Church lets faithful opt for PolyHeme

Blood substitute’s use an individual’s choice
San Bernardino County Sun, Mar. 8, 2003
By ANNETTE WELLS, Staff Writer

Webster’s defines faith as a belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion.

The rules of the Watch Tower which guides Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid members to consume their own or others’ blood.

This religious conviction, based on three passages from the Bible, applies to whole blood, packed red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets, said L.C. Cotton, associate director of Jehovah’s Witnesses hospital information services.

“We feel that the Bible clearly indicates that blood is sacred and it is not to be used for human consumption,’ he said. “Though it doesn’t discuss it in medical terms, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that would preclude the acceptance of it in a blood transfusion.’

Violation could lead to loss of eternal life, the Watch Tower suggests.

“We’re not anti-life,’ said Jose Urbina of Pasadena, whose father, a Rialto resident also named Jose, and other family members have undergone surgery without the use of blood.

“As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we love life, the former San Bernardino resident said. “But the issue of blood is a major thing that we have to adhere to.’

The younger Urbina continued, “We don’t want to violate Jehovah.’

However, in January, Urbina’s father became one of two patients in Orange County who have received the chemically modified hemoglobin, PolyHeme.

Though it is not whole blood, it is derived from it.

The question now is it still blood?

Cotton could not answer that question but said individuals must decide whether to accept the product.

“When blood is fractionated beyond those primary components and other blood derivatives, we feel that it is an individual decision,’ he said. “If an individual’s conscience will allow him to accept the product, then that would be up to that individual. That is between himself and his God.’

As far as other Jehovah’s Witnesses possibly ostracizing those who do accept hemoglobin substitutes, Cotton said it would never happen.

“The understanding is that each person stands before God and is judged according to his own conscience,’ he said. “The other Witnesses would not criticize any decisions he makes.’

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday March 9, 2003.
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