Dangerous Medical Advice and Changes
Watchtower guidance has entered every facet of life. This includes areas in which the writers had little training, such as medicine. Some advice has been amusing, such as against the use of aluminium frying pans. Other issues have led to unnecessary death, where the Watchtower has invoked fear and the Name of God to convince people to follow these edicts. That the following decrees were later changed shows they had not issued forth from God.
A number of bizarre pieces of medical advice were issued during the days of the Golden Age. This was under the editorship of Clayton J Woodworth who was instrumental in the introduction on the laws against blood.
This article discusses changed Watchtower standards regarding:
Transplants are a relatively new procedure and the rise in popularity during the 20th century led to the Society needing to provide a ruling on whether this conflicted with God's Holy requirements. When the Governing Body prayed for Jehovah to guide them on his standard, what was their conclusion?
"Is there anything in the Bible against giving one's eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person?-L. C., United States. The question of placing one's body or parts of one's body at the disposal of men of science or doctors at one's death for purposes of scientific experimentation or replacement in others is frowned upon by certain religious bodies. However, it does not seem that any Scriptural principle or law is involved. It therefore is something that each individual must decide for himself." Watchtower 1961 Aug 1 p.480 Questions from Readers
It did not take long for the Watchtower to change their mind on this life saving procedure.
"Sustaining one's life by means of the body or part of the body of another human ... would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people. ... It is not our place to decide whether such operations are advisable from a scientific or medical standpoint... Christians who have been enlightened by God's Word do not need to make these decisions based simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles and use these in making personal decisions as they look to God for direction, trusting him and putting their confidence in the future that he has in store for those who love him." Watchtower 1967 Nov 15 pp.702-704
This article used the full force of God's name mixed with a touch of guilt to persuade the followers. 'Look to God', 'love him', be 'enlightened by God's Word' and don't have a transplant. Any Witness that had a transplant had engaged in 'cannibalism' and was a person without 'trust' in Jehovah, somebody the congregations found necessary to disfellowship from amongst their midst.
Watchtower reached for its usual method of using fear to convince members. Transplants were said to involve demonic influence, referring to quotes that a spirit guided the first heart transplant.
"In this regard the weekly, Scope, went on to say; "Did a spirit guide Dr. Chris Barnard's hand during the historic heart transplant operation several weeks ago? ... A former member of Dr. Barnard's heart surgery team ... had often seen a spirit figure standing behind Dr. Barnard during operations in the hospital theatre. ... 'But that's "Klein Oupatjkie," Chris Barnhard's late father!' was the immediate reaction." Awake! 1968 Jun 22 p.15
A further fear tactic was to warn that a transplant could change the personality of the recipient.
"A peculiar factor sometimes noted is a so-called 'personality transplant.' That is, the recipient in some cases has seemed to adopt certain personality factors of the person from whom the organ came." Watchtower 1975 Sep 1 p.519
This same concept of a personality transplant was used in regards to blood transfusions.
"Some say blood transfusions are harmless. Do you believe that? For 40 years Robert Khoury was known as an honest man. Then he was given a blood transfusion after a fall. "I learned the donor was a thief," Khoury told police. "When I recovered I found I had a terrible desire to steal." And steal he did." Awake! 1969 Jul 8 p.30
This pronouncement against transplants meant that Jehovah's Witnesses could not accept a kidney transplant, a cornea transplant, bone marrow, skin, or anything else taken from another person. This led to loss of lives that simple operations could have saved. It was reiterated in 1968 Awake! June 8, in which almost the entire magazine was devoted to the Watchtower view of medical procedures.
This edict on transplants, a disfellowshipping directive enlightened by God's Word, lasted only thirteen years.
"There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue ... It is a matter for personal decision..." Watchtower 1980 Mar 15 p 31:
The Watchtower has gone even further now, commending transplants for the way they have "helped" people. (Awake! 1989 Aug 22 p.6) What is shameful in all this is that it was never stated that the view had changed. The Watchtower Index does not reference the 1967 article in regards to transplants. No apology has been published for the sake of those that were wrongfully disfellowshipped and those that unnecessarily lost their lives. How must this make a Witness feel that lost a loved one over the issue during the 1970's?
For an experience of life wasted during the transplant ban see CoffeeBlack. The sad reality is that Witnesses as a whole do not even know that their teachings have changed. Many are willing to lay their lives on the line without an understanding of the issues at hand and how they differ from a not too distant past. The Society has blood on its hands when its incorrect use of the Name of God results in the death of misled members.
From 1921 to 1952, the Golden Age presented information against vaccinations. To cement this viewpoint in the minds of followers, vaccinations were described as worthless, harmful from a medical standpoint, and morally wrong from a biblical standpoint.
"Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice...We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can, and to his credit can such evils be placed. ... Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations." Golden Age 1921 Oct 12 p.17
"Thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination, because the latter sows the seed of syphilis, cancers, escema, erysipelas, scrofula, consumption, even leprosy and many other loathsome affections. Hence the practice of vaccination is a crime, an outrage and a delusion." Golden Age 1929 May 1 p.502
"Avoid serum inoculations and vaccinations as they pollute the blood stream with their filthy pus." Golden Age 1929 Nov 13 pp.106-107
This was partially supported on the basis that blood byproducts could not be used.
"Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood." Golden Age 1931 Feb 4 p.293
"Of all the inventions that have been foisted upon mankind for their defilement the most subtly devilish is that of vaccination." Ibid p.295
The Golden Age 1931, February 4 issue devoted 10 pages to why vaccinations were not for Christians. The index page to the 1931 article claimed this as the viewpoint of the Creator.
A series of images further enforced the point.
Golden Age 1932 Mar 30 p.409
Golden Age 1939 May 31 p.5
The cartoon picture above shows dead and pock marked babies below a clergy like representation. In reality, it was vaccinations that practically eliminated small pox. With little medical knowledge, the society went about using scare tactics to convince the people that vaccinations were wrong. This resulted in some Witness children being barred from schools in America for refusing vaccinations.
Legal concerns seem to be a factor behind the Watchtower Society reversing its position and allowing vaccinations from the 1950's.
"The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself... And our Society cannot afford to be drawn into the affair legally or take the responsibility for the way the case turns out." Watchtower 1952 Dec 15 p.764
Did Holy Spirit direct the Society to decree vaccinations were unchristian for a period of time, and later say they were acceptable? For followers who are trained to accept everything coming from the Organization as food from Jehovah, this has potentially led to needless loss of Witness lives.
In 1993 the following was written, and whilst strictly correct it can be understood in light of what appears above to be quite misleading to claim their position has been consistent.
"Previous articles in this journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have presented a consistent position: It would be up to the Bible-trained conscience of the individual Christian as to whether he would accept [vaccinations] for himself and his family." Awake! 1993 Aug 8 p.25
Vaccinations are allowed by Watchtower, provided a particular vaccine complies with Watchtower blood policy.
Jehovah's Witnesses are well known for their stance against blood. Blood is one of the identifying doctrines and as such should have been taught consistently by the Faithful and Discreet slave. Few people realise the ongoing significant changes that have occurred with this doctrine.
It may come as a surprise that Russell did not believe it was necessary to abstain from either eating blood or blood transfusions. It was not until 50 years after the formation of the Watchtower Society that the consumption of blood was raised as an issue. Russell interpreted Acts 15 in line with the majority of Bible scholars; that was, abstaining from eating blood was only "necessary to the peace of the church" to prevent divisions between Jews and Gentiles. It was not meant to be an everlasting law for all Christians.
In 1909 Russell explained that since the four prohibitions in Acts were part of the Mosaic Law Covenant they didn't apply to Gentiles. Blood was allowed to be eaten by Russell and the Bible Students. He wrote:
"(1) Abstain from sacrifices to idols;
(2) And from blood;
(3) And from things strangled;
(4) And from harlotry.
… These prohibitions had never come to the Gentiles, because they had never been under the Law Covenant; but so deeply rooted were the Jewish ideas on this subject that it was necessary to the peace of the church that the Gentiles should observe this matter also.
… If they did not wish to be contentious and cause division in the church, the Gentile brethren would surely be willing to restrain or sacrifice their liberty respecting these matters." Zion's Watch Tower 1909 Apr 15 pp.116-117
This view continued to be held after the discovery of ABO blood types and the administration of blood transfusions in World War One.
The concept of not eating blood was not introduced until 1927 under the guidance of Rutherford.
"God told Noah that every living creature should be meat unto him; but that he must not eat the blood, because the life is in the blood." Watchtower 1927 Dec 15 p.371
"... the life is in the blood and that blood must not be eaten. That would be true of a clean animal or an unclean one just the same. and if an animal is killed and the blood is not poured out, but eaten, then the man who does it is guilty of death, for the reason that no man shall drink blood without dying." Watchtower 1939 Feb 15 p.62
As late as 1940 blood transfusions were considered acceptable practice.
"In New York city a house wife in moving a boarder's things accidentally shot herself through the heart with his revolver. She was rushed to a hospital, her left breast was cut around, four ribs were cut away, the heart was lifted out, three stitches were taken, one of the attending physicians in the great emergency gave a quart of his blood for transfusion, and today the woman lives and smiles gaily over what happened to her in the busiest 23 minutes of her life." Consolation 1940 Dec 25 p. 19
It was not until 1945 that Watchtower blood doctrine was extended to include blood transfusions.
"See, then, that the Most High and Holy God gave plain instructions as to the disposition of blood, in harmony with his everlasting covenant made with Noah and all of his descendants; and see that the only use of blood that he authorized in order to furnish life to humankind was the use of it as a propitiation or atonement for sin; and seeing that it was to be done upon his holy altar or at his mercy seat, and not by taking such blood directly into the human body; therefore it behooves all worshipers of Jehovah who seek eternal life in his new world of righteousness to respect the sanctity of blood and to confirm themselves to God's righteous ruling concerning this vital matter." Watchtower 1945 Jul 1 p.201
In 1950 regular discussion on blood transfusions began.
"Our published statements concerning this matter are something owing to those who look to us for spiritual guidance, and are not issued to cause division among Jehovah's people. Repeatedly we are confronted with requests for information on blood transfusion, particularly for us to pronounce a sanction of this medical practice." Watchtower 1950 May 1 p.143
In the Watchtower 1951 Jul 1 p.414 Questions from Readers the first detailed discussion on the Watchtower blood doctrine was given after a court case involving Jehovah's Witnesses.
Originally the prohibition on blood included whole blood, all blood fractions and autologous transfusions.
"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! 1954 Jan 8 p.24
"Consequently, the removal of one's blood, storing it and later putting it back into the same person would be a violation of the Scriptural principles that govern the handling of blood." Watchtower 1959 Oct 15 p.640
"Whether whole or fractional, one’s own or someone else’s, transfused or injected, it is wrong. ... It is forbidden as food. It is not authorized by God for administration to another person under the guise of medical treatment to sustain life." Watchtower 1961 Sep 15 p.559
The New Testament does not specify the use of blood as a reason to be shunned and so originally was not a disfellowshipping offence.
"We, of course, regret with you that this sister who professes to be one of the anointed remnant took a blood transfusion voluntarily during her stay in the hospital. We believe that she did the wrong thing contrary to the will of God. However, congregations have never been instructed to disfellowship those who voluntarily take blood transfusions or approve them. We let the judgment of such violators of God's law concerning the sacredness of blood remain with Jehovah, the Supreme Judge. The only thing that can be done in the cases of individuals like this is to view them as immature and therefore not capable of taking on certain responsibilities, hence refusing to make certain assignments of service to such ones." Watchtower 1958 Aug 1 p.478
In 1961, blood transfusions became a disfellowshipping offence.
"Beginning in 1961 any who ignored the divine requirement, accepted blood transfusions, and manifested an unrepentant attitude were disfellowshipped from the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses." Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom pp.183-184
Few Witnesses know that Russell and the early Bible Students understood that there is nothing wrong with eating blood. Notice how the Watchtower Society presents its history on blood.
"Some Bible Students thought that the prohibition against the eating of blood, at Acts 15:28, 29, was limited to Jewish Christians. However, Acts 21:25 shows that in apostolic times this command was also applied to those of the nations who became believers. So the sanctity of blood applies to all Christians, as shown in The Watchtower of July 1, 1945. That means not just refusing to eat animal blood, as in blood sausage, but also abstaining from human blood, as in the case of blood transfusions." Watchtower 1995 May 15 p.23 Flashes of Light-Great and Small
The above article makes it appear that 'some Bible students' misunderstood the Bible guidelines on blood. What it fails to mention is that the reason for their understanding was that they followed what the Faithful and Discreet Slave had explained about blood in the Watchtower.
One reason for the rule on blood and transplants was based on the Witnesses concept of man being monochotomous, wholly physical. There was a fear that blood and organs contain part of the soul. This is alluded to in the following statements;
"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 Sep 15 1961 p.564
"The heart is a marvellously designed muscular pump, but, more significantly, our emotional and motivating capacities are built within it. Love, hate, desire (good and bad), preference for one thing over another, ambition, fear-in effect, all that serves to motivate us in relationship to our affections and desires springs from the heart. It is significant that heart-transplant patients, where the nerves connecting the heart and brain are severed, have serious emotional problems after the operation." Watchtower Mar 1 1971 pp.133-139
This concept is no longer promoted.
Not only was the teaching on blood transfusions introduced late in Watchtower's history, it has also been significantly revised over the years. The rules in the 1960's were very strict; blood was not to be used in any form. The Watchtower February 15 1963 p.124 made clear that using either whole blood or any of its components is wrong. By the time of the Watchtower June 15 2000 the use of most blood components was no longer considered wrong but rather a matter of individual conscience. By 2004, the Watchtower showed that 100% of blood can be transfused, provided that it is broken down into fractions. This is discussed further in the chapter on Blood Doctrine.
1961 saw the publication of a number of articles on blood clarifying the reasoning behind it becoming cause to be disfellowshipped. This included comments on blood in food products.
"The practice in many lands of killing chickens by strangulation, breaking the neck but not cutting it, also makes these unfit for consumption by Chrisitans. ... Disrespect for Go's law is so rampant that whole blood, blood plasma and blood fractions are used freely in numerous products that are sold for food. For example, it is reported that some meat packers include blood as a part of their regular recipe for wieners, bologna and other cold-meat loaves. They may not all call it blood; but, regardless of what they call it, if it is blood or part of the blood it is wrong. Not all meat packers do this by any means, but some do. In certain localities it is also known that hamburger is made up largely of fat with blood added. ... So it is necessary for one to be alert, to be acquainted with the practices in his community, to make reasonable inquiry at places where he buys meat and to read and understand the labels on packaged goods." Watchtower 1961 Sep 15 p.557
For anyone thinking that this is an example of the light getting brighter, that was not the end. In the 1970's, Watchtower started to relax some of its blood restrictions, once again allowing certain blood products and procedures.
- 1974 – Blood serum became a conscience matter (Watchtower 1974 Jun 1 p.352)
- 1983 – Hemodilution became acceptable (Awake! 1983 Mar 22 p.16)
- 1995 – Acute Normovolemic Hemodilution and autologous blood salvage procedure became acceptable despite being briefly stored outside the blood (Watchtower 1995 August 1 p.30)
A significant change occurred in 2000, with all blood fractions becoming acceptable - (Watchtower 2000 Jun 15 pp.29-31).
How To Remain In God's Love (2017) p.247
Blood is a key teaching for Jehovah's Witnesses, one that has possibly caused them more publicity than any other teaching. One must wonder with such a pivotal doctrine that is used distinguish Jehovah's people from the world, why did God wait for 60 years to reveal it to his people? The length of time to introduce this issue and the ongoing changes indicates that Watchtower blood doctrine has nothing to do with Holy Spirit directing this teaching. Originally blood transfusions were fine, during the mid 1900's no blood products of any sort could be used; now almost every blood fraction is acceptable. The Holy Spirit cannot be attributed to enlightening the Governing Body in regards to blood when there has been almost a 360 degree turn on the teaching in less than one generation.
Compare these quotes side by side.
Prior to 2000, how many Jehovah's Witnesses died refusing fractions that could have saved their lives? How many parents needlessly sacrificed their children thinking they were doing Jehovah's will? Does not Watchtower have blood on its hands?
For a more detailed look at the whether Watchtower blood doctrine is Scripturally correct and what the stance is see Blood Doctrine.
The use of aluminium was described as a cause of cancer and insanity.
"As a result of the publication of wholesome truth on the subject, there are fewer people now purchasing aluminium cooking utensils than heretofore. There is also a pronounced drop in the cancer death rate. Much aluminium used: many cancers. Less aluminium used: fewer cancers." Golden Age 1930 May 28 p.650
"[Aluminium cooking utensils are] a curse to humanity and their manufacture and use should be forbidden by law." Golden Age 1932 Oct 26 p.35
"Remarkable Recovery of Sight
"I WAS blind and couldn't work," said Ellen Williams, of Georgia. "My arms would fall dead at my side and my whole right side became useless. Two years ago I discarded my aluminum ware, and my eyesight has come back. I don't use glasses now and am regaining use of my body gradually. I am sixty-five years of age. Thanks to The Golden Age for this information."
How He Lost His Mother "OH YES!" said Harry E. Childs, of Michigan, "we did have a fine set of aluminum cooking dishes. But never again; we dumped them all overboard. I will acknowledge that it hurt somewhat to see all that invested capital on the ash heap, and to have to start all over again. I have advertised aluminum poisoning well and widely, and we have spoiled the sale of a lot of it. My mother died of cancer. We are quite sure it was aluminum that caused it."
Cabbage a la Gall Stones
A SUBSCRIBER, Mrs. Mary E. Lovette, writes: "Our health is 99 percent better since discarding our aluminum ware. I had a sore throat continually, also stomach, bowel and bladder trouble. Often had to resort to pain pills. I nearly died from eating cabbage cooked in an aluminum kettle. The doctor was called at one o'clock at night and pronounced it 'gall stones'. For one week I was terribly ill; then put on a strict diet. Having discarded all aluminum ware, also alum baking powders, I am no longer on a diet and am getting much better." Golden Age 1933 10/11 p.11
Golden Age 1937 Sep 8 p.773
Golden Age 1936 Jan 15 p.227
Golden Age 1936 Sep 23 p.803
Golden Age 1937 Sep 8 p.771
This had an unusual side benefit for Watchtower leaders. Many Witnesses were too scared to eat at restaurants being unsure if the food was cooked in aluminium, thus becoming further segregated from the World.
The Golden Age is held up as having a major role in the preaching work.
"The magazine The Golden Age was published to show people that the real solution to mankind's problems is Christ's Millennial Reign, which will truly usher in a golden age for humankind. .... From its beginning, this magazine has contributed mightily to the great witness that has been given since 1919. (Matt. 24:14)...Since its first issue back in 1919, the magazine successively known as The Golden Age, Consolation, and now Awake! has played a major role in the preaching work." Kingdom Ministry 2005 Mar p.1
Following are a sampling of golden nuggets from this journal. Some are highly amusing; others unfortunately were seriously dangerous to health and invasion on follower's personal lives.
"The bobbed hair craze is sure to lead to baldness, sooner or later. The reason for this is that human hair is like a tube sealed at the free end. When the hair is cut, the oils which are the life of the hair become dissipated. The reason why men grow bald so quickly is that they have their hair cut so frequently and, in addition, wear tightly fitting hats, which cut off the circulation of the scalp. The reason why women, hitherto, have had such beautiful hair is that they have not cut it; and the twisting and folding of the hair has helped to retain the natural oil." Many women have turned against the fashion of bobbing the hair, and are letting their hair grow again." Golden Age 1924 Nov 19 p.100
"There is no food that is right food for the morning meal. At breakfast is no time to break a fast. Keep up the daily fast until the noon hour... Drink plenty of water two hours after each meal; drink none just before eating; and a small quantity if any at meal time. Good buttermilk is a health drink at meal times and in between. Do not take a bath until two hours after eating a meal, nor closer than one hour before eating. Drink a full glass of water both before and after the bath." Golden Age 1925 Sep 9 pp.784-785
"If any overzealous doctor condemns your tonsils go and commit suicide with a case-knife. It's cheaper and less painful." Golden Age 1926 Apr 7 p.438
"Sleep on the right side or flat on your back, with the head toward the north so as to get benefit of the earth's magnetic currents. Avoid serum inoculations as they pollute the blood stream with their filthy pus.... Stop chewing gum, as you need the saliva for your food." Golden Age 1929 Nov 12 p.107
"Medicine originated in demonology and spent its time until the last century and a half trying to exorcise demons. During the past half century it has tried to exorcise germs." Golden Age 1931 Aug 5 p.728
"The earlier in the forenoon you take the sun bath, the greater will be the beneficial effect, because you get more of the ultra-violet rays, which are healing." Golden Age 1933 Sep 13 p.777
Golden Age 1936 Jan 15 p.227
Certain teachings have little effect on the lives of people. Whether those from Sodom and Gomorrah get a resurrection is not more than theological gymnastics. On the other hand, certain changes have had a dramatic effect on lives. Witnesses die refusing blood.
"In former times thousands of youths died for putting God first. They are still doing it, only today the drama is played out in hospitals and courtrooms, with blood transfusions the issue." Awake! 1994 May 22 p.2
The most difficult situation that a parent could ever face is to refuse a procedure that then leads to their child losing its life. Parents that give in and allow banned procedures for their children have been disfellowshipped. During one of the most stressful situations of their life the congregation is forced to remove support for that family. It may be justifiable if the refusal was to uphold God's law. However many of these deaths have been for refusing procedures that later were said to be acceptable to God. The deaths that have resulted are the ultimate sacrifice given for an Organization.
This should concern seekers of truth. When the Watchtower Society uses the Name of God to manipulate obedience to changing doctrines they become reprehensible, even blood guilty. What right does a religion have to dictate on life threatening situations when it has taken a variety of stances on the issues over the years?
Written August 2006, latest update April 2023.
Paul Grundy 2005 - 2024