Abstaining from Blood
Blood's major components (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma) targeted for collection must not be stored for reuse in the very component form in which they were taken. If the major components are destroyed (i.e., for example, if subcomponents are extracted, by some manmade procedure, from any of the major components), then many of us Jehovah's Witnesses reason that the subcomponents may be stored for some use.
Now, it is instructive for us to consider lymph, and the destiny of most of the lymphatic plasma, which is naturally taken from blood. Most of that plasma and white blood cells which get to be squeezed out of blood capillaries naturally—not "squeezed out" of lymph vessels—are destined to be returned naturally to blood veins. Therefore we must consider these components to be still a part of the organism's blood, that is to say, they still retain their major component identity as blood. Accordingly, those components we cannot Scripturally harvest and store for reuse in the very major component form in which they might be taken. Medical technicians can design and implement a system that also brings about an extra-blood-vessel circulation of some blood (e.g., blood that flows into a surgically opened wound; also, blood that flows through a dialysis machine) so that it may be made to continue on in a path of movement that results in an eventual reintroduction of the blood into blood veins. (We may say that the technicians have mimicked some soul's extra-blood-vessel circulation of blood so that the blood involved in that artificial circulation-path was never effectually removed from its being part of that soul's bloodstream.) This blood as blood is not stored for significantly later reintroduction into some bloodstream, and accordingly does not fall under God's command that any blood, which has been taken from some soul, not be reused. (The Mosaic Law commanded that a collection of blood from a sacrificial victim be taken, and that some of it be put on the horns of the altar and the rest be poured out at the base of the altar, these procedures being for atonement of sins.) In antiquity, the most readily available procedure for making certain that blood as blood not become targeted for forbidden use was procedure accomplished when the blood of an animal killed for food was poured out onto the ground.
An interesting observation arises here. It was noted above that "most" of the lymph gets to be reintroduced into blood veins. Even so that reintroduction, yet never did that lymph as lymph—which has become reintroduced into blood vessels—, become either effectually or naturally barred from returning to blood vessels. The implication, however, is that some lymph does get to be naturally (non-pathologically) removed from vessel-borne circulation; accordingly, it will not be (naturally) reintroduced into some soul's blood veins. If there is some major component of blood that has come to be naturally and permanently either extra-blood-vessel or extra-lymph-vessel blood—this so that it is naturally and permanently out of circulation though yet somewhere else in the soul—, then may those entities become either part of a homologous harvest or else part of an autologous harvest of entities suitable for their reintroduction into some soul's bloodstream? Consider the fact that some leukocytes are introduced apparently naturally, i.e., non-pathologically, to a mother's breast milk, and a breast-suckling infant will ingest them. If we can say that God did not care to invent a mechanism for prevention of some major component of blood (namely, a very few of a certain kind of leukocytes) from their becoming permanently removed from circulation so that they are also naturally present in some woman's breast milk, then what might we say about that, or about some other major components of blood (besides the leukocytes that appear in a mother's breast milk) that naturally and permanently exit the bloodstream? May we logically make the statement that God does not care if men invent some procedure for harvesting such major components of blood that are neither lymph-vessel borne nor blood-vessel borne, but are major components that have naturally and permanently exited the vessels in which they were borne along? Some may conscientiously argue against affirming such a statement on the following basis: 'God is not concerned with that blood which remains in a slaughtered and (properly) bled animal, this because such blood will be incidentally ingested. It is incidentally ingested because, following reasonable effort to drain the slaughtered animal of its blood, it is incidentally present in the slaughtered animal. (This draining of the blood onto the ground was a practical way for an ancient Israelite to deny anyone use of the blood as blood.) Blood in any of its major components, however, is hardly incidentally present for some further use as blood if it is being specially harvested with the thought that one should not specially disassemble major components of blood into their subcomponents.' On the other hand, though, neither can we say that certain ones of the leukocytes present in a mother's milk are incidentally present there, for apparently God purposed that a few leukocytes of a certain kind come to be found in a mother's breast milk for the benefit of the nursling. So, even though there are other leukocytes (besides those leukocytes that appear in a mother's breast milk) that naturally and permanently exit the blood stream, we are faced with the following question: if medical science should ever find a practical way for technicians to harvest any of them (while such components are neither lymph-vessel borne nor blood-vessel borne, but are components that have naturally and permanently exited circulation) in quantities sufficient for some medical therapy, then must that therapy be one that all of us Jehovah's Witnesses should reject? It does not appear to this author at this time that the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses need affirm that such a therapy would be in violation of God's law as respects blood.
N.B. We should take note of the following facts: "Circulating leukocytes do not stay in the blood for very long. Granulocytes circulate for 4 to 8 hours and then migrate into the tissues, where they live another 4 or 5 days. Monocytes travel in the blood for 10 to 20 hours, then migrate into the tissues and transform into a variety of macrophages. . . Macrophages can live as long as a few years." (See Kenneth S. Saladin, Anatomy and Physiology 2d ed (McGraw-Hill, 2001) 689. Now, whereas leukocytes that have naturally and permanently exited the bloodstream might be acceptably harvested for infusion therapy if ever such a technology becomes existent, it does not appear that the same thing may be said on moral grounds as respects lymphocytes. "Lymphocytes, responsible for long-term immunity, survive from a few weeks to decades; they leave the bloodstream for the tissues and eventually enter the lymphatic system, which empties them back into the bloodstream. Thus, they are continually recycled from blood to tissue fluid to lymph and finally back to the blood." (ibid., 689) So, even though lymphocytes may naturally become present in extra-circulatory places in the organism, yet they are not destined to remain permanently (for their lifetime) in those places and out of vessel-borne circulation; accordingly, must we not reason that they do not lose their blood-ness? So it seems to this author.
IDENTIFYING THAT WHICH HAS "BLOOD-NESS," AND THAT WHICH DOES NOT
The individuating entities that identify our blood in contradistinction to other biotic entities are: non-nucleated erythrocytes [red blood cells], leukocytes [white blood cells], thrombocytes [platelets, thought to be fragments of giant bone marrow cells, the megakarocytes], and plasma. So, if the Bible prohibits certain human actions involving the use of blood as blood, then the individuating entities (the four major components) in circulation are logically (not indistinguishably) included: they cannot be excluded. Why not? Gray's Anatomy, page 727 under "Blood," states:
"Blood consists of a fluid medium called the plasma in which are suspended minute structures called the formed elements of the blood. The formed elements include (1) the red blood corpuscles (RBC), (2) the white blood cells (WBC), and (3) the platelets."
Each one of the four major components of blood has "blood-ness," that is to say, each one has identification as one of the individuating elements that identify blood as blood in contradistinction to other biotic elements.
There are entities found in the circulatory system that are found outside of it as well, and thus do not have an identity and function that occur only when present within an animal's circulatory system. Such entities include: water, carbohydrates, hormones, hemoglobins, some globulins, albumins, fibrinogen, nucleated erythrocytes, and some few leukocytes. (The leukocytes here are those that have non-pathologically exited a mother's blood stream so that they are those leukocytes present in her breast milk and are of a nature that will benefit her nursling. We say "non-pathologically" because their occurrence in a mother's milk is apparently in accordance with a God-ordained biology whereby some few will naturally and permanently exit the mother's circulatory system.) Do the Biblical proscriptions regarding blood extend to these? Do they per se and necessarily fit the definition of "blood-ness" any longer? It does not seem so to this author at this time. What, though, of plasma?
Whole plasma itself is one of the major components of blood. Its essential subcomponents have their origins in places outside the bloodstream, but when once they are all together in the blood vessels, then they comprise whole plasma, and (vertebrate serum) plasma as such is proper only to a bloodstream. Plasma performs—and contributes to the performance of—a host of blood-based, vital functions in living souls.
We should also note that God allows ingestion of certain formed elements that were destined for circulation in a bloodstream but had never actually become part of a bloodstream by the time they were ingested. These are the nucleated erythrocytes, also certain reticulocytes (erythrocytes having become enucleated just prior to their exiting bone marrow for entry into the bloodstream), and leukocytes present in lymphoid tissues we call bone marrow. And Israelites could eat a bone's marrow. This is important because we know that hemoglobin was consumed when marrow was consumed, and hemoglobin has a nutrient in it (namely, iron). God was not opposed to the eating of that hemoglobin because, at the time of its consumption, it was not hemoglobin that was composing a major component of blood (namely, enucleated erythrocytes that had become part of a circulatory system). If one was consuming hemoglobin at a time when it had not become isolated from other subcomponents but was yet present within enucleated RBCs (a major component of non-avian, vertebrate blood), then he ought not to have consumed it at that time. But if one were even targeting for some kind of consumption (whether by mouth or by intravenous infusion) bone marrow-residing erythrocytes—namely, those erythrocytes that had never yet entered a bloodstream—, then it does not seem to me that Jehovah's Witnesses must find that use (consumption) to be objectionable, and that because none of those erythrocytes would have entered the bloodstream. Accordingly, then, those erythrocytes lack "blood-ness": they cannot be drained out onto the ground as can be done with blood in any of its four major components while present in an organism's blood vessels.
Interestingly, medical science has found a way to make use of hemoglobin by first compromising the integrity—that is to say, by first ruining the well-formed structure—of the red blood cells that contain it. That hemoglobin, too, will not be objectionable to all of Jehovah's Witnesses. Why not? Because even though it forms the basis for a form of infusion therapy that incorporates (modified) hemoglobin, that hemoglobin—whether whole or in part—is not being indiscriminately consumed along with all other subcomponents comprising RBCs. The subcomponent hemoglobin had been given its own space apart from the other subcomponents of RBCs: the RBCs, then, were not specifically targeted for use as RBCs.
Similarly, there are subcomponents of plasma that—as is also true of nucleated erythrocytes and per force true also of their hemoglobin molecules—have their origin apart from any chemistry taking place within circulating blood (plasma). Plasma's proteins (the alpha and beta globulins, albumin, and fibrinogen) originate in the liver, and when an animal's liver is eaten, then those proteins are eaten. However, at the time of their being eaten, they had yet to become the sine qua non for that constitution and manner of function that define plasma. If there were a plasma that could be found in the body either (1) before such might begin to circulate in an organism's circulatory vessels (whereby real plasma also has the function of a fluid vehicle, and, as such, is destined normatively to remain in circulation so that it eventually returns to the heart via blood veins), or (2) after it had naturally and permanently exited the soul's circulatory system so that it might be found in extra-circulatory places in the body, then were it such a plasma that, respectively, (a) had yet to acquire blood-ness, or (b) had lost its blood-ness. And then might we view such a component the same as we view those erythrocytes that constitutively inform bone marrow—this regardless of whether these be nucleated or enucleated erythrocytes, for they may be eaten while present in marrow—, and the same as we view those leukocytes in a mother's breast milk. But if a unit of plasma becomes ruined through dissolution into its subcomponents for purpose of removal of the subcomponents from that unit of plasma, then the removed subcomponents no longer define anything that must be called blood. They may be used by men, just as we can use hemoglobin both before it is found in a RBC that was released into circulation, and after its role as such, that is to say, after it is no longer present along with all the other subcomponents that had comprised RBCs that were in circulation, even be they those RBCs specially harvested for the express purpose that they undergo dissolution for the removal/isolation of the subcomponent hemoglobin.
Moreover, even if molecular biologists should ever manufacture in a laboratory entities indistinguishable from the well-formed elements and plasma that have their existence and function primarily while they are present in an organism's circulatory system, then there does not appear to this author any basis for their rejection as part of some medical therapy. My thought here is as follows: because in the (unlikely, if not impossible) event of men's specially bringing into existence certain entities (namely, entities structurally and functionally indistinguishable from natural blood's major components), then, so long as those artificial entities have yet to form a part of any bloodstream, they are not blood; they do not have "blood-ness." Such manmade entities we need not consider to be blood until such time as they are infused and become indistinguishable from their natural (non-manmade), major component counterpart.
ON BLOOD FRACTIONS
Now, because all matter—and, naturally, that includes blood, too—consists of neutrons, electrons and protons, then is one violating the Bible's proscription of eating blood just because he is eating a certain biscuit that happens to have in it some neutrons, protons, and electrons that formerly were in the composition of some blood? No, because there is not in that biscuit the particular arrangement of those neutrons, electrons and protons that formerly existed for them when they produced the major components of blood. Water molecules lack a structure that gives them a function that exists primarily while they are present in some organism's circulatory system. In isolation, then, they cannot be called blood, that is to say, they have no intrinsic blood-ness about them. That, of course, is clear on its face. The fatty globules in blood lack a structure that gives them a function that exists primarily while they are present in some organism's circulatory system. In isolation, then, they, too, cannot be called blood, that is to say, they have no intrinsic blood-ness about them. And so on. This is not, however, true as respects red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Thus, if the components named above—the blood cells, platelets, and the plasma—are unnaturally removed from a creature (i.e., are not removed according to God-ordained biology for a creature's bloodstream), and they are then taken to one's self (for him to make some use of any or all of the major components in a manner that makes no distinction as to the subcomponents of any or all of the major components), then the one taking to himself those components has sinned against Jehovah. Even if the blood (serum) be coagulated at the time that a man takes it to himself, which is the case for blood that was not drained in a timely manner from an animal at the time of its being killed—, then the man doing any of those things has defiled his conscience, and is liable to Jehovah's judgment. He did not keep himself from (illicit use of) blood (Acts 15:28, 29).
It is not correct to say 'If there is some logic'—because there is, as we have just seen—'by which we can say that each of the major components of blood have blood-ness (identity as blood), then we are bound by that logic to recognize the identity of blood in the minor fractions, too, which comprise the plasma and the well-formed elements of blood.' The issue of this identity under consideration is not joined over the question 'Is some entity—irrespective its structure and functions that it may have—nevertheless somewhere present in a unit of whole blood? And merely by such presence in blood, does it thereby qualify for the label "blood" as much as any other beneficial entity present in blood?' No, but the issue rather revolves around the following question: Does a certain entity in blood have a structure or composition such that it is suitable only for an entity that is meant to have its existence and function primarily while it is present in an organism's blood vessels? For any entity in blood that gets the "Yes" answer to the question just raised, we say that it is a major component in blood and itself has "blood-ness"; it has the identification of blood. Water and the hemoglobin do not of themselves have blood-ness. Neither of their structures is such that the structure or composition is suitable only as an entity that is meant to have an existence and function only while it is present in an organism's blood vessels. RBCs, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma have blood-ness because they respectively perform a function that could not be theirs unless they had come to be in a bloodstream.
A certain steering wheel may have been made so that it easily fulfills a necessary function, namely, steerage for a functional automobile (car). Does that mean that all steering wheels that have ever been in existence existed only for the existence of well-functioning cars? No. Consider that even when we have identified a certain steering wheel as that which has come from a car and was necessary to that car's being in existence (at one time) as a well-functioning car, still we have not identified a component having a structure that is only for the existence of well-functioning cars. Consider the following as empirical proof: the 5-AT Trimotor airplane (a model of transport planes built decades ago by the Ford Motor Company) had a control column with an aileron-controlling, wooden-spoke steering wheel attached to its top. That steering wheel was of the same design that Henry Ford had been using for the steering wheels in his Model T Ford cars.
Functionally, a part or fraction of a major component of blood (e.g., an erythrocyte's hemoglobin, and the plasma protein albumin) is no more blood than is a piece of iron a car merely because it came from a car. A certain metal structure need not of itself possess identification as a car. (True, at some point, as we add, per design, more to that metal structure (chassis), we can see that it has become integrally involved in an automobile's having come into existence: it has become integrally involved in a certain entity's coming into existence, an entity which has ability to function, throughout its construction, for an identification we know to be true of certain kinds of automobiles.)
Indeed, every compound structure in the Universe is subject to losing enough of its parts so that, in the event, it has lost its identity as the distinguishable entity it was prior to its decomposition. Therefore, let us consider now a parallel as respects blood. A glutamic acid from a blood cell is not blood. The blood cell is. It is not glutamic acid per se that is necessarily forbidden a man's use. Even so, though, we must infer from the Scriptures that blood, in any of its four major (typable and identity-giving) components present in an organism's circulatory system, is forbidden to a man. He may not use any of blood's major components in their major component form when once he might cause removal of them from a soul's circulatory system.
ON NOT TAKING TO YOURSELF ILLICIT BLOOD
We must stay away from use of blood as blood. A failure to stay away from illicit blood may occur when a man makes some use of blood as blood, this because he did not destroy it in a way that results in the removal/isolation of (some) subcomponent(s)—but, as is true for some cases of blood abuse, stored it—when he removed blood from some soul's circulatory system in order that he might make some use of the blood as blood.
One's eating an animal soul that was not properly bled means that he has taken to himself blood that belongs to God. (See below for Scriptural support of this position in the quotation of Genesis 9:4, 5 NW.)
One's violation of God's law by his swallowing blood for sustenance is not the only way that he can pollute himself with another soul's blood. A murderer appears to God as one who has placed upon himself the blood of his victim(s). For example, we read at Judges 9:23, 24 the following: "God . . . put their blood upon Abimelech their brother because he killed them." God will have back that blood, for it belongs to him: "Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat. And besides that [matter of one's taking to himself an animal's blood by his eating it-so that he must accordingly answer to me (God) for it—], your blood of your souls shall I ask back [,too]. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul [(the blood)] of [a] man" (Genesis 9:4, 5 NW).
What is the principle underlying God's juxtaposing (1) a prohibition against eating blood, on the one hand, and (2) His asking back human blood, on the other hand? The principle is sanctity of blood. Blood is a sacred fluid that stands in God's eyes not as merely a part (organ) of the creature (soul) like any other of its parts, but rather stands in God's eyes as a part especially appropriate for legally representing that soul's—that life's—ownership by God. The use of blood in connection with the Day of Atonement offerings illustrates this principle very well. The life value of the one (the sacrificial victim) was legally transferred to another as represented by the (clean) animal victim's blood.
Yet another way by which some man—a God-appointed preacher—can pollute himself with the blood of another is by his failure to do the loving thing for his wicked neighbor through warning him that he should repent his wickedness. God will have back from the derelict preacher the blood of that wicked man whom God had to kill for his being unrepentant of his wicked ways, for God declares: ". . . his blood I shall ask back from your own hand" (Ezekiel 3:18 ). Yes, God will have back blood taken from a soul. It belongs to him.
Blood transfusion is yet another means whereby many men have violated God's rights as respects blood (namely, His right to say that a human ought not to take to himself some other creature's blood). Is a violation of God's rights as respects blood a weighty matter in His sight? Acts 15:28, 29 answers Yes!
Christians must decline blood transfusion because it is but another way whereby one takes to himself another creature's blood. Blood transfusion is actually a way for taking into one's circulatory system some blood that ought not to have been kept back from God. (Compare Leviticus 17:13.) Appreciating God's mind on the matter, Christians do not store up blood for it to be used again as blood; consequently, they do not subject themselves to therapies that involve transfused introduction of more blood for it to become part of the blood stream. We cannot agree with any ideas that mean another way of taking to ourselves forbidden blood. It is of no moment to us Christians that physicians say, "Blood transfusion has proved itself a therapy necessary for preventing death in many of our patients." We hold that we ought never to put aside any of God's laws for us on the basis of argument that obedience to them may result in physical harm to us. (Compare Daniel 3:17, 18; 6:4-10; Hebrews 11:35; Revelation 12:11.) Also, the Scriptural account of the men who went to eating the unbled flesh of cattle they had just slaughtered—this eating took place after Saul had misguidedly decreed that his soldiers should not break off pursuit and destruction of the enemy, in order to eat, until first evening had fallen—is of interest here. Their critical need for food—their critical need for energy to chase down all the enemy for a decisive slaughter of them (1 Samuel 14:22, 23, 30, 31)—put the Israelite army in a critical situation (1 Samuel 14:24, 28), one in which some—perhaps very many—soldiers may have felt that they were justified in their decision not to wait until the animals, which they had gone to slaughtering, could be sufficiently bled in a place properly prepared for the bleedings of a large number of animals being slaughtered (1 Samuel 14:32, 33). The battlefield emergency did not excuse those soldiers for their too hurriedly making preparations for eating the slaughtered animals, for many soldiers, in their haste, did not sufficiently bleed the animals. A stop was put to this sinning against Jehovah because all the soldiers wanting yet to slaughter some animals for food obeyed the remedial directive (1 Samuel 14:34). In this way the Israelite army showed repentance. All the soldiers concluded, on the basis of what they were able to know at the time, the following thing: the army was in need of eating food so that, after the eating, it might then—after a little while—have sufficient strength to resume King Saul's plan for battle against the enemy, this for a decisive end to the enemy's threat (1 Samuel 14:36). They were taught that even an emergency could offer no excuse for one's not being careful enough to avoid taking to himself another soul's blood.
Always the blood of any soul ought to be handled by us servants of God in such a manner that we do not become guilty of having taken to ourselves a soul's blood, whether human or animal. We must not desire taking (some of) any soul's blood for the purpose of putting, in some fashion, blood as blood into use. This means, for example, that we do not target for some use a major component of blood (a component not disassembled into its subcomponents). Here disassembly means that some subcomponent comes to have an assigned space apart from the other subcomponents.
Some who are opposed to the stand of us Jehovah's Witnesses make the bald assertion that it was only the blood of slaughtered animals that concerned God. The logic of Leviticus 17:10ff refutes their position. True, the context in which there occurred the pouring out of blood of an animal slaughtered for food was naturally assumed to be the context in which most Israelites would find themselves when faced with the decision as to what they would do with a soul's blood. (It is a matter of remark among even those who are not Jehovah's Witnesses concerning a certain custom among an African people. African Masai tribesmen have accustomed themselves to their drinking blood from the non-lethal puncture wound they give a live cow.) Still, God requires that His servants not take to themselves "the blood of any sort of flesh." The logic in the wording of that requirement covers unusual and extreme cases in which one might be tempted to remove only the blood of some living soul. In Leviticus 17:10, 14 (Young's Literal Translation of the Bible) we read that God is against the consumption of "any blood" (v. 10) that comes from "any flesh," (v. 14) and not just the blood of animals whose flesh was considered to be dietarily "clean" flesh. So, in ancient Israel, might an Israelite, who might have found himself especially in need of fluid intake, have reasoned that he might puncture his dietarily unclean camel in order to take only some of its blood—not its flesh—for his emergency circumstance? The logic in the wording for the pertinent verses in Leviticus 17th chapter would certainly cover unusual and extreme circumstances in which some Israelites might have found themselves. They would have had no basis for reasoning that they might set aside God's rights as respects "the blood of any sort of flesh" (Leviticus 17:14 NW).
WHY PLASMA HAS DIFFERENT MORAL SIGNIFICANCE THAN DOES BONE MARROW
We Jehovah's Witnesses refuse plasma-infusion therapy because we recognize that plasma has blood-ness—it has identification as a major and necessary component of blood—; however, we need not refuse bone marrow transplantation. Why do we distinguish between plasma and bone marrow when it comes to their uses in medical therapies?
True, plasma is not a well-formed element as is true for a blood component that has a plasma membrane, definite shape, and visible structure; still, plasma is listed as one of blood's four major components. (And in this essay, the author refers to plasma, too, as an entity, although it is not a well-formed entity as is true of cells.) Plasma is what remains when whole blood has its well-formed elements removed, and the fluid (plasma) that remains presents itself as a straw-colored fluid. As for plasma's proteins, we should be interested here in those proteins that normatively and necessarily inform plasma from the time that an organism became a living soul with its own blood supply. Interestingly, not until a baby is between two to eight months old does it begin to have in its plasma those antibodies that we identify as agglutinins because of the reaction they can produce after having come in contact with certain antigens—the antigens here under consideration being just those agglutinogens present on surfaces of RBCs that are not proper to a subject's own blood stream.
Now, some of our detractors (wrongfully) argue that the plasma protein albumin would qualify for identification as blood based upon our definition of what blood is. Is albumin a molecule unique to blood chemistry? Albumin has been defined as any protein that is soluble in water and moderately concentrated salt solutions, being also coagulable by heat. It is found not only as the major constituent in blood plasma, but is also found in plants (e.g., in plant lutein), seeds (e.g., sunflower seeds), milk, and is 70% of egg white. True, there are differences in the albumin molecule according to the different species of life having them, but they all share the same chemical formula ("The albumins contain in all cases the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur and oxygen; their composition, however, varies within certain limits: C = 50-55 %, H=6-9-7-3%,N=iS-i9%,S=o-3-2-4%,0 = i9-24%, ±£ crystallized albumin is C = 5i-48 %, H=6-76 %, N= actors. 18-14%, 8=0-96%, 0=22-66%, which points to the formula C72oHn34N2i8S5O248, corresponding to the molecular weight 16,954"), and apparently maintain a basic similarity in structure regardless of the species' albumin molecules under consideration. Of course, I am not arguing that (vertebrate serum) albumin is without unique functions: it carries many biological molecules (e.g., fatty acids, bilirubin) as well as pharmaceutical molecules, and plays the major role in blood pH maintenance. It is also responsible for 80% of a human's osmotic blood pressure, which is pressure created in the blood vessels through the plasma proteins' ability to attract water into the vessels. But even though God has made species-specific amino acid sequences for the albumin molecule, along with his having caused some other differences in the molecule, he still has made basically the same molecular structure to function for the existence of a great variety of species, including some plant species. So, the following statement is not true: "Albumin is unique to blood chemistry and only thereby is it indispensable for the existence of only those species of animal life having blood vessels." On the other hand, though, (vertebrate serum) plasma is unique to blood chemistry, and we can say it has 'blood-ness.' Insect haemolymph lacks many of the components crucial to the formation of vertebrate plasma; however, of interest here is the fact that insect haemolymphic plasma does contain fibrinogen, which is one of the three major types of proteins found in vertebrates' serum plasma, the other two being the albumins and globulins (alpha and beta).
Now let us consider bone marrow. Bone marrow as a lymphoid organ may be considered apart from any circulatory vessels present in it, and that is also to say that if an animal is properly bled, it is then immaterial to the one harvesting bone marrow for food as respects what percentage of the total mass taken (when bone-marrow food is being harvested) is comprised of blood's major components that may yet be incidentally present in circulatory vessels within the bone marrow of a slaughtered and properly bled animal. The harvester of that marrow is not especially targeting any components that had been in the animal's circulatory system when harvesting the bone marrow (the soft, sponge-like tissue at the center of most large bones) for food, but the same cannot be said for the end-product differentiations of stem cells present in the bone marrow before they are released into the bloodstream as white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. There is no such thing as draining them from bone marrow, nor is it desired so by those who want to eat bone marrow. Our detractors should exercise care that in their taking us to task about bone marrow, they do not ignore all the above so that their remonstrance is a non sequitur, given the logical point of departure we can make as respects bone marrow.
Let us consider a hypothetical scenario, namely, one's harvesting a collection of bone marrow to fill a 20-gallon tank. Its red, fluid-dripping appearance—this especially so if the harvested marrow is measured in gallons—has not necessarily anything to do either with what it is or how one must dispose of it. And because Israelites could eat bone marrow, then we must suppose that permission to eat it, as given in the Scriptures, hinged neither on the amount of it having been collected into one place (container), nor its consequent appearance. So, if the end-product differentiations of stem cells constitutive of bone marrow (prior to their release into the bloodstream) could be cloned or harvested in quantities sufficient for an infusion therapy, then it appears that one need not have objection to that infusion therapy.
ON NOT TAKING BLOOD TO OURSELVES
Some who take issue with us Jehovah's Witnesses as respects our stand on blood say that it is only blood of a dead animal that is of concern to God, this so that if, for example, one slaughters an animal for its meat, then its blood must be poured out. If disposal of blood was required only when an animal was slaughtered (for food), then were Israelites permitted to take blood from a living cow and drink it? (Masai tribesmen in Africa sometimes drink blood they take from a live cow. The reader will see below more in connection with this remarkable practice among the Masai people.)
Leviticus 17:10-12 gives us to understand that God's thinking is that blood never be targeted for consumption. Indeed, then, Leviticus 17:10-12 logically covers (outlaws) those cases when, for example, one is taking blood from a living animal through a cut or puncture wound in order that the escaping blood might fill a cup or bowl from which he can drink the blood. Moreover, Leviticus 17:10-12 stated the only permissible use ever of blood (blood as blood); that use featured in accordance with Mosaic Law as a means for atonement from sins, which was accomplished in certain sacrifices when an Aaronic priest put some of the blood of the victims upon the altar, and would pour out beside the altar the rest that had been collected.
We should take note that in the pre-Flood world God permitted His servants to kill an animal in order that its hide might serve for one of the necessities of life, namely, clothing; however, such slaughter of animals as God permitted in the pre-Flood world did not then involve God's servants in taking flesh for food. Because God's faithful servants in the pre-Flood world were never in a scenario where they had necessarily to make a decision as respects what they would do about the slaughtered animal's blood in its blood vessels (which is a decision that God's servants in the post-Flood world must make, for example, when they go after an animal's flesh for food), then God's servants (in the pre-Flood world) did not receive commandment from God that they be sure to pour out upon the ground a slaughtered animal's blood.
Again, blood is clearly shown in the Scriptures to be a sacred fluid in God's sight, and we must respect God's rights in the matter by our not targeting for use any blood as blood. Men are to "keep themselves . . . from [illicit use of] blood" (Acts 21:25), which is not done when one takes to himself another soul's blood or when he stores away any blood for some later use as blood. After blood has been removed from a soul's circulatory system, it ought not to be put to use for its blood-ness. In antiquity, this prohibition against use of blood was certainly respected whenever men would pour blood out onto the ground.
In the Scriptures, we find that God required that His servants, who come into contact with blood when slaughtering an animal for food, responsibly act in a way that ensured that they would not make use of the blood as blood. They drained the blood, but they did so neither for purpose that they might then drink the blood nor for purpose that they might store it away for some later use, this no matter the state into which any or all of the blood's major components might come. God's servants make sure that they act reasonably and responsibly not only in their timely removing blood from the blood vessels of an animal they slaughter for food, but also that they act responsibly in their not taking to themselves for consumption the blood they take from the animal's circulatory vessels. In ancient Israel, God's servants who hunted game saw to it that the soil should soak up the blood they were taking from a slaughtered animal (compare Leviticus 17:13—"As for any man of the sons of Israel or some [proselytized] alien resident who is residing as an alien in your midst who in hunting catches a wild beast or a fowl that may be eaten, he must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust").
WHY WE CAN MAKE REFERENCE TO MOSAIC LAW
Some argue against us Jehovah's Witnesses' pointing to passages in the Law of Moses when discussing the blood transfusion issue. Our detractors say that this means that we are placing ourselves under the Law of Moses. That is untrue. Consider what follows for a defense of our use of passages from the Law of Moses.
There were many moral precepts in the Law of Moses that non-Jews abided by, but not because the precepts were in the Law of Moses. No, but it was because of something that Paul brings to our attention in Romans 2:14, 15. And what was that? Paul pointed out that many of the Law's moral precepts ("the things of the law"—Rom 2:14) are kept by non-Jews not out of deference to the Law of Moses, but rather because many non-Jews "do by nature the things of the law" (verse 14 again); they have by nature a knowledge within them—a conscience in them to the effect that theft, adultery, murder, incest, homosexuality, and lying are wrong. But one cannot know by nature all the fundamental ethical norms that Jehovah insists that those who truly would fear Him should observe. What were some of these? Well, many non-Jews who had paid attention to the religion of the Jews would know what they were. Those non-Jews would know that certain moral and spiritual precepts were kept by the Jews because they claimed to respect God's thinking as revealed to them in the writings of Moses, "for from ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the [Jews'] synagogues on every Sabbath" (Acts 15:21). Those non-Jews would know, for example, that devout Jews kept themselves not only from adultery and homosexuality, but that they avoided also (1) pre-marital sexual relations ("fornication"), (2) things polluted by idols, and (3) the eating of blood—and that they kept themselves from such things out of a desire to honor their God, Jehovah, Whom the Jews preached as the One Who had really revealed His thinking on such matters through the hand of Moses.
Neither Jews nor non-Jews could by nature readily appreciate the prohibitions numbered above as "(1)," "(2)," and "(3)." Therefore, the following questions might naturally have arisen in the mind of a non-Jew showing interest in Christianity: "Since non-Jewish Christians say they are not under the Law of Moses and accordingly do not submit to the circumcision commandment in the Law of Moses, does this mean that it is now all right for unmarried persons among them to have sexual relations between themselves? Is it all right for them to eat blood—or must they show as much revulsion for the eating of blood as do devout Jews who hold to the Law of Moses? Must they show honor only to the God of the Scriptures, this so that Christians show no honor to other peoples' gods?"
No, conscience alone could not readily show them how to answer such questions, but the apostolic decree would leave no room for confusion in the minds of non-Jews who were turning to Christ. And what were the answers to their questions? The apostolic decree made it clear that the prohibitions reviewed above were binding on those who would really honor the God of the Holy Scriptures, Jehovah. And they were binding—they were "necessary things" for one's salvation (Acts 15:28 )—not because the Law of Moses had them codified therein, but because they are really fundamental ethical norms, which are grounded in eternal principles. These fundamental ethical norms are things that God wants all His servants to obey. Never could there have been a time in mankind's history during which Jehovah might have approved men's violation of any of the fundamental ethical norms, this regardless of whether they be things known naturally, or else they be knowable after He (Jehovah) had expressed Himself as respects His will relevant certain moral and spiritual matters.
Now, what we do with the Law of Moses respecting blood is similar to what we do with the Law as respects our determining whether or not God can approve the deliberate termination of a child's life in a woman's womb. No, the Law of Moses does not expressly outlaw elective abortions, but there is something in the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:22-25) that lets us know what God's will is as respects the matter of abortion. When we refer to Exodus 21:22-25, are we putting ourselves under the Law of Moses? Hardly!
QUESTIONS THAT PROBE THE LOGIC OF OUR POSITION
Is eating human flesh explicitly and categorically condemned in the Scriptures?
"Human cannibalism" is a phrase usually used within the context that attaches moral stigma to the eater of another human. That is because human flesh is but rarely a flesh that is casually eaten outside contexts of pagan ritual and emergency. (But then we have a character in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes who was casually eaten by at least one customer who was ignorant of what was in the BBQ served him.) In pagan ritual involving cannibalism, it usually follows the murder of the victim, and then he is eaten. I do not think such cannibals are concerned with properly bleeding their unwilling victim. Even if there was emergency need of sustenance—and if cannibalism then occurred—, still nothing is excused if the victim's death was murder because someone had deliberately hastened the death of the victim. But even if the victim dies after having lingered a while after the accident—and dies apart from murder—will there be present another human standing by and ready to slit the throat and bleed the human victim (upon a determination of victim's biological death yet well before coagulation of the victim's blood)? Physicians are capable of determining when irreversible death of a victim has occurred, this so that organs may be harvested well before coagulation of the blood sets in. But if human X's testimony is that he hurried himself over the craggy precipices and strewn wreckage of his downed aircraft, in which he and victim were passengers, in order to get at decapitated human victim Y (who was seconds earlier decapitated in the crash) so that he (X) might bleed and butcher Y for his flesh before coagulation of Y's blood, then we might have at least some reason for initial pause before we believe all of X's version of the scenario he related, for how did X know that there was going to develop a life-threatening emergency for sustenance facing him, an emergency he foresaw as certain to occur if he did not act to avert it by his butchering Y then and there before coagulation of Y's blood?
Maybe one is legally safe to bleed Y after determination has been made of Y's irreversible (biological) death—and this determination occur before coagulation of Y's blood—and if witnesses survive to corroborate what happened. And if the victim, previous to his death, had expressed before other, fellow victims (of the tragedy they had all suffered in an extremely remote area so that they all had come into very desperate need of sustenance) his desire that the others might make beneficial use of his body, which would be immediately bled following his death from injuries sustained in the accident—, then such circumstances might, in some Christians' consciences, allow that the deceased victim be cannibalized for emergency sustenance. This author at this time does not see where moral or spiritual error in eating some human victim's organs must necessarily attach the eater(s) in absolutely every instance where the victim dies apart from murder, and then, in a timely manner, his warm body is bled and butchered—especially if the victim had survived long enough to grant permission that his body become so donated after his demise. In accordance with such a scenario, the eaters need not immorally involve themselves with that connective tissue we call blood so long as it was bled from the dead victim's vessels. And in that case—under circumstances given above—it does not occur to this author that God would see any moral error in what the eaters did. Where is there necessarily any moral difference in what befalls an organ-donor victim's organs if (1) they are taken immediately after some accident, which caused biological death for the organ-donor victim, so that the organs are kept refrigerated at least for a while in (desperate?) hope of a later—yet still timely—transplantation of them into patients needing them, or (2) they are taken following an accident (of a sort as described above) and eaten—so long as the dying victim had given permission that he be bled and eaten by other victims in dire need of sustenance?
The plain fact of the matter is the rarity, outside the context of organ transplantation, where some human might find himself in an emergency situation so that he resorts to eating the organs of a dead, human victim of some untimely tragedy, and yet the eater do so in a manner that not only may carry the sympathy of a wider society of civilized people, but, far more importantly, does meet God's requirement that unbled flesh not be eaten. This author does not know of a case where a tragedy's survivors, who cannibalized victims killed in the accident, got the sympathy (lack of condemnation) from a wider society of humans, but also did not fail to meet God's requirement that unbled flesh not be eaten. The survivors of that plane crash in the Andes Mountains cannibalized the dead victims, and though they were not prosecuted, yet we cannot say that they were free from bloodguilt in God's sight, this because they ate unbled flesh.
Now, in organ transplantation, the blood vessels connected to the organ are severed and the amount of residual blood left in the organ's tissues is an amount incidentally present. One way of bleeding a just-deceased, multiple organ donor so that several of the donor's internal organs can be removed in a timely manner following death of the donor is for a team of surgeons to open up the just-deceased donor from abdomen to neck in order that they might begin snipping the vessels. This should leave a hollowed-out corpse filled with blood if it were not being suctioned off for disposal. But blood that exits the organs, at time of their removal from the deceased donor, ought never to be taken for use as blood.
Suppose there were in the Law of Moses something that expressly and categorically condemns consuming/using human flesh. Suppose, moreover, that there were an admonition in the Christian Greek Scriptures that said to abstain from human flesh. Would organ transplants be forbidden?
Yes, given the imaginary circumstance the questioner has proposed, they would have been forbidden to pre-Christian era Israelites living under the Law of Moses, and if the spirit-inspired, apostolic decree had expressly outlawed any consumption/use of human flesh, then even though the Mosaic Law had been abolished by God, Christians would have still abstained from consuming human flesh.
Suppose the Law of Moses had expressly outlawed the eating of human flesh in addition to an outlawing of that which we do have (namely, the Law's outlawing the consumption of the blood of any flesh). Then in an emergency situation facing two ancient Israelite victims of some sort of tragedy in a wilderness area where both are in critical need of sustenance—but where one of the victims has already become moribund—, then the victim not as near death should have to reason with himself in the following way: 'Here I am likely to die from lack of nourishment. I know I can't drink blood of any sort of flesh, but the Law expressly forbids the consumption of human flesh with no thought that it can be bled, and this even though murder, as in the case at hand, will not be involved in the imminent death of my companion, who was more severely hurt than I. So, not only will I not be able to use my friend's blood, but also I cannot morally use his flesh for increasing my strength and improving my chances for surviving until someone with a camel might chance by this gorge.'
Now let us indulge in a bit of popcorn metaphysics. Suppose the same thing about an imaginary version of the Law of Moses again, namely, a Law of Moses that had outlawed not only the consumption of the blood of any sort of flesh, but had also expressly outlawed consumption of human flesh. Now, imagine there were an ancient, pre-Christian era Israelite—let us call him Simon—living under that Law of Moses, but he suddenly finds himself whisked away to a time future to him—in fact, whisked away to our time. Not only that, but he finds himself present in a hospital in a room where surgeons are removing the heart from someone, but he also sees a surgeon lifting up another heart from a tray and putting it into the chest of the patient. He is told later, of course, that what he saw was a heart transplant being performed.
How should Simon answer? In keeping with this imaginary version of the Law of Moses we are using for our illustration,
Simon should have to reason that the surgeon's logic is flawed. God is not so petty that He would see a moral difference
between (1) one's tying a human organ into place inside a man—even if it does continue to work to keep the recipient
alive—, on the one hand, and (2) a tragedy victims' [sic] eating a bled organ from a donor who had given consent
for the procedure before he died, this for the victims' survival. And that would have to be the logic in such a
Law of Moses even if, in the above two cases of where human flesh had been taken, the blood prohibition had not
been violated, and even if, in both cases, the life in persons in desperate need of the flesh was being promoted,
and, of course, even if murder was no part of either scenario, and the donor facing death had given his consent.
Added: March 21, 2007. Copyright © 1997 by Jehovah's Witnesses—Setting the Record Straight. All rights reserved. This web site is not affiliated with or sanctioned by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. However, every effort has been made to adhere to the current views published by the "faithful and discreet slave" (Matthew 24:45; Luke 12:42) through the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The "Official Web Site of Jehovah's Witnesses" can be found at http://www.jw.org, and should be recognized as the authoritative source about the beliefs, teachings, and activities of Jehovah's Witnesses.