known side effects include anemia, shock, blood clots and ARDS. And no the HLC does not prescribe or not prescribe blood transfusions only a physician can do that, but the HLC job is to find doctors who are willing to work without blood.
    And Issac, protocols are set out as automatic triggers. Doctors are allowed to either prescribe within those protocols or outside of the protocols, it is called off-label prescribing. The College of Thoracic Surgeons has reduced their official stance on what triggers a blood transfusion, but not all doctors stay up to date on current research and recommendations.


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