The “No Blood Card” that Jehovah’s Witnesses carry has experienced significant changes over the years, as you will see in this article. It was simply referred to as “the blood card” for many decades, then came to be called “the Advanced Medical Directive”. Another major change occurred in 2004, when it was combined with a Durable Power of Attorney specific to each state and is at times referred to as the “DPA”.
The first example shown is one of the older versions of the blood card that Witnesses carried back in the 1960’s. You will note its clear and uncompromising statement about the use of blood. It says specifically “I demand that blood, in any way, shape or form, is NOT to be fed into my body…”
This statement is quite interesting for two reasons:
- We seldom hear Jehovah’s Witnesses talk in terms of blood transfusions being a “feeding” on blood. This is because they now know that a transfusion is not a feeding on blood, but rather an organ transplant. The old view was based upon outdated medical views that were discarded nearly a hundred years ago. Today, Watchtower writers are forced to speak in terms of how it is wrong to “sustain one’s life” by means of blood. As we have shown, however, the Bible no where talks about blood in this way.
- The other interesting thing about the wording in this older card is that it would clearly prohibit a Witness from taking any of the multitude of blood products that have worked their way into the Watchtower’s approved list. It accurately reflects the position taken by the Society in the following quote:
“Whether whole or fractional, one’s own or someone else’s, transfused or injected, it is wrong.” – The Watchtower 09/15/1961 p. 559
What follows below is a more recent “Advance Medical Directive” being used by Jehovah’s Witnesses:
The current blood card, or “Medical Directive” is no longer able to make the same uncompromising statement. Why? Because the Society has gradually modified its once firm position, and now allows every part of the blood to be transfused or injected if sufficiently fractionated. A doctrine that made little sense to begin with, now makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Are you still carrying this document in your wallet? If so, why? It may well become a warrant for your untimely death. Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though not even baptized, are called upon to carry a similar card:
Beginning in 2004, the Watchtower announced a major change in how the blood card was to be issued as shown below:
This new policy eliminated the annual service meeting part and distribution of new blood cards that were completed and signed each year to demonstrate the individual’s continuing commitment and belief in the policy. This marked a dramatic departure from the established policy – one that medical professionals relied upon in assessing the actual wishes of an unconscious Jehovah’s Witness who showed up at the emergency room. Why was this done? Note the following:
Note the level of alarm sounded by the Watchtower Society because one card was approximately five years old and more than half were unsigned, not witnessed or out of date. The reports certainly call into question the degree of support among Jehovah’s Witnesses for the blood policy.
Under the new arrangement announced in 2004, the elders would only have to make one thorough sweep of the congregation members to insure their permanent compliance and eliminate this hugely embarrassing situation.
The obvious downside to this new arrangement is that emergency department physicians must now speculate as to the actual degree of commitment from the individual unconscious Jehovah’s Witness patient since their signed Advanced Medical Directive may be quite old and its entirely possible they may not even be a Jehovah’s Witness anymore.
For these reasons, we believe that it is incumbent upon emergency room physicians to verbally verify the level of commitment to the current Watchtower policy. Especially in view of the fact that it is well-known a significant percentage of Jehovah’s Witness secretly oppose the policy and feel coerced into carrying the blood card or risk exposure as apostates with subsequent shunning.1,2,3,4
1-Findley LJ, Redstone PM (March 1982). “Blood transfusion in adult Jehovah’s Witnesses. A case study of one congregation”. Arch Intern Med. 142(3): 606–607. doi:10.1001/archinte. te.142.3.606.
2-Kaaron Benson, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute Cancer Control Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, November/December 1995, “Therefore, while most adult Jehovah’s Witness patients were unwilling to accept blood for themselves, most Jehovah’s Witness parents permitted transfusions for their minor children, and many of the young adult patients also were willing to accept transfusions for themselves.”
3-Gyamfi C, Berkowitz RL (September 2004). “Responses by pregnant Jehovah’s Witnesses on health care proxies”. Obstet Gynecol 104 (3): 541–4. doi:10.1097/01.AOG.0000135276.25886.8e. PMID 15339766. “This review refutes the commonly held belief that all Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to accept blood or any of its products. In this population of pregnant women, the majority were willing to accept some form of blood or blood products.”
4-Empirical data suggest to us that the current level of dissent may be significantly higher. We base this upon the conversations we have had with Emergency Department Physicians and Anesthesiologists at medical conventions.