The information below is taken directly from the written instructions provided to Hospital Liaison Committee members who take Seminar II, as provided by the Watchtower Society and shows how both the HLC and JW parents are coached to deal with the media. We have added our comments in red. Members of the media should find this information helpful when they interview representatives of the Watchtower Society or parents of Jehovah’s Witness children who are sick and having potentially lifesaving medical care withheld.
International Seminar II
Instructions for Hospital Liaison Committees
DEALING WITH THE MEDIA
AIM SHOULD BE TO SUPPORT THE FAMILY
Your first responsibility is to the family, your brothers
Can aid them by preparing them for what to say
Equally important — what NOT to say: “We believe in resurrection.”
Note how Jehovah’s Witness parents are prepared to avoid saying what they have been taught to think and believe in these situations. The Watchtower wants to put the proper “spin” on what is happening. If you can get parents or Watchtower spokesman to continue talking about how they really feel, instead of just parroting these prepared speeches, you will increase the likelihood that they will say tell you the truth about what is happening. They have been prepared to let their child die, even if nonblood alternatives fail, and to put their trust in God to ressurect their child.
Petition hospital administration to discontinue unwarranted invasion of family right to privacy by disclosing to the press
Right of press not above rights of parents
Accompany family to hospital’s media representative and patient’s representative (if they have such) to point out the added trauma created for family and other negative results to family/hospital
Clearly the Watchtower does not want the press involved in these situations, and is willing to use the issue of family privacy in an attempt to keep the matter hidden. We encourage members of the medical community not to be bullied into hiding what is happening in these situations. Negative media coverage creates pressure on the Watchtower to respect the rights of individual Witnesses to make their own choices in these situations.
TALKING TO THE MEDIA
Maintain control of self, family, situation and during any interviews with media; don’t let yourselves be rushed by them
Reporters trained to be aggressive, to push, manipulate
Their rapid-fire questions are usually loaded
You don’t have to answer a loaded question as given; reword it to your liking so you can represent us accurately
Example:“Why would you let your baby die rather than have life-saving blood?”
Answer: “I can see you misunderstand our position. We are here at the hospital for medical treatment for our child that will not subject it to the known hazards of LIFE-THREATENING blood. We are asking for available, non-blood medical management.”
When they see you have an answer, they like to interrupt with another question as they search for your weak spot.
Don’t let them get away with that; insist on finishing your answer to the question THEY raised, but be kind about it
At the same time, don’t RAMBLE; stick to issues
Note how HLC members are instructed to control the family and avoid answering difficult questions. It is a fact that untold numbers of Witnesses have in fact chosen to die because the Watchtower Society use of “undue influence”. Instructing them that they must comply or face the consequences of being shunned by all Jehovah’s Witness friends and family members, and face eternal death at the hands of God.
Doctors, Judges, and members of the press should acquaint themselves with the actual risks of blood transfusions, and be prepared to confront the Society’s spokesmen with the facts.
IMPORTANT: Keep answers brief, pointed, QUOTABLE
Media likes short replies that make it easy to edit info
Concise replies will also likely eliminate possibility of reporter using the multitude of words in a convoluted response to locate something to use to fit his view of the story
Short answers keep interviewer on the subject, not giving him something else to pick up on that is not on the subject
If a simple “Yes” or “No” will do the job, leave it at that
Respond to one question at a time, to one reporter at a time
Members of the media should be prepared to question the Society’s representative about the gross inconsistencies in the Watchtower blood policy. Here are some examples from our section on Questions:
- Medical experts state that there are not always alternatives to blood. Would not withholding medical treatment from your child when death is the alternative make you or the parents responsible for the death?
- If a blood transfusion is essentially an organ transplant, how can it be viewed as “eating blood,” since no digestion or nutritional benefit accrues? Can it be an organ transplant and a meal at the same time?
- Why does the Society have to quote doctors who lived hundreds of years ago to find support for it’s belief that a transfusion is a feeding on blood? Why don’t modern doctors acknowledge that a blood transfusion is the same as “eating blood?”
- Why does the society exaggerate the risks of blood transfusions, and make it seem that they are always bad medicine, when nearly all of the experts disagree?
- How does the society go about deciding which blood components are major and which are minor? For example, why are white blood cells forbidden, but albumin allowed, since albumin constitutes a larger percentage of blood volume, and milk and organ transplants are full of white blood cells?
- Why is it that plasma is forbidden when all of its separate components, with the exception of water, are on the approved list for Witnesses to take in order to “sustain life?”
- If Witnesses must abstain from blood completely, as the Society says, then please explain why the Society permits them to accept all the fractions of human blood?
Witness spokesmen will not be able to provide reasonable answers to these questions.
SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT TO SAY AND WHAT NOT TO SAY
“Are you willing to let your child die rather than accepting blood?”
“I’m not convinced that this is the choice I face for refusing blood transfusions. I am here–and came here willingly–to get the best medical treatment for my child. There are alternatives that are available. I want my child to be treated without the threat of the known hazards and complications of blood transfusions.”
“But the doctor says the baby will die without blood!”
“Well, the doctor is only telling you what he believes based on his individual experience. But we know (or are in touch with) doctors of greater experience who have assured us the child can be treated otherwise [if this is so]. So the only real issue here is not whether the child will die, but whether we have the right as parents to choose between several available medical treatments.”
This reply neutralizes the sensational mold that the reporter wishes to cast to give his slant to the story and focuses on the validity of alternative treatment and parental rights
At this point we would recommend that you ask the representative of the Society for a name of the physician so that you can verify what has been said. It is quite apparent that this is a diversionary tactic designed to imply that the physicians treating the minor child are incompetent, and that the real issue is the parent’s right to choose what they believe is best for their child.
It should be remembered that the parents are simply doing what the Society has instructed them to do. Whenever the Watchtower Society changes their mind about what is permitted and what is not permitted, the parents simply do what they are told. These frequent changes on medical policies are documented in the Historical Perspective. There really is no respect for individual conscience within the organization. You may also want to ask the spokesman what the actual risks of blood transfusions are when compared to the risks of refusing the blood.
The next step would be to point out some alternatives;
Usually inadvisable to say: “I have no comment!”
This implies we have no defense, know we are wrong!
Incorrect response: “Yes, if need be. We do believe in the resurrection and so we will see our child again.”
Headline: WITNESS PARENTS PREFER DEAD CHILD TO LIFE-SAVING BLOOD
Again it becomes clear how concerned the Watchtower Society is about how they are portrayed in the press. The facts of the matter are that many Witnesses have been so indoctrinated by the constant demonizing of blood transfusions, they would prefer that their child die, rather than accept a blood transfusion. Thankfully, the courts usually step in in these situations.
You may want to question the representative on his medical qualifications, and why he believes that he knows better than the Doctors and the Hospital.
You may also want to ask the spokesman why the Society insists that Witness parents not allow their sick child to take a blood transfusion when the nonblood alternatives have been exhausted. Even when this results in death.
You may have to aid the parents with information on alternatives
Here is where your notes on the case to date may be of help
“Hemoglobin count not truly dangerous yet” (Show articles)
“Know all other vital signs good?”
“Know child is playing on floor with other kids?” “Otherwise healthy?”
“Know doctor has admitted that blood not needed right now, so no real emergency; why does he want order?”
Alternatives–show “Strategies” sheets, references
“Why blood only? No other treatment really?”
“Why is doctor unwilling to try alternatives rather than let baby die?”
This last question highlights the Watchtower Society’s attempt to shift blame away from itself and onto the doctor’s involved in the situation. In effect implying that if the child dies, the real reason will be because the doctor was unwilling to treat the child without blood.
You might ask the spokesman why 61.5% of Witness patients whose hemoglobin drops to 6 or below die according to published scientific reports.
What other doctors say; offered for consultation; why is hospital/doctor unwilling to utilize available help?
“Another hospital willing to take patient; why not allowed?”
May want to discuss more about violation of right to privacy
In rare cases, may decide to say nothing to media at all, perhaps pending legal action or direction from Brooklyn
Seek Jehovah’s help in prayer for right words at right time
Self-control best ally under pressure–Galatians 5:22, 23; Proverbs 15:18
Important aspect of work, but must never overshadow primary work of looking after the spiritual and medical needs of the brothers
The Watchtower Society will try to control nearly every aspect of these situations. How the child responds, how the parents respond, how the H.L.C. members respond, and so forth. The reference to “Brooklyn” relates to the world head quarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses where the decision to let critically ill Witness children die rather than accept a potentially lifesaving blood transfusion has already been made. Now all that is left is for members to put the right spin on events.