Blood serum is the clear fluid that remains after the cellular components (red cells, white cells, platelets, clotting factors and fibrinogen are removed. It includes all proteins not used in the clotting process.
What follows is a collection of quotes from Watchtower Society literature. This information will help researchers understand the historical development of the Watchtower Society’s policy on blood serums and document the many changes in policy through the years.
Quotes are presented in chronological order. Our editorial comments are in red. Note that the Watchtower policy changed six times in the twenty year period between 1958-1978.
1954 – Blood serums are wrong.
“We are told that it takes one and a third pints of whole blood to get enough of the blood protein or “fraction” known as gamma globulin for one injection. And since from the foregoing it must be admitted that such use of human blood is highly questionable, what justification can there be for the use of gamma globulin? Further, those interested in the Scriptural aspect will note that its being made of whole blood places it in the same category as blood transfusions as far as Jehovah’s prohibition of taking blood into the system is concerned.” – See Leviticus 17:10 – 14; Acts 15:20, 28, 29.
– Awake! 01/08/1954 p. 24 (Emphasis added)
1958 Reversal – Blood serums are OK. (Change #1)
“Are we to consider the injection of serums such as diphtheria toxin antitoxin and blood fractions such as gamma globulin into the blood stream, for the purpose of building up resistance to disease by means of antibodies, the same as the drinking of blood or the taking of blood or blood plasma by means of transfusions? – N.P., United States.
No, it does not seem necessary that we put the two in the same category, although we have done so in times past. While God did not intend for man to contaminate his blood stream by vaccines, serums or blood fractions, doing so does not seem to be included in God’s expressed will forbidding blood as food. It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not.”
– The Watchtower 09/15/1958 p. 575 Emphasis added.
1961 Reversal – Blood serums unclear. (Change #2)
The following three quotes are from the booklet “Blood, Medicine and Law of God” released in the summer of 1961. It left some Jehovahs’ Witnesses confused since it appeared that the WTS had once again changed its position on blood serum.
“Is it wrong to sustain life by administering a transfusion of blood or plasma or red cells or others of the component parts of the blood? Yes!…The prohibition includes “any blood at all.” (Leviticus 3:17) It has no bearing on the matter that the blood is not introduced to the body through the mouth but through the veins. Nor does the argument that it cannot be classed with intravenous feeding because its use in the body is different carry weight. The fact is that it provides nourishment to the body to sustain life.”
– Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, pp. 13, 14 Emphasis added
“But regardless of the method used to infuse it into the body and regardless of whether it is whole blood or a blood substance that is involved, God’s law remains the same. If it is blood and it is being used to nourish or to sustain life the divine law clearly applies…Mature Christians… are not going to feel that if they have some of their own blood stored for transfusion, it is going to be more acceptable than the blood of another person…Nor are they going to feel that a slight infraction, such as momentary storage of blood in a syringe when it is drawn from one part of the body for injection into another part, is somehow less objectionable than storing it for a longer period of time.”
– Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, pp. 14, 15 Emphasis added
“Jehovah’s witnesses do not argue that blood transfusions have not kept alive patients who otherwise might have died. We do not take it upon ourselves to conduct an objective debate of the advisability of the use of blood in medical therapy. The point is not for us to determine. God himself has ruled on the matter, and it would be presumptuous for us, in the name of medicine or humanitarianism or anything else, to open the issue to debate, to pit human wisdom and experience against the law of God….Although Jehovah’s witnesses will not eat blood as a food, nor in medical use consent to any kind of blood transfusion or, in place of it, an infusion of any blood fraction or blood substance, this does not rule out all medical treatment.”
– Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, pp. 38, 39, 40 Emphasis added
1961 – Blood serums unclear.
The following Questions From Readers article in the Watchtower appeared a few months later:
“Since the Bible forbids the eating of blood, how are Christians to view the use of serums and vaccines? Has the Society changed its viewpoint on this? – J. D., U.S.A.
The Bible is very clear that blood could properly be used only on the altar; otherwise it was to be poured out on the ground. (Lev. 17:11 – 13) The entire modern medical practice involving the use of blood is objectionable from the Christian standpoint. Therefore the taking of a blood transfusion, or, in lieu of that, the infusing of some blood fraction to sustain one’s life is wrong. As to the use of vaccines and other substances that may in some way involve the use of blood in their preparation, it should not be concluded that the Watch Tower Society endorses these and says that the practice is right and proper. However, vaccination is a virtually unavoidable practice in many segments of modern society, and the Christian may find some comfort under the circumstances in the fact that this use is not in actuality a feeding or nourishing process, which was specifically forbidden when that man was not to eat blood, but it is a contamination of the human system. So, as was stated in The Watchtower of September 15, 1958, page 575, “It would therefore be a matter of individual judgment whether one accepted such types of medication or not.” That is still the Society’s viewpoint on the matter. – Gal. 6:5.
However, the mature Christian is not going to try to find in this a justification for as many other medical uses of blood substances as possible. To the contrary, recognizing the objectionableness of the entire process, he is going to stay as far away from it as he can, requesting other treatment where such is available.”
– The Watchtower 11/01/1961 p. 670 Emphasis added
This article did little to end the confusion but the message seemed to be that vaccines are an acceptable contamination, blood fractions are wrong, and substances made with blood were objectionable. In the coming months, members would ask for and receive more clarification from the Watchtower Society.
1963 Reversal – Blood serums are wrong – all blood products (which would include blood serum) are wrong. (Change #3)
“As to blood transfusions, he knows from his study of the Bible and the publications of the Watch Tower Society that this is an unscriptural practice. (Gen. 9:4; Acts 15:28,29) Now it is up to him to carry his own load of responsibility in applying what the Scriptures have to say on this matter. One day he may go to the hospital for surgery. There he explains his position to the doctor. “All right,” the doctor says, “then we will use plasma.” Or the doctor may tell him, “What you need is red cells to carry oxygen. We have red cells that we can use. How about that?” The Christian may not be well versed in medical matters. Shall he call his congregation servant or the Society? That should not be necessary, if he is prepared to carry his own load of responsibility. He need only ask the doctor: “From what was the plasma taken?” “How are the red cells obtained?” “Where did you get this substance?” If the answer is “Blood,” he knows what course to take, for it is not just whole blood but anything that is derived from blood and used to sustain life or strengthen one that comes under this principle. Someone may argue with you that the Scriptures are referring to the “eating” of blood but that blood is not taken into the digestive system during a transfusion. True, but the fact is that by a direct route the blood serves the same purpose as food when taken into the stomach, namely, strengthening the body or sustaining life. It is not the same as a vaccine given to a healthy person to build him up, just as food is given to nourish him.”
– The Watchtower 02/15/1963 pp. 123, 124 Emphasis added
In addition to once again banning blood serum and anything else from blood, the Watchtower publishes blatantly false medical information by arguing that “blood serves the same purpose as food when taken into the stomach”. For blood to serve as food it must be digested and broke down into amino acids, etc. No digestion occurs in the blood stream.
1964 – Blood serums spoken of negatively
“…an effective human serum against lockjaw has been developed…Now some of it will be from human blood!”
– Awake! 05/08/1964 p. 30 Emphasis added
1964 Reversal – Now, only 21 months later, blood serums are once again OK. This is the fourth complete reversal in seven years. (Change #4)
“The Society does not endorse any of the modern medical uses of blood, such as the uses of blood in connection with inoculations. Inoculation is, however, a virtually unavoidable circumstance in some segments of society, and so we leave it up to the conscience of the individual to determine whether to submit to inoculation with a serum containing blood fractions for the purpose of building up antibodies to fight against disease. If a person did this, he may derive comfort under the circumstances from the fact that he is not directly eating blood, which is expressly forbidden in God’s Word. It is not used for food or to replace lost blood. Here the Christian must make his own decision based on conscience. Therefore, whether a Christian will submit to inoculation with a serum, or whether doctors or nurses who are Christians will administer such, is for personal decision. Christians in the medical profession are individually responsible for employment decisions….In harmony with Deuteronomy 14:21, the administering of blood upon request to worldly persons is left to the Christian doctor’s own conscience. This is similar to the situation facing a Christian butcher or grocer who must decide whether he can conscientiously sell blood sausage to a worldly person.”
– The Watchtower 11/15/1964 pp. 680, 681, 682, 683 Emphasis added
“The fact that serums are prepared from blood makes them undesirable to Christians because of the Biblical law against the use of blood. However, since they do not involve the use of blood as a food to nourish the body, which the Bible directly forbids, their use is a matter that must be decided by each person according to his conscience.”
– Awake!, 08/22/1965 p. 18 Emphasis added
An even softer position on Blood serums.
“Serums or antitoxins are used. These are obtained from the blood of humans or animals that have already developed the antibodies for fighting the disease. Usually the blood is processed and the blood fraction (gamma globulin) containing the antibodies is separated and made into a serum. When this is injected into the patient it gives him temporary passive immunity. This is temporary, for the antibodies do not become a permanent part of his blood; when these pass out of his body he is no longer immune to the disease. It can thus be seen that serums (unlike vaccines) contain a blood fraction, though minute….What, then, of the use of a serum containing only a minute fraction of blood and employed to supply an auxiliary defense against some infection and not employed to perform the life – sustaining function that blood normally carries out? We believe that here the conscience of each Christian must decide.”
– The Watchtower 06/01/1974 pp. 351, 352
1975 Reversal or clarification – Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII & IX) are wrong and apparently not viewed as a blood serum. (Change #5)
“Certain clotting “factors” derived from blood are now in wide use for the treatment of hemophilia, a disorder causing uncontrollable bleeding. However, those given this treatment face another deadly hazard: the Swiss medical weekly Schweizer Med Wochenschrift reports that almost 40 percent of 113 hemophiliacs studied had cases of hepatitis. “All these patients had received whole blood, plasma, or blood derivatives containing [the factors],” notes the report. Of course, true Christians do not use this potentially dangerous treatment, heeding the Bible’s command to ‘abstain from blood.'”
– Awake! 02/22/1975 p. 30 Emphasis added
1978 – Reversal. Hemophilia treatments (Factor VII & IX) are now viewed as a blood serum. (Change #6)
“Are serum injections compatible with Christian belief?
What, however, about accepting serum injections to fight against disease, such as are employed for diphtheria, tetanus, viral hepatitis, rabies, hemophilia and Rh incompatibility? …This seems to fall into a ‘gray area.’…Hence, we have taken the position that this question must be resolved by each individual on a personal basis….How concerned should a Christian be about blood in food products? …This may call for a degree of care….Christians, individually, must decide what to do.”
– The Watchtower 06/15/1978 pp. 29, 30, 31.
See the opposite view in Blood, Medicine and the Law of God, 1961, p. 11; Awake! 02/22/1975 p. 30 Emphasis added
“Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept injections of a blood fraction, such as immune globulin or albumin? Some do, believing that the Scriptures do not clearly rule out accepting an injection of a small fraction, or component, taken from blood….In view of the command to ‘abstain from blood,’ some Christians have felt that they should not accept an immune globulin (protein) injection, even though it was only a blood fraction. Their stand is clear and simple – no blood component in any form or amount. Others have felt that a serum (antitoxin), such as immune globulin, containing only a tiny fraction of a donor’s blood plasma and used to bolster their defense against disease, is not the same as a life – sustaining blood transfusion. So their consciences may not forbid them to take immune globulin or similar fractions….That some protein fractions from the plasma do move naturally into the blood system of another individual (the fetus) may be another consideration when a Christian is deciding whether he will accept immune globulin, albumin, or similar injections of plasma fractions. One person may feel that he in good conscience can; another may conclude that he cannot. Each must resolve the matter personally before God.”
– The Watchtower 06/01/1990 p. 30 Emphasis added
This is another example of publishing inaccurate or incomplete medical advice. Practically all blood components have been shown to cross the Placental Barrier. See the article “Watchtower Position Crumbles”.
“Is the RhIG shot made from blood?
Yes. The antibodies that make up the shot are harvested from the blood of individuals who have become immunized or sensitized to the Rh factor…. .Genetically-engineered RhIG not derived from blood may become available in the future.
Can the Christian conscientiously take RhIG?
….This journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have commented consistently on the matter*. ….some Christians have concluded that to them it does not seem a violation of Bible law…” The decision whether to take RhIG remains finally, though, a matter for each Christian couple to decide conscientiously.”
*See The Watchtower of June 1, 1990, pages 30, 31; June 15, 1978, pages 30, 31; and How Can Blood Save Your Life?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. – Awake 12/8/94 p. 27. Awake 12/8/94 p. 23-26 – Emphasis added
Note: The writer of this article seems to be unfamiliar or simply chose not to acknowledge the bizarre history of the Watchtower’s blood serum policy. Incidentally, the blood based RhIG injection requires that the patients blood be cross matched and typed, and they generally receive the same type of wrist ban worn by other blood transfusion recipients.
I do wonder how many of the changes to WT policy generally have come about via big law suits or legal action by authorities.
I believe that many of these changes in the 1950’s were the result of the requirements of the US Govt. that all persons travelling outside US boundaries be immunized or inoculated.
The ramifications to the missionary work would have been great in a negative way without the ” new light”.
In light of the continual flip flopping, and the way “options” are approved and disapproved, and sometimes reapproved, even as far as flat out saying anything made from or with blood is wrong and then approving such methods later, or then saying such methods are a personal decision each Christian must make, it appears that we’re being experimented on. For being such an important matter of obedience to Jehovah, why is it, in the first place, so unclear in the Bible, and then, why does our understanding of what it means, flick off and on, instead of gradually becoming clearer and clearer, building upon what was first advised by our faithful and discreet leaders?
Als gedoopt lid (ruim 40 jaar gemeente verkondiger) wil ik graag mijn standpunt inzake bloed toelichten. In de loop van vele tientallen jaren is het standpunt van het WT-Genootschap veranderd inzake wat wel of niet aanvaardbaar is met betrekking tot bloed. Medisch gezien is er steeds meer mogelijk. Wanneer is bloed nog bloed. Als er uit menselijk bloed een component verwijderd wordt is het dan nog bloed? Als je bijvoorbeeld het water uit plasma verwijderd spreken we dan nog over volbloed? Een transfusie van welke component of fractie wel of niet aanvaardbaar is voor Jehovah weet niemand. Mijn standpunt is ieder moet met zijn eigen geweten een beslissing nemen inzake bloed. De zaak is te gecompliceerd om een zwart/wit standpunt in te nemen. Er zijn te veel vragen van wat wel of niet aanvaardbaar is. Het WT-Genootschap weet het ook niet meer wat nu wel of niet aanvaardbaar is met een medische ingreep. Jammer dat zij voor broeders en zusters toch nog grenzen willen stellen inzake deze materie. Zo ontstaan er standpunten die zij zelf niet meer kunnen uitleggen en ontstaat er veel onvrede. Alle fracties aanvaardbaar, componenten niet. Alle fracties bij elkaar vormen weer componenten???? Ik heb alleen nog de hoop dat het WT=Genootschap tot inzicht komt en broeders en zusters de keuze van hun geweten laat maken als de bijbel geen directe oplossing biedt.