Blood-associated symbols, and blood transfusion in Jehovah’s Witnesses Volume 15, issue 6, novembre-décembre 2009

Établissement français du sang Auvergne-Loire ; et Université Jean-Monnet, Faculté de médecine, EA 3064-GIMAP, Saint-Étienne

Jehovah’s Witnesses are reformist Christians though definitely aside from other Christian believers; they are occasionally considered belonging to a sect. One of their main characteristics is their absolute refusal of blood transfusion of homologous labile blood components. This rebuttal is literally based on a strict reading of the Holy Bible. This essay will attempt to set up the rationale for Jehovah’s Witnesses against transfusion after a non interpretative reading of the Bible; to achieve this goal, an issue will be briefly made on the symbols associated to blood –and especially symbols linked to religion– for Christians other than Jehovah’s Witnesses and then, for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rebuttal of transfusion by Jehovah’s Witnesses often generates conflicts in hospitals and clinics worldwide, but a strong survey of blood transfusion practices is also made in parallel by a dedicated network of physicians and Lawyers belonging to Jehovah’s witnesses’ boards. This essay will present the fundamentals of this Christian obedience refusing –at large– consumption of blood including by means of transfusion. It will also present the difficulties faced by heath professionals having a Jehovah’s witness patient or relative patient in charge for medical of surgical treatment. In France, the so-called 2002 “Kouchner” Law, as well as the so-called 2004 “Leonetti” Law, have modified the relationships of health care practitioners and Jehovah’s witnesses.