By Tami Davis on September 29, 2019
Before telling you my story, you should know that I was born to Jehovah’s Witness parents and baptized at twelve-years of age. Like all Witnesses, I was well-versed in the No-Blood doctrine. My parents had practice sessions with me and my brother, where we’d go over how we would respond to a doctor or nurse who tried to force a transfusion on us. We faithfully watched all of Watchtower’s blood videos and answered the questions in the Kingdom ministry review parts.
We were well-schooled in the belief that it was wrong to accept a blood transfusion or any of the major components—whole red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. I was taught that the life of the person was in the blood as Acts 15:29 states, “keep abstaining from blood.” 
I never knew for sure while growing up whether I’d have to refuse blood in a life-or-death situation. But, I had a nagging fear: Would I be strong and brave enough to resist or rip the IV line out of me as the JW children did in the Awake! magazine published when I was eleven?
In 2010 and in my twenties, I began to research doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses and realized that not all of it matched up with what I read in the Bible. However, my husband was (and still is) a devout believer, along with his family. (My parents and brother left years ago.) This made me feel obligated to continue attending meetings with him, from time to time. Ultimately, in 2016, I stopped altogether and attended my last meeting.
But little did I realize that someday I would need a blood transfusion at a relatively young age; the story I am about to tell you.
In April of 2019, my husband and I were happy to find out that we were expecting our fifth child. Having had four normal and uncomplicated pregnancies, we expected this one to be the same. Unfortunately, after twelve weeks an ultrasound revealed that our baby had no heartbeat and I was advised to take the drug Misoprostol to induce a miscarriage at home.
I inquired from my obstetrician about the risks of Misoprostol. Since we live in a small town 25 minutes from a community hospital, I was concerned about the possibility of excessive bleeding. The doctor assured me there was little danger of heavy bleeding and that I was a good candidate for this medication.
I took my first dose of Misoprostol on Thursday morning and within an hour started bleeding. I had no pain, just constant bleeding. While this was emotionally very difficult, I really thought it would be an easy physical experience. But I was wrong. Around an hour later, I became very concerned because I had just passed a significant amount of blood.
This happened about four times and I was now feeling dizzy and weak. Fortunately, my husband was home and told me to lie down. On my way to the bed, I started seeing stars, grasped the wall and collapsed! My husband helped me walk to the bed, although I cannot remember a thing after falling down. While he called 911, I whimpered “I’ll be okay, I just need to rest.”
Shortly afterward, the ambulance arrived and rushed me to a small nearby hospital.
I was taken to the trauma room and then, oddly enough, left alone for about ten minutes (my husband was making sure our children were being taken care of). During this time I was still bleeding and feeling very poorly. Then I started crying, thinking of my children growing up without a mother, knowing I wasn’t ready to die. I thought about how much I loved life, and how much time I had wasted worrying about my Jehovah’s Witness family, trying to please them.
Finally, a nurse arrived and started preparing to insert an IV. Alarmingly, I again began to go unconscious, although I could hear the urgency in her voice, “Marilyn, I need you here, NOW!” While I was aware of the commotion and could feel needles being inserted into my hands and arms, I could not move nor speak.
It was the most frightening experience of my life; I really thought I was dying. Yet, as my body began to absorb the fluids and oxygen, I was finally able to open my eyes and talk faintly. I was shaking uncontrollably and the nurses later told me that my face was white as a sheet and my extremities were freezing cold.
At last, my husband arrived and consulted with the doctor. He confirmed that I was just hanging on and would have likely died if not for arriving at the hospital when I did.
After an ultrasound, I was transferred to a larger hospital. When I first arrived, I felt myself slipping in and out of consciousness several times. As I was being questioned by the nurses and obstetricians, I became dizzy and nauseated. Then, while too weak to even lift my head, I vomited. My blood pressure fell dangerously low to 70/40 and my hemoglobin dropped to 7.1.3 Even though I had been given medication to stop the bleeding, it hadn’t fully stopped. 
Since I was symptomatic, the doctor highly recommended a blood transfusion, because allowing my hemoglobin levels to drop even further could cause organ damage or shutdown, as well as damage to my eyes and extremities. 
A few years prior, I had researched blood transfusions (although not enough as I would later realize) and agreed to a transfusion. As expected, my husband immediately began challenging my decision and questioning the nurses.
Unapologetically, I told him I had done my research and I had no issues with accepting a blood transfusion. He left the room as the bag was being set up, although he came back and sat with me as the transfusion was finishing.
I spent the night in the hospital, still too weak to walk. The next morning my hemoglobin had dropped to 6.7, so I was advised to take another transfusion, which I did. I spent another night in the hospital and was released the following day. My total blood loss was estimated at two liters.
When I arrived home, my husband was still very upset that I had accepted the transfusions. We had several arguments, even though I was extremely weak and experiencing severe headaches and dizziness from the blood loss. Instead of resting and recovering, I was constantly worried about my husband getting upset with me, whether he would tell the elders on me and how I could help him see that I had not broken God’s laws.
My parents came to the house on Tuesday to help me. I saw my obstetrician for a follow-up later that day. My husband and I had another fight about blood on the drive there. For this reason, I asked the doctor for more details about my transfusion.
I discovered that I had been given packed red blood cells, not whole blood. When I told my husband this he seemed relieved (which speaks to the fact that most Witnesses do not fully understand the current doctrine and how many times Watchtower has changed this doctrine over the last few years). We also found out that I had retained tissue, so I spent another night in the hospital to have a D&C. 
This went well, so I could finally go home and recover.
Watchtower’s teaching on blood fractions was first announced in 2000, when I was about fifteen years of age. I remembered feeling like it didn’t make sense to me. Why was whole blood not permissible while parts of blood were? But since I didn’t want to die and trusted the Governing Body, I decided that I would accept blood fractions. To this day, I still don’t fully understand how Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are usually black-and-white thinkers, can say it’s wrong to accept whole blood but not the fractions of blood (100% of blood is permitted in fractionated form).
After this experience, I began doing even more research on blood transfusions. I was surprised to discover that whole blood transfusions were extremely rare. One nurse told me that in ten years of health care, she had never seen a whole blood transfusion given. As a Jehovah’s Witness, I had no idea that this was the case. This led me to research which components of blood were and were not allowed, according to Watchtower.
To me, it seems incredibly hypocritical to allow all of the components of red blood to be transfused at separate times but not at the same time. What Biblical basis does Watchtower have for allowing certain components to be transfused and not others? For example, hemoglobin, which is a part of red blood cells, is allowed and comprises 15% of total blood volume. White blood cells are not allowed, yet they only comprise about 1% of blood volume.
The information and charts on the ajwrb.org website were very helpful to me in understanding just how confusing and unbiblical the blood doctrine is. If Watchtower would yet again change their stance and allow all components of blood to be transfused at separate times, who knows how many thousands of lives would be saved! I shudder to think of the bloodguilt on the hands of those responsible for such an illogical doctrine.
I don’t know whether my blood transfusions saved my life. But I do know that I came close to dying. Had I not accepted those two transfusions, I was risking permanent damage and prolonging an already long and difficult recovery.
The hardest part of my story is that my husband still fully supports the blood doctrine. He refuses to see any other points of view and will not even look at the ajwrb.org website. Even seeing his wife at death’s door was not enough to prompt him into reexamining his long-held beliefs.
This shows how strong Watchtower’s hold is on its members. It’s hurtful to think that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings are more important to my husband than the life of the wife he deeply loves.
For now, all I can do is pray that one day my spouse will start to see all the negative implications of this terrible, harmful doctrine.
Detailed explanation of the blood policy:
- “Each time the prohibition of blood is mentioned in the Scriptures it is in connection with taking it as food, and so it is as a nutrient that we are concerned with in its being forbidden.” Watchtower 1958 Sep 15 p.575
- “The blood in any person is in reality the person himself. … poisons due to personal living, eating and drinking habits … The poisons that produce the impulse to commit suicide, murder, or steal are in the blood. Moral insanity, sexual perversions, repression, inferiority complexes, petty crimes – these often follow in the wake of blood transfusion.” Watchtower 1961 Sep 1 p.564
- “God imposed this one restriction. They were not to consume blood.(Genesis 9:3,4)” Watchtower 2008 Oct 1 p.31
- “Does the command to abstain from blood include blood transfusions? Yes. To illustrate: Suppose a doctor were to tell you to abstain from alcoholic beverages. Would that simply mean that you should not drink alcohol but that you could have it injected into your veins? Of course not! Likewise, abstaining from blood means not taking it into our bodies at all. So the command to abstain from blood means that we would not allow anyone to transfuse blood into our veins.” Watchtower 2014 What Does the Bible Really Teach? p. 130
Normal blood pressure range is 90/60 – 120/80. Severe hypotension can be life-threatening.
Normal hemoglobin range for a female is 12.5 – 15.5. There is a higher risk of heart attack, congestive heart failure, or stroke with low hemoglobin levels.
D & C:
Dilation and curettage is a procedure to remove tissue from inside the uterus.
Was she required to meet with the elders and recant of taking packed red blood cells, which is specifically prohibited? As I understand it, only hemoglobin is allowed.
The July 1st 1945 Watchtower was when we first learned of the “increasing light” from Jehovah God to ban blood transfusions, and it says this is a “vital matter” to Jehovah. But transfusions were saving lives from the early 1900s, so if this really was a vital matter why didn’t He provide this “light” in the early 1900s so that none of His people ever committed the sin of having a transfusion? In Jehovah God’s eyes why was it apparently perfectly okay to have a blood transfusion at any time up to June 30th 1945… but not the next day?!!
You make so much sense! Why can’t the Governing body see this! Maybe they are just to old to comprehend!
This woman opted to take a drug that would abort her baby (mistake #1) and then complains about the ensuing reaction of almost bleeding out, resulting in her deciding to accept blood transfusions (mistake #2). For every decision made there are going to be reactions or consequences.
Admirably upfront about your readiness to judge somebody whose actions you don’t fully understand, well done!
The article says that the fetus had no heartbeat.
Catryna–the baby was already dead, she was taking the drug to rid her body of a dead body inside of it. She did NOT take the drug to kill the baby. Thus NO mistake #1. After lots of research on blood there was no mistake #2 either.
I am not a defender of the JW doctrine of blood transfusions. However, I do work as the RN leader of Patient Blood Management and Bloodless care at my hospital organization. I am medically trained and certified in JW doctrine and beliefs on blood. This author is not explaining the JW doctrine of fractions appropriately and clearly does not understand the doctrine. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not view PRBC, white blood cells, platelets, or plasma as fractions. The are considered primary components that are still considered unacceptable.
Sarah – thank you for your comments. Your comments regarding PRBC are technically correct, and in line with how we explain the Watchtower’s blood policy on the AJWRB website in many places. The article you are commenting on is an experience, not a policy discussion. It correctly illustrates the different ways individual Jehovah’s Witnesses grasp or fail to grasp, what is a very complex policy. The distinction between a component and a fraction is confusing to the typical JW. A large fraction like hemoglobin or albumin is permitted, but a tiny component like platelets is not. Few JW’s actually make this distinction, and none of them can satisfactorily explain it, so the author is not alone in this regard. Additionally, it is not technically incorrect to think of anything less than the whole as a fraction. PRBC are not whole blood. They can be thought of as a fraction of whole blood, and indeed this article demonstrates that some Jehovah’s Witnesses do in fact think of them in this way, despite the fact that this is not technically correct, or the current policy. You might consider asking your JW patients to help you understand how they see these matters personally. A useful way to approach them is to simply inquire as to which blood products they are willing to use, and which ones they are not willing to use. Some medical professionals will also inquire about where in the Bible it explains which parts are ok to use, and which parts are not. This simple question has caused many JW’s to reevaluate their support of Watchtower’s complex policy. A policy that literally permits 100% of whole blood if it is fractionated.
The bible says not to eat the blood of animals, animals were killed for food and blood is their life but when you receive blood from a person by transfusion you do not kill that person to eat it, that person only donates some of his blood to you help yourself to stay alive what is totally different from what is written in the bible when you kill an animal to eat
Free will, the right to choose and decide is a gift. Obedience to a Bible trained conscience allows us to individually show respect and appreciation to the Giver of this gift, the Creator Jehovah God. With the passing of time and evidence that bloodless alternatives have been manufactured and are effective these facts simply equate to more acceptable options to “sustain life”. The Bible sets a standard for living expressed in terms understood by those living through the 1600 years it was written (and still the information is timeless). These standards in some instances are clearly stated in other instances they are clearly implied. “Abstain from blood”, is clear, especially concerning all four major components of whole blood. However, technological advances in medicine has resulted in another way to ingest blood. The provisions of fracturing blood components has allowed us yet more alternatives. Life is precious, we want to live! Living today, requires us to do more research, investigation, prayerful meditation and contemplating to articulate our expressed will to whomever. We desire to remaining loyal to the Life giver, Jehovah God with a clean conscience so, our decisions are not easy. The pressure of blood transfusions imposed by some medical professionals and well meaning family alone, is a lot to deal with facing the perils of life-threatening circumstances. The scrutiny we are subjected to is evident by this very site (shame on you). Abstaining from blood is for our everlasting benefit and those who truly love Jehovah their God will obey against all odds. You see, we love Him because He first loved us. For those who want to understand I hope this helps. For those who think they know, you should know better.
I agree with one thing you wrote little sheep.
“Free will, the right to choose and decide is a gift.”
You are correct. What you fail to recognize is that the Wtr. Organization takes that ‘right to choose’ away from you by holding the fear of shunning over your head.
When a nurse came out to tell me that my wife desparately needed a blood transfusion, I did not have the ‘right to choose!’
A “brother” who was next to me said, “you know what you have to do” and I said, “NO BLOOD” to her plea.
You see, the members in the organization place the highest value on obedience to the organization.
There is no ‘right to choose and decide’ as you write.
My wife died as a result of not having the transfusion, which she so desperately needed. That was nearly 30 years ago, and I deeply regret that I could not decide on what could have saved her.
I was part of an organized indoctrinated mentality that prevented me from using my free will to make the right decision.
Today, I consider myself a serious Bible student who treasures the gift of free will, and will no longer exercise it on behalf of an ever changing man-made organization, but for the best interests of me and my family.