The Open Minds Foundation has published a two-part story that recounts some of the early history of AJWRB, and the circumstances that drove Lee Elder to take a deep interest in the Watchtower’s blood transfusion policies. His story is a personal one that includes how the policy led to the premature death of his Grandmother, as well as a fifteen year old childhood friend. Once Lee began to question the policy in 1996, he quickly began to notice flaws and contradictions, and despite being an elder, decided to begin a “reform” movement from within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In short order, he was joined in the effort by numerous Watchtower appointed officials, including both elders and HLC or Hospital Liaison Committee members who had also recognized the problems, and had been powerless to effect change, or even share their concerns with members of their congregations. The article touches on how Lee was personally impacted by the perjury of Jehovah’s Witness leaders who misled the European Commission on Human Rights.
The early history of Dr. Osamu Muramoto is also detailed as AJWRB’s medical advisor. Dr. Muramoto’s excellent academic articles in the Journal of Medical Ethics, the Western Journal of Medicine, and the British Medical Journal were eye openers for many physicians, and brought enormous pressure on Watchtower leaders to address some of the most irrational aspects of the policy, without giving up the control that they have become accustomed to.
In part two of this hard-hitting series, Lee turns a light on how the Watchtower tried to explain away their perjury by slightly modifying their shunning policy, so that Jehovah’s Witnesses who used certain forbidden blood products would no longer be disfellowshipped, but would “disassociate” themselves by choosing to follow the medical advice of their physician rather than the Watchtower. As a result, there were “no controls or sanctions”. The disobedient Jehovah’s Witness would be seen as having done this to themselves.
Finally, Lee explains the dramatic shift the Watchtower made in June of 2000 by lifting the ban on the use of all blood fractions. Previously only fractions of plasma had been permitted. From this date forward, all blood products derived from red cells, white cells and platelets could be used by the Jehovah’s Witness in good conscience. These were the most meaningful reforms made to the policy in over four decades. The article concludes with a review of where things are in 2017, and what the future outlook for the blood policy, and the reform effort are. This is a must read article, and can be found on the Open Minds Foundation Website.