A (sort of) Review of the Movie 'Apostasy' - Part 2

There is also a line from a certain review: “Alex thumbs a pamphlet of “kids who died for Jehovah,” knowing that she might have to do the same.”

Now, I know Watchtower publications pretty well and the only one I can think of that could be characterized this way is an Awake magazine from the 1990s. Possibly it was later included into some sort of brochure form. I wrote about it in an excerpt from another post:

I also thought it well to take a look at that May 1994 Awake quote which Matt uses to advance the notion JW youths are dropping like flies for their transfusion refusals:

“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.”

Not that I accuse Matt of anything devious. I've no doubt he used the quotation in good faith. It's likely from a web source purporting to be informative, but in reality existing only to denigrate a faith its  author detests, trying to make JWs look as fanatical as possible, and doing so for philosophical reasons, rather than anything having to do with medicine or lives. So is the statement taken out of context or not?

It's a little difficult to tell, for there is no context. The quote is a one-line blurb on the magazine's table of contents designed to pique interest in the articles to follow. The articles to follow describe the cases of five Witness youngsters in North America. Each was admitted into a hospital for aggressive cancer or leukemia. Each fought battles with hospitals, courts, and child welfare agencies determined to administer blood against the patient's will. Each eventually prevailed in court, being recognized as “mature minors” with the right to decide upon their own treatment (though in two cases, a forced transfusion was given prior to that decision). Three of the children did die. Two lived. It's rather wrenching stuff, with court transcripts and statements of the children involved, and those of the participating doctors, lawyers, and judges. In no case do you get the sense that blood transfusions offered a permanent cure, only a possible prolonging of life, ideally long enough for some cure to be discovered (which has not yet happened). One of the children, who did die, was told that blood would enable her to live only three to six months longer, during which time she might “do many things,” such as “visit Disney World.” There's little here to suggest that “thousands of youths are dying for putting God first” who would otherwise live. Frankly, I think the quote is sloppily written. “They are still doing it,” says the quote. Doing what? Dying? Dying in the thousands? Or putting God first without regard for the immediate consequences?

...

A side of the JW transfusion stand not generally known is that, due to it, certain doctors went on to pioneer the field of ‘bloodless medicine,’ which accommodates (rough and conservative guess) about half of the cases in which blood transfusion is said to be required. Moderating the remaining half is that many times such a need is overstated. I personally know three individuals who were told point blank that they needed a transfusion and would die without one. None acquiesced. None died. None of this is to say it has not happened. It is only to say that it is overblown.

As a young girl, my wife received a blood transfusion for a nosebleed. (And, no, she has never been viewed, or viewed herself, as “tainted,” another insinuation of the film) This sort of “topping off the tank” would almost certainly not be done today, and it is partly due to Witnesses’ refusal that transfusion therapy has been recognized as not the risk-free endeavor that it was once portrayed as.

It turns out that ‘bloodless medicine,’ where it is applicable, offers a huge safety margin over transfusion therapy. This has been documented many times, such as here in New Scientist (prompting some to declare New Scientist ‘not really’ a science magazine, since it published something they didn’t like). Bloodless medicine has now been added to the toolbox of many hospitals, and due to its greater safety and economy is often the preferred option. Is the day coming, or has it long since passed, when the number of lives saved through bloodless medicine dwarfs those lost by a relatively tiny group which, amidst huge opposition, stuck to its principles?

(See 'A (sort of) Review of the Movie "Apostasy" - Part 1)


"We Know that Satan's Coming After Us"

A major American newspaper has published material meant to be damning to Jehovah’s Witnesses, which refers to a group of elders at a 2017 meeting, where they were supposedly advised to destroy handwritten notes of meetings and notes of internal documents due to the potential legal harm such pose. Presumably (though it is not explicitly made clear) these are notes relevant to child sexual abuse investigations.

The reason? A Witness representative reportedly states: “Well, we know that the scene of this world is changing, and we know Satan’s coming after us, and he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up.” It is not hard to imagine what certain ones are doing with the explanation that “Satan’s coming after us.”

The reason the Witnesses have whatever child abuse records they do is that they sought to investigate this evil in their midst at a time that others did not. Should they destroy anything, it merely puts them on par with everyone else, who never left a ‘paper trail’ in the first place because they never were proactive. Seen in this light, it does indeed seem that Satan is ‘coming after them.’ It is the quintessential example of the cynical phrase: ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

On the other side of the world, the Jehovah’s Witness organization during the same year was banned in Russia. Government and media have partnered to whip the public into a froth, hurling many virulent accusations about the faith. Yet, child sexual abuse allegations have played no part whatsoever. Chivchalov states that nobody has heard of it there. Only after the ban did the Russian Embassy, in response to one of my tweets, respond with a Western headline of pedophile charges.

In other words, they found a completely separate reason to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Keep in mind that we are speaking of the faith whose members are universally recognized as ‘pacifist’ – who will on no account resort to violence or support war efforts. It is highly unusual for a large group of people to have absolutely no blood on their hands in this regard, but they do not. Is it so crazy for the Witness spokesman to say: ‘Satan is coming after us?” Given the foregoing, it would almost be crazy for him not to.

Among the most heated charges in Russia are those of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing blood transfusions, stemming from their interpretation of scripture. It is an issue that has largely been put to bed in the West because of the success of bloodless medicine and the growing recognition that transfusion therapy poses many risks. Still, it does happen from time to time that such refusal costs a Witness his or her life. Russian media rages over this, labeling leaders of the religion murderers.

Surely, somewhere along the line it should be acknowledged that Jehovah’s Witnesses have absolutely no deaths at all attributed to illicit drug abuse, overdrinking, and tobacco use, save only for when someone is slipping into old habits. Witnesses could multiply transfusion deaths 1000-fold and still not not come close to the mortality record of the overall world. Far and away, they are the ‘safest’ religion out there. Yet they are said to be the murderers.

And we are to laugh when they say: ‘Satan is coming after us?’ One thing we know about opposers: they will always overplay their hand, giving honest-hearted persons a heads-up. How can it not be getting near to crunch time?

It is in the free ebook (soon to be in print), ‘Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia,’ with chapter 12 devoted to pedophile accusations. I had no idea when I wrote it that the book would so quickly become so relevant.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815620

With the major outlets increasing dedicated to attacking Jehovah's Witnesses, it is not easy to balance the reports. One can do shares and retweets, but still. When push comes to shove, the Word makes clear that the enemies will have their day in the sun during this system of things.


Jehovah's Witnesses and Blood Transfusions

Here's a med student who posted something critical of religion in general and Jehovah's Witnesses in particular. He has no ax to grind (I don't think). He just reflects upon experiences he's had and reports he's heard. Why not answer his post? I did. Here's the post (with limited peripheral material edited out) entitled:

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusion

One of the most important aspects of science is it’s progressive nature. Our knowledge of any subject is always changing. Nowhere is this more evident than in science-based medicine. Physician guidelines change on an annual basis depending on studies and evidence supporting new treatments, therapies and procedures.

I can not imagine anything more contrasting to this than religion. Religion is structured in such a way as to prevent its beliefs from changing. Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change......

Last week, I was doing rounds in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) when I was introduced to a lovely little patient attached to IV lines and a nasal cannula for oxygen supplementation. This unstable newborn baby was suffering from hemolytic disease of the newborn, which occurs when maternal antibodies still present in the baby attack its red blood cells (RBCs), causing their contents to spill out into the blood stream. If it wasn’t for the concomitant jaundice that developed, this baby’s fatally low hemoglobin levels would have caused him to be almost as pale as the page these words lie on.

When a pediatrician is confronted with this scenario, the treatment is rather common sense: stabilize the patient, attempt to clear the serum of toxic levels of bilirubin (to prevent irreversible brain damage), and transfuse the patient with compatible blood. Otherwise, the baby’s blood cells will continue to be attacked until there are none left and the central organs cease to receive oxygen.
But alas, the baby’s parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and blood transfusions are strictly against their beliefs because a nearly 2000 year-old scripture warns against eating blood. Not that eating blood and a transfusion are the same thing but according to the religions main legal entity, The Watchtower Society, it is. “The Society,” as it is often referred to colloquially by Witnesses, directs, administers and develops the doctrines for the religion and followers.

The Watchtower Society doesn’t draw the line at whole blood transfusions but rather at any components of blood. This includes platelets, RBCs, white blood cells (WBCs) and blood plasma and further discourages the use of fractions from any of these blood components, including albumin, globulins, clotting factors, erythropoietin (EPO), and hemoglobin. These restrictions have lead doctors to develop bloodless surgery techniques. Such surgery is not yet common, and very few have the luxury of utilizing it.

In the meantime, Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to die during the desperate times requiring blood transfusions, which are more common than one might think. This is exemplified by the Jehovah’s Witness magazine Awake, which explained in its May, 1994 issue that:  “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.”

If practicing Jehova’s Witnesses do receive transfusions, they are ousted from the religion in what’s known as disfellowshipping. These individuals are cut off from their families and friends who are also Jehovah’s Witnesses because the religion attempts to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses.

With increasing pressure in our technologically-advanced era, the Watchtower Society has very gradually loosened its grips on its opposition to blood transfusions and blood products. In the last few years the religion has allowed their followers to use specific blood products in special cases. For example, hemophiliacs are no longer shunned for using blood clotting factors under special circumstances. The church also seems to be heading towards the direction of allowing autologous blood donation, a process where a patient donates blood for storage that is used later in his own surgeries.

This raises the question, why not speed up the process? Why let so many people die in the past because of rules that will ultimately change in the future? Can’t Jehovah’s Witnesses just skip all the politics and allow their followers to use modern medicine like everyone else? It would certainly place the religion in a better light by removing one of its most significant criticisms. A giant weight would be lifted from the backs of so many hemophiliacs, anemics and pregnant mothers.

In the USA, the law requires doctors to overrule the wishes of families that want to deny their children procedures that would prevent long-term complications and death. This is not true around the world, however, and here in Poland, where I go to school, that is not the case. Doctors need to acquire court orders to treat children who’s parents deny them basic lif e support or treatments that would prevent end-organ damage.

As for the baby whom I saw myself in the hospital, well she did receive a court-ordered life-saving blood transfusion. If she hadn’t, there’s no doubt she might not be alive anymore. According to the resident physician, when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption. It’s still a mystery to me how religions can override our most innate emotions. To me, however, the adoption was a blessing in disguise.

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A reply:

 
 Really, nothing has changed with regard to JW views on transfusion other than adjustments to keep pace with changes in transfusion therapy. In recent years, fractions have been developed that are a much tinier component of blood than the platelets, RBCs, white cells, and plasma you mention. The Bible speaks only of blood. Are these small fractions “blood” or not? Some will reason that any percentage, no matter how tiny, constitutes blood; others will think “it’s not a cake until you mix the ingredients.” I do not agree that the Watchtower Society discourages these fractions. Rather, they make clear that their use is subject to individual conscience, since the Bible doesn’t specifically say. By outlining the reasons some might decide to refuse them, you might think they are discouraging the fractions, however they also outline the reasons others might accept, making clear that it is a personal choice.

Only when the most superior leaders of a religion decide that it should be changed does the doctrine itself change.

In my opinion, it is not good to look at matters in this way. It will inevitably lead to looking down on your patient, maybe thinking them deluded, manipulated fools, given to fanaticism. Can that possibly lead to mutual respect or the trust a patient ought to be able to have in a doctor? Moreover, if you view them as slaves to “superior leaders of a religion,” that is another disconnect, since they do not view it that way. The “superior leaders” may have alerted them to what the Bible says, but having done that, it is the Bible itself that guides the Christian conscience, and not the leaders. Proceeding on an interpretation which the patient does not hold can only cause alienation.

Having said this, I can well appreciate the frustration of a doctor upon discovering his preferred method of treatment, perhaps his only method of treatment, is categorically rejected for reasons he neither understands nor agrees with. However, respect for the patient’s conscience might permit the doctor to make a mental adjustment. If a patient had a severe allergy, say, that absolutely ruled out the preferred treatment, doctors would not become angry, nor resent the patient for being uncooperative. Rather, they’d accept it as part of the big picture, and try to work with it. Every population of Jehovah’s Witnesses maintains a Hospital Liaison Committee, which serves to connect local doctors with whatever bloodless resources may exist locally, if only to arrange a transfer. (not sure what is available in Poland, as I am in the U.S., but it may be more than you are aware) Bloodless medicine is a specialty, and one can hardly expect all doctors to specialize. We simply appreciate it when doctors attempt to work with our beliefs, rather than trod over them.

The fact is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have decided to live their lives in harmony with Bible principles. In most cases, this serves them very well. The same Bible that prevents them from accepting blood transfusions also prevents them from drug abuse, from overdrinking, from smoking. If the entire population became Jehovah’s Witnesses, surely the mortality rate would plummet, since any complications arising from their view on blood is far offset by benefits from their overall healthy lifestyle. If a doctor focuses on this larger picture, he could not ask for a better patient. But regarding blood, the Bible says what it says. Witnesses don’t have the authority to change it, not even the “superior leaders.” It says it not once, but repeatedly, over many different timeframes. Moreover, Witnesses are well aware that eating blood and accepting a transfusion are not the same thing. But the Bible reasons that preclude “eating” blood apply equally to accepting it via another means.

If you are aware of the advancing nature of science-based medicine, surely you know that rethinking transfusion therapy is an area in which it is most rapidly advancing. A 2008 article in New Scientist magazine is entitled: An Act of Faith in the Operating Room. The act of faith is not withholding a transfusion. It is giving one. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgeon at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care – outside of when you are bleeding to death – that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you:”

 The U.S. Army is now training its medical personnel in bloodless medicine, convinced that such training will save both lives and money. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

Lastly, according to the resident physician, “when the parents heard of this they decided to give her up for adoption.”  I can’t conceive of this happening. Not that I doubt your sincerity in telling the matter. But for it to be true, there have to be other factors at work. No one in the Witness community would think such an outcome a good idea. Perhaps the parents were otherwise unstable? Perhaps the state removed the child and left the parents no choice? I don’t know. But it doesn’t ring true. Jehovah’s Witnesses will strive diligently for their Bible-based view on blood to be respected. But if they are overruled (which often happens, as you point out) they don’t lose interest in the child.

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There were other comments on the post besides mine. One also took issue with that parting slam at the parents: “However, the hearsay at the end – about the postulated adoption – is unsubstantiated and feels slanderous. It detracts from the otherwise well-founded observations and arguments you’ve made.” The author Matt apparently agreed: “Point taken,” he wrote. “I will try to keep this into account in my future blogs.”

I also thought it well to take a look at that May 1994 Awake quote which Matt uses to advance the notion JW youths are dropping like flies for their transfusion refusals:

“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.”

Not that I accuse Matt of anything devious. I've no doubt he used the quotation in good faith. It's likely from a web source purporting to be informative, but in reality existing only to denigrate a faith its  author detests, trying to make JWs look as fanatical as possible, and doing so for philosophical reasons, rather than anything having to do with medicine or lives. So is the statement taken out of context or not?

It's a little difficult to tell, for there is no context. The quote is a one-line blurb on the magazine's table of contents designed to pique interest in the articles to follow. The articles to follow describe the cases of five Witness youngsters in North America. Each was admitted into a hospital for aggressive cancer or leukemia. Each fought battles with hospitals, courts, and child welfare agencies determined to administer blood against the patient's will. Each eventually prevailed in court, being recognized as “mature minors” with the right to decide upon their own treatment (though in two cases, a forced transfusion was given prior to that decision). Three of the children did die. Two lived. It's rather wrenching stuff, with court transcripts and statements of the children involved, and those of the participating doctors, lawyers, and judges. In no case do you get the sense that blood transfusions offered a permanent cure, only a possible prolonging of life, ideally long enough for some cure to be discovered (which has not yet happened). One of the children, who did die, was told that blood would enable her to live only three to six months longer, during which time she might “do many things,” such as “visit Disney World.” There's little here to suggest that “thousands of youths are dying for putting God first” who would otherwise live. Frankly, I think the quote is sloppily written. “They are still doing it,” says the quote. Doing what? Dying? Dying in the thousands? Or putting God first without regard for the immediate consequences?
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Speaking of a respectful doctor-patient ralationship, a week after Weedsandwheat had his letter in defense of Jehovah's Witnesses published, City Newspaper published this letter:

…....In my practice years, I served three counties, which meant that I cared for children in at least six families of Jehovah's Witness faith. We worked together in a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding. This included ongoing discussion of therapeutic options for various conditions. I'm not sure whether today the Internet would change all of this. Hopefully my “families” might still remember me.          Bernard A. Yablin MD      (do a Google search, and this doctor pops up quite a bit)

It's an oddly touching letter, isn't it? Yes, hopefully they do remember him. Doctors proficient in their craft, who can also relate to the patient with “a sense of communication, mutual respect, and understanding,” are not that easy to find.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


New Scientist and Life Threatening Blood Transfusions

When you’re talking medicine with someone who doesn’t care for Jehovah’s Witnesses, you’ll find that blood transfusion is always linked with life-saving. There are no exceptions. The noun and adjective must never be separated. At least, not until recently.

For at long last, the link is starting to crumble. The correct coupling, still emerging, is life-threatening blood transfusions. Not among JW detractors, of course, who will still be chanting "life saving blood transfusions" as they are lowered into their graves. But among those who actually know anything, matters are changing fast.

It's the only conclusion you can reach upon reading the April 26, 2008 New Scientist magazine. Entitled An Act of Faith in the Operating Room, an article reviews study after study after study and concludes that for all but the most catastrophic cases, blood transfusions harm more than they help. Says Gavin Murphy, a cardiac surgion at the Bristol Heart Institute in the UK: “There is virtually no high-quality study in surgery, or intensive or acute care - outside of when you are bleeding to death - that shows that blood transfusion is beneficial, and many that show it is bad for you.” Difficulties stem from blood‘s deteriorating in even brief storage, from its assault on the immune system, and from its impaired ability to deliver oxygen. (Risk of blood bourne diseases is no longer seen as a major factor) In short, the “act of faith” refered to is not withholding a blood transfusion. It is giving one.

One study cited is from the journal Circulation, vol 116, p 2544: "For almost 9000 patients who had heart surgery in the UK between 1996 and 2003, receiving a red cell transfusion was associated with three times the risk of dying in the following year and an almost six fold risk of dying within 30 days of surgery compared with not receiving one. Transfusions were also associated with more infections and higher incidences of stroke, heart attack and kidney failure - complications usually linked to a lack of oxygen in body tissues."

 

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Once before I ventured into the blogosphere here, here, hereand herewith similar thoughts and I count myself lucky to have escaped with my life:

“You are welcome to your belief that blood is a dangerous substance that God wants you to avoid,” said Calli. “But please, don't claim that you are doing so out of reason.”

“In the USA we have the inalienable right to be idiots, as long as it doesn't hurt someone else," instructed Chemgeek.

From Student B:   “Refusing a life saving blood transfusion (which hasn't even any side effects) is clearly insane if the refusal is just because of the blood transfusion itself. “

Greg:  Why is this crazy religion not a form of mental incompetence?

Justin:  My take on the matter is that ultimately anyone who subscribes to the no-blood doctrine has been brainwashed, and is not fit to make decisions for themselves on this basis.

And you should have heard them when I mentioned Dr. Bruce Speiss. They went positively apoplectic when he dared to use the R-word: "So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better" Close to crank-dom, they said! Can't the idiot tell correlation from causation? Isn’t he the fellow selling cherry Kool-Aid as a blood substitute? I bet he’s a Jehovah Witness fruitcake like you. And check out his “study.” Only seven persons! Probably all his buddies. And didn't he buy his medical degree online?

But now it turns out that everything Dr. Speiss said was correct…..yes, even the religion part. Says New Scientist: “At first glance it seems astonishing that a technique used so widely for so long could be doing such harm. Yet many surgeons have proved reluctant to submit their methods to systematic study…….[Their] assumptions went untested for the better part of a century” (italics mine)

And you should have seen these guys carry on when I suggested that the medical community would one day owe a debt to Jehovah’s Witnesses for setting them on the right track, urging the development of bloodless medicine. Scientists invented bloodless medicine all by themselves, they shrieked, guided only by their Scientific Method…..climbing ever upward and onward….fearlessly pushing the bounds of human knowledge….all to the glorification of Science and Truth….and so forth. They don’t give two hoots about your pissy little religion!!

But in fact, some of them do. “[Bloodless surgery] was originally developed to enable Jehovah’s Witnesses, who shun transfusions, to undergo major surgery“ states the article and then considers some of its advantages. Indeed, New Scientist opens with scripture: “'For the life of the flesh is in the blood. No soul of you shall eat blood.’ So says the Bible’s book of Leviticus, and it is for this reason that Jehovah’s Witnesses shun blood transfusions” Perhaps, the magazine suggests, all persons should be treated as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Now, I don't want to gloat over this development…. I really don't…. Really and truly…. Honestly.

On the other hand.....

C'mon!….you would too if you were in my shoes! For decades, we Witnesses were the ignorant slaves of superstition. Transfusion proponents, on the other hand, were the all-wise devotees of modern medical science. What right had we to not to do as we were told? I’ve known three persons in my lifetime who were told, point blank and without the slightest empathy, that they would die if they did not consent to a blood transfusion. None of these three consented. None died. Jehovah's Witnesses don't smoke, they don't do drugs, they don't drink to excess - all factors whose health-risks far outweigh anything having to do with transfusions. They are entirely cooperative with all aspects of medical care, barring only one. If you're not fixated on just that one item, you couldn't ask for better patients.

These findings, so new to the medical establishment, are not new to us. We’ve been accumulating them for years, trying to share them with doctors, usually being rebuffed, all the while with the media whipping folks into near hysteria. All we ever wanted was that our own religious conscience be respected, that medical people would not huff it's my way or the highway! and run roughshod over our stand. Treat it as an allergy ruling out the favored treatment, if you must, and do the best you can under those circumstances. Decades ago Jehovah’s Witnesses formed Hospital Information Service committees from local volunteers and sent them into medical establishments to keep them informed on the latest advances in bloodless medicine. Believe me, it was not easy. Constantly we had to contend with “and what medical school did you get your degree from?” But it has paid off. Here and there, fearless doctors have acknowledged our point of view, and have worked to accommodate it. We are most grateful to these medical pioneers, who usually had to withstand much pressure from their own peers.

Did the New Scientist article declare blood transfusions inadvisable in all circumstances? No. It is still thought to be the best option in cases of severe anemia and catastrophic blood loss. But I suspect these views, too, will change. After all, if blood threatens harm to a healthy person, can it really be the treatment of choice for a critically ill one? Surely something from the field of bloodless medicine will emerge as superior, if it hasn’t already.

Incidentally, blood banks apparently plan no changes at present. "If all blood had to be used within two weeks, it would cause a major inventory problem," says James Isbister, an adviser to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Right. Just like that time I bought a basket of spoiled fruit and spent the week in the bathroom with diarrhea. I wasn’t upset. I realized it was my duty to grin and bear it. I didn’t want to screw up their inventory.

 

[EDIT: 3/13/10] Now the U.S Army is being trained in the bloodless techniques first developed to serve Jehovah's Witnesses. The new training will save both lives and money, says a spokesman. Thanks to Lekozza for latching onto this item.

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More here

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Tom Irregardless and Me            No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Blood Transfusion Video Wins a Prize and Provokes a Fight

When the first blood transfusion experiments were done, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen, Thomas Bartholin (1616-80), objected. His concern was not on scientific grounds but on spiritual. 

"Those who drag in the use of human blood for internal remedies of diseases appear to misuse it and to sin gravely," he wrote. "Cannibals are condemned. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited."

The only people I know of who still have regard for this aspect of divine law are Jehovah's Witnesses. If there were others (and judging from Bartholin's comment there must have been) they abandoned it when transfusions entered the mainstream. More or less the same thing has occurred with both abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

Jehovah's Witnesses catch a lot of flack for their stand regarding transfusions. Yet the stand is one that can be accommodated medically. In recent years, partly due to the efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses and partly due to the very real risks that have surfaced regarding transfusion, new techniques of bloodless medicine have emerged. Watchtower produced some videos about them in 2001. They followed some case histories, filmed some operations, used some computer animation, and interviewed prominent surgeons the world over who said supportive things about the new methods.

The 34th Annual U.S. International Film and Video Festival was coming up, so Watchtower entered their video (Transfusion Alternatives - Simple, Safe and Effective) and won, beating out 1500 other films from 33 countries:

Research Documentation category: 2nd place (Silver Screen Award)

Professional-Educational category: 2nd place (Silver Screen Award

Current Issues category: 1rst place (Gold Camera Award)

It's always good when your film wins. It adds credibility.

You can view it here: (see "from our videos)

So I was surprised to find the video torn apart frame by frame on some Next Generation Atheist website, the kind where the most exalted qualities are logic and reason, and the most admired person is Mr. Spock of Star Trek. Evidence, a fellow named Psiloiordinary demands! Give me some evidence that blood transfusions are not perfectly safe. Give me some medical reason that silly religious scruples should not be trampled underfoot should they interfere. So I gave him some.

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Dear Psiloiordinary:

Here is a doctor who likens transfused blood to "water from a dirty fish tank"

[Patricia Ford, MD, a hematologist/oncologist and Medical Director of the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, part of the PENN Medicine hospital network. Dr. Ford is one of the pioneers of bloodless surgery and has been teaching its technique to doctor’s around the world.]

Blood stored for any length of time loses most of its oxygen carrying capability, she maintains. Perhaps she reached that conclusion through such studies as this:

Note how Dr Bruce Speiss in this post declares about transfusions: "So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better"

As you have observed, Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

[I nearly gave him another study which came to my attention at about the same time, but I thought two items would be sufficient]

 

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His reply (on his own blog) was prompt:

I had asked JW's for evidence to back up their claims. What I am provided with here is in fact an anecdote with no supporting evidence. I quote peer reviewed materials and in reply I get a story. The reasons that stories don't count as evidence is that they can fall prey to all of the errors of thinking I highlighted above. Wow this all fits in with the other stuff your skimmed earlier on doesn't it. Ok I'll wait while you go back and read it properly - hurry up.

OK. Off we go again.

Tom does a little better with his next salvo;
"Blood stored for any length of time loses most of its oxygen carrying capability, she maintains."
This piece relates to the fact that Nitric Oxide seems necessary to get the oxygen from the blood into the body. Here are some more quotes from this same article;
[he quotes almost the whole article, which I won't reproduce, as I've already linked to it. Feel free to check it again]

But at least this does appear to be some bona fide research, just bear in mind that it was preliminary research done on 10 people - yes just 10 and so needs to be followed up in proper clinical trials. Why? Well so that all those errors of thinking we outlined above can be ruled out.

Who is doing this research? Doctors. I have highlighted in bold their comments about the need for blood transfusions. Remember confirmation bias? Our friend Tom CatsandDogs has managed that particular error of thought big time hasn't he? Or was he just selectively quoting to be deliberately dishonest? Not sure actually.

Lets see what else he has for us;

"Note how Dr Bruce Speiss in this post declares about transfusions: "So it's just largely been a belief system-- almost a religion, if you will-- that if you give a unit of blood, patients will get better"

Once again I can give you a little more honest version of this by simply telling you everything the chap actually said [and again he quotes virtually the entire article, which again I won't reproduce as I've already linked to it, and again feel free to check it once more]

Of course Tom FishandChips doesn't agree with these bits so he doesn't quote them. It's as if they don't even exist. Tom's brain is pretty amazing isn't it? Does he even know that his brain has done this?

Or is he simply dishonest?

Maybe he will let us know.

For now he signs off as follows with a tour de force of broken logic;

"As you have observed, Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions for religious reasons. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?"

Tom states that medical research of this kind only happened because of the JW stance. The article he links to shows this is not true. [Actually, it shows just the opposite. The writer states: "Originally developed to meet the needs of the Jehovah’s Witness community, bloodless surgery is transfusion-free and is acceptable to Jehovah Witness followers because they are being reinfused with their own blood." (third paragraph)]

A quick summary of Tom's "evidence";

An anecdote followed by selective quotes, taken out of context from preliminary medical research, which presumably would be a waste of time for Tom anyway as he will never take blood because of what he thinks the bible means. All topped off with a claim that because JW's are dying for their beliefs they are saving the lives of others.

Takes your breath away doesn't it.

Over to you Tom.

...................................................................................................

What is remarkable about this reply is its sheer meanness. Did I do anything to provoke it other than exist with a different view? Psiloiordinary asked for evidence. I gave him some. 

Essentially he charges that I have used the researchers' words out of context. That's nonsense. All you have to do when quoting is to quote honestly. The words you cite should be as the speaker intended them to be understood. You don't have to analyze his entire life philosophy for consistency, otherwise all historical writings would need be delivered by forklift.

To be sure, these researchers said some things not entirely consistent. But that's how people are. We are all a maze of contradictions - even ...gasp....scientists, reason lovers and logicians. Even with science, new views are not quickly accepted simply because they are supported by evidence.  Max Planck the physicist sums it up more realistically: "People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea." Alas, here too Psiloiordinary will be outraged that I've not included a lexicon of all Dr. Planck ever said. But I found his words in a (science friendly) source that also saw fit to take the quote by itself.

In view of the bile, I wasn't quite sure how to reply, but in time I thought of something.

...............................................................................................

Dear Psiloiordinary:

First of all, it is not Catsanddogs. Nor is it Fishandchips. It is Sheepandgoats.

When you are trying to sway someone over to your point of view, you don't insult them at every turn. You don't ridicule them. You don't portray yourself as the ultimate fount of wisdom and express surprise that they can even tie their shoes. You do all these things if you want to puff out your chest and impress pals with your razor-like wit, but if you are actually trying to persuade somebody, you don't do it.

Instead, you look for areas in which you can commend them. You are conciliatory where you can be. You afford them dignity. That way, in the event you do make some valid points, you find your points are not rejected out of hand by a recipient who resents how ill-mannered you are.

I suspect these are the factors that account for mixed signals in the studies we've discussed. The doctors make the appropriate deferential remarks about the blood transfusion industry, yet those remarks in no way follow from the research they present.

For example, Dr Stamler asserts: Banked blood is truly a national treasure that needs to be protected

Yet he previously observes: we saw clear indications of nitric oxide depletion within the first three hours...we found blood depleted profoundly by day one and it remained depleted through day 42 and without nitric oxide the transfused blood cannot transfer oxygen, which is the only reason to select it over non-blood volume expanders. Therefore, banked blood is hardly a national treasure. Rather, if this study is true, banked blood, which has been given countless times, has generally been near worthless in oxygen-carrying capability (though each time it was hailed as "life-saving."). True, Dr. Stamler hopes he can correct the deficiency, but that says nothing for the transfusions already given.

Ditto with his comment which you excitedly put in bold: "There is no doubt, if you are bleeding to death from a trauma you need a transfusion." Not if you need immediate oxygen transfer, you don't, per his previous remark. What you need is fluid to replace the volume lost. It need not be blood, and it appears blood holds no advantage over non-blood volume expanders, perhaps even something so simple as saline solution. In an otherwise healthy person, the body, with restored volume, immediately goes about making new red blood cells.

So his latter two comments seem to me to be a sop to the blood sensibilities of his audience. They don't logically follow from the research he presents. He is simply being diplomatic.

Similar points could be made regarding Dr Speiss. And the non-sequiters presented above illustrate pretty well his comment that transfusions are practiced almost as a religion.

The fact is, both sites I've presented plant severe doubts to the wisdom of transfusion. You act as if they've strengthened the case.

Yours truly,

Tom Sheepandgoats

..................................................................................

Now, did my mock outrage over my name being massacred in any way placate him? Or my reasoning on the articles I linked to? Alas....

...........................................................................................

Tom Sheepandgoats has previously ignored my questions and most of the facts I presented here, here, here, here, here and here.

Now we get this; [he reproduces my reply; I have deleted my words, as I did in his prior reply]

Listen to me Mr Bedknobsandbroomsticks, its unreasonable to go around with that appellation without expecting the mickey to be taken. In the unlikely event that no one has actually told you this before, then I can now have the honour of revealing to you that they have all thought it. Even if it is your real name, didn't you know you could have changed it in the "blogosphere"? How about Mr Iwouldletmykiddieiftheyneededabloodtransfusion?

[It's a good thing for him my Great Grandpa Shepundgoots from the old country isn't here to read his words. He would not turn the other cheek as readily as I have done.]

I am not trying to persuade you of anything Mr Cheeseandbiscuits, I am trying to look into this issue. You are not. In fact you seem to simply be trying to justify these primitive views by picking out selective quotes from people who completely disagree with you so that you don't feel as bad when the next JW man, woman or child dies needlessly. I assume these are your views - you have not said so explicitly but it seems a reasonable assumption from your posts.

For the record, Mr Bangersandmash, I write this Blog for the pleasure it gives me. I occasionally win a small victory for the side of rationality and reason and I even get appreciative feedback sometimes. Most often though I get to learn things. Learning about the sinister cult that is JW's has certainly been an eye opener for me.

I did not learn anything from your comments apart from your willingness to distort the words and opinions of some doctors to "support" your silly but dangerous beliefs.

So as far as the small kingdom that is this blog I am the ultimate fount of wisdom - so "suck it up" as I believe you say on that side of the pond.

The other reason I blog is that I think that very occasionally some one who has not been completely indoctrinated into the JW's or whatever form of woo I happen to examining, perhaps someone who has nothing to do with whatever it is might come across the odd item on this blog and make their own mind up based on the evidence.

You have provided excellent evidence of selective quote mining and anecdotal stories being used to justify a practice which amounts to letting people die.

That is what you have done for this blog and I thank you for it.

I have often quoted before that I don't think it is possible to use reason to persuade someone from a view which they have reached without use of in the first place.

As I previously remarked, quite eloquently I thought [naturally], "Suck it up". You can't expect to defend a practice of letting people die needlessly and go around flaunting the name of Mr Saltandvinegar without someone taking the mickey.

Next you demonstrate your inability to engage in a complex issue. For you it must be black or white, it can't be complicated or incompletely understood.

The research you speak of is a preliminary finding based on just 10 patients - proper clinical trials are only now being set up - if changes to medical practice are demanded by results which can be replicated by people who don't have a financial interest in the results then medical practice will change - which gives the lie to the comments about dogma.

It was I who gave the full quotes from the articles which clearly show that none of the doctors agree that blood transfusions should be stopped. You were the one who just picked out the bits to suit your argument - this is dishonest in itself - to now claim that you were open about both sides of this issue is a simple lie.

The doctors you quoted out of context even comment with concern about being quoted out of context in the very item you linked to.

Excuse me Mr Smokeandmirrors you pulled quotes out of context and you continue to refer to small scale preliminary findings as research as if we can draw conclusions from them.

Go and examine your conscience.

- - -

PS you are still ignoring all the questions previously raised - but hey - just keep quiet and hope no one notices eh?

......................................................................................................

sigh....The sources I link to speak for themselves, as does the Watchtower videos.

Sometimes my greatest fear is that these atheists are right and that their cherished evolution is how we all got here and that they represent its crowning achievement. If so, kiss goodbye to any hope for peace on earth. Such a pit bull, attack-oriented people I've rarely seen. Does it come from the grandmaster Dawkins himself?

Though in retrospect, there may be some failure to communicate. Psiloiordinary seems to feel the goal of the Watchtower videos (and my own comments) are to demolish the blood transfusion industry. They are nothing of the sort. They seek only to persuade the medical community that it is not unreasonable to try to accommodate our stand. We always hope that yet more doctors will come to treat our stand of religious conscience simply as a fact to adjust to, much as they might for an allergic reaction that rules out a favored medicine. Recent years' developments have seen considerable progress along this front. Whereas two or three decades ago, a doctor's opinion was unchallengeable law, these days, in the U.S. anyway, the principle of bodily integrity is recognized. It has come to be widely acknowledged that patients have the right to authorize or decline what is done to their own bodies.

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Tom Irregardless and Me       No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


A Fourteen Year Old Wages A Blood Transfusion Battle

A 14 year old from the Seattle area recently refused blood transfusions deemed crucial by his doctors. He died. The news media picked up the story and gave it wide publicity, almost all of it unfavorable to the boy’s convictions. This post is to put things in perspective. It is what the boy would want, I am confident. He would not like to see his sincere religious conviction dragged through the mud by persons speaking from emotion.

That said, death of a young person is always tragic, no question about it. You can be sure he would have far rather lived. Yet people routinely put their lives on the line for any number of causes, and they are generally lauded as heroes for it, not deluded nuts. Which are they? Take the one who “gives his life for his country,” for example. Only some of that person’s own countrymen will think his death noble. Everyone else will conclude he died in vain.

The lad suffered from leukemia. Nobody imagined they could cure him. Instead doctors thought he would likely (70% chance) survive at least for the next 5 years with their regimen which included transfusions.* The courageous youngster, Dennis Lindberg, was assessed by a judge who interviewed the parents, his aunt (who had custody), social workers and the boy's doctor. “I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion,” the judge stated.  “He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision."

Oddly enough, the boy’s natural parents emerge as relative heroes in the story since they opposed the judge’s ruling. The article states: “For Dennis Lindberg, most of his childhood depended on the kindness of strangers to help him survive…..It is a saga that began when he was a baby born to parents addicted to methamphetamine.” The article highlights consequent hardship the boy endured for 10 years before the boy’s aunt was awarded custody. The natural parents have lately completed a drug treatment program so as to get their lives back on track.

Okay, now for the perspective, which I know the young man would want. He would not want to be portrayed as a fanatic nor the victim of fanatics. (The boy’s father states "My sister has done a good job of raising him for the past four years,” though he feels she imposed her religious beliefs on him. The facts speak otherwise. Dennis had made the beliefs his own.

Don't more youngsters die each year in high school sports than in refusing transfusions? Each year I read a few local examples of the former. I'm not sure I would know any of the latter were it not for news media relaying any such event around the globe. Does anyone think high school sports should be banned or it's coaches judged accessories to "negligent homicide,” as some bloggers thought would be appropriate for those who may have contributed to Dennis' mindset? The number of Witness youths finding themselves in Dennis' predicament is proportionate or less to those student victims of sports.

Dennis was 14. In just 4 years he'd be eligible for the military. For every youngster who dies via refusing transfusion, there must be 10,000 who die as combatants. Jehovah's Witnesses don't go to war. So not only their 10,000 don't die, but there are 10,000 others of all faiths who don't die because there are no JW combatants to kill them. Does anyone think dying in one of the world's never-ending skirmishes is more noble than dying in process of observing one's religious conscience? If all persons refused transfusions, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, and all persons refused to take part in war, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, this would be on balance a far safer world.

Look, death of any youngster in such circumstances pushes a lot of emotional buttons. I understand that. But the hard fact is that most of those voicing strong opinions now were nowhere to be found during the first ten years of Dennis' difficult life. Nor did they lend any support to the aunt generous enough to assume raising the boy after that. Nor, had this crisis resolved itself in any other way, would they take any interest in his subsequent life. The ones who should speak for Dennis are those who knew and shared in his convictions

But one also must address the assumption, never challenged in the media, that rejecting a transfusion is tantamount to suicide. (The judge stated that "I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy.") How often does one read the noun “blood transfusion” not proceeded by the adjective “life-saving?” The facts suggest the label is not especially fitting.

For example, Surgeon Bruce Spiess addresses the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists a few months ago, and declares blood transfusions have hurt more people than they've helped. Transfusions, he observes, are "almost a religion" because physicians practice them without solid evidence that they help.

We all know that blood is a foreign tissue and we all know that the body tries to reject foreign tissue, even when the types match.

Another study concludes that the chemical which permits transfused blood to transfer oxygen begins to break down within hours of storage, yet in the U.S blood is stored up to 42 days.

Here’s another one which concludes transfusion triples the risk of kidney impairment, strokes, and heart attacks. Remember what happened to Merck when it was established their drug Vioxx caused similar harm?

Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions (for religious reasons, not medical) and have created hundreds of Hospital Liaison Committees composed of members who interact with local hospitals and doctors. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. The film Knocking states there are over 140 medical centers in North America that offer some form of bloodless surgical techniques. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

And if Dennis’ death is seen in that light, it is not in vain, even in a non-JW context. He should not be remembered as some deluded kid. He deserves better.

This video is well done and has been recognized favorably at some film festivals. Leaders in the medical field are interviewed. It is food for thought.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

*After this post was written I came across two blogs by persons who actually knew people involved. Here and here. They both put a different light on matters. My post states that Dennis would likely have survived (70%/5 yrs) with a "regimen which included transfusions." If these two new sources are accurate (I suspect they are as they are the only writings that do any more than rehash and react to the newspaper report) it is the regimen that would have helped him, not the blood transfusions, which would have bought the lad only a few days of life. The treatment that would have been useful was stem cell replacement, which is said to be the most single expensive therapy in medicine (hundreds of thousands of dollars per treatment) and is out of the question for many patients on that count alone.

I also tend to believe these two new posts because I have seen this type of thing many times before. The reporter writes in the same emotional state as everyone else, and in the process omits key details that change the picture substantially.

One of the blogs (by a friend of Dennis) says this:

A related side note: I have read twenty years of the New England Journal of Medicine's articles on what he had. In the list of treatments recomended, Blood transfusion was not mentioned. The only reason they recommended it was to try to buy more time for the blood thickening drugs to bring the levels up so he could accept the continuation of chemotherapy. Also, they got to it too late. He'd already had leukemia for a long time and nothing could save him; the only thing a transfusion could do was extend his misery a couple years at most.

 

The other (by a med student who spoke to some involved) says this:

The treatment denied by the judge was not the stem cell transplant. It was a blood transfusion. Why is this distinction important? Stem cell transplants are the single most expensive procedure in medicine (hundreds of thousands of dollars just to do the procedure). We do them (and many health insurers cover them) because they work, but not all patients facing leukemia choose to be transplanted. Some cannot afford it. Some do not want to go through the pain of the procedure. Others (like this patient) have different reasons. If after providing all of the information, the patient does not consent to a procedure, the medical establishment usually respects this decision. Keep in mind that the legal decision here was related to the blood transfusion which could keep the patient alive for several days, not the stem cell transplant, which has 70% survival at 5 years as reported in the media. It's not as simple as a 750 word article would have you believe. (Although the Seattle PI wrote a good story overall.)

 **********************

Tom Irregardless and Me            No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Blood Transfusion, Oxygen, and Nitric Oxide

 

As if offering a pinch of incense to the gods, the article begins: "Blood transfusions have saved millions of lives." But doesn't the very next phrase almost douse the flame?

"yet stored red cells may be less effective than hoped for because they can quickly lose much of their ability to deliver oxygen."

They can? They do? If so, blood transfusions haven't saved as many lives as they are credited with, perhaps not any more than simple saline solution or any other fluid that aims only to replace lost volume. Jehovah's Witnesses have no objection to the latter. They do, however, for religious reasons, decline the former. They are well known for refusing blood transfusions.

If I had a nickel for every news article or web post lambasting us for our transfusion stand....some going so far as to call it tantamount to murder....I could buy myself a Maserati. And another, even fancier car for my wife, Mrs. Sheepandgoats. Blood substitutes are no good, they scream at us, because only the real thing, only real packed red cells, delivers the life-saving oxygen to the body. Yet according to this article, they don't!

The problem is that transfused blood needs nitric oxide to keep the blood vessels open, otherwise, the carried oxygen never reaches the tissues. But nitric oxide begins to break down within three hours of storage, and donated blood is presently stored up to 42 days. To be sure, researchers think they can remedy the problem. But that does nothing to improve the effectiveness of blood transfusions already given, each one of which was hailed as "life-saving," yet few of them actually qualifying as such, at least not any more so than saline solution, which offers no danger of rejection. We all know that the body spots foreign tissue in an instant, and tries hard to get rid of it.

Oddly, there are two versions of this AP story by Randolph E Schmid. One leads with the butt-kissing "blood transfusions have saved millions of lives" and one doesn't. I suspect Mr. Schmid, who is a science writer, did not include it. But somewhere along the line, some pious editor unable to tolerate the blood transfusion idol besmirched, added the phrase. Versions that have the phrase are here, here, and here. Versions that do not are here, here, and here. (I've included so many because some sources don't archive their stories very long....I hope some of them survive.)

All this reminds me of Bruce Spiess, addressing the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists a few months ago. He declares blood transfusions have hurt more people than they've helped. Transfusions, he observes, are "almost a religion" because physicians practice them without solid evidence that they help. "Blood transfusion has evolved as a medical therapy and it's never been tested like a major drug," he said. "A drug is tested for safety and efficacy, blood transfusion has never been tested for either one."

Meanwhile, Jehovah's Witnesses steadfastly refuse blood transfusions (for religious reasons, not medical) and have created hundreds of Hospital Liaison Committees composed of members who interact with local hospitals and doctors. As a result, some in the medical field have pioneered bloodless techniques. By eliminating the risk of foreign tissue, human error, and blood-borne diseases, these new techniques offer a safety margin that conventional blood transfusions do not. The film Knocking states there are over 140 medical centers in North America that offer some form of bloodless surgical techniques. Might the day come, or is it even here already, when the number of lives saved through such medicine will outnumber those lost by a few members of a relatively tiny religious group that stuck to its principles amidst much opposition?

**********************

Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Isaac Asimov and Ignaz Semmelweis

I once worked with a girl named Casey who positively loved science fiction. In the context of other things, I mentioned the film I, Robot.

Oh, that was terrible! she said.

But as we kept talking, it turned out she had never seen it. Um...Casey, how do know it's terrible if you've never seen it? I asked. The answer was that she was a purist. She knew the movie did not follow Isaac Asimov's storyline, and that was enough for her!

For an Asimov purist, the movie would indeed be blasphemy. Asimov, who wrote literally almost all the time, having 500 books (written or edited) and 90,000 letters to his credit, with works in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal system, penned the Foundation trilogy and the I, Robot series, both pillars among science fiction. His plotting was ingenious, and had he been able to empathetically sketch people as well as ideas, he might have gone down as one of literature's true greats. Alas, his characters are cardboard, like those TV characters who are freely interchangeable save for one or two superficial features: this one is mean, this one likes to eat, that one is a geek, etc. Too bad - for every other aspect of Asimov's writing is extraordinary.

Asimov was an atheist, but I always imagine that, if current atheists had been taught the Bible by Jehovah's Witnesses instead of the churches, they may not have turned atheist. It's probably not so but I dream it anyway. For example, in his last autobiographical book, Asimov observes that hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.  [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Yeah! Man, I wish he had heard first from Jehovah's Witnesses! Virtually alone among Christian faiths at the turn of the last century, Jehovah's Witnesses exposed hellfire for the vicious rubbish that it is. JW "founder" C. T. Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire!"

At any rate, had he been a Witness, it would have benefited him personally. He died in 1992, of AIDS contracted from a life-saving blood transfusion nine years prior.

Still, I am grateful to Dr. Asimov, not only for the hours of intriguing science fiction he laid upon me, but also for his non-fiction works. Asimov's Guide to Science probably was my springboard to individual branches of science. If Asimov lacked in sketching fictional characters, he was gifted in sketching real ones. Not only the pillars, but also the buffoons, he succeeded in portraying the humanity of scientists. It is from him (Asimov's guide to Biology) that I first read of Ignaz Semmelweis, early advocate of antiseptic surgical practices and forerunner of germ theory.

In the mid 1800's, Semmelweis got it in his head that fever and death following doctor-assisted childbirth could be curtailed by washing hands and equipment frequently. Doctors back then would deliver a baby, having just emerged from an autopsy, only wiping their hands on their smocks! There were some sort of tiny "particles" contaminating the women, Semmelweis proposed. Doctors howled with laughter at such nonsense. Asimov's book vividly portrays Semmelweis' presenting his ideas at seminars, with his esteemed audience mocking him, hurling catcalls! Doctors argued that, even if Semmeweis' findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman would be too much work. Semmelweis enforced strict antiseptic practices at the hospital under his supervision, cutting deaths to under 1%, and it made no difference in their attitude! Colleagues ridiculed him his entire life, he suffered a nervous breakdown and, says Asimov, died in an insane asylum tormented by memories of women screaming in their death-agonies following hospital-acquired infections. With Semmelweis out of the way, his own hospital went back to familiar practices and the mortality rate climbed to 35%.

You can read the bare facts in many places, but Asimov's account is the most vivid I have come across, remarkable in a book that purports only to be an outline, a "guide."

Whenever those atheists start prattling on about how scientists graciously change their views at the first hint they may be off-base, whereas it's only the pig-headed religionists who "stay the course" come hell or high water, I play the 'Semmelweis' card.

Athiest or not, I miss Isaac Asimov.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The Green Cross and the Sewer

There is this doctor...rats, I misplaced the quote....who remarked that blood is "dirty as stool." That's differs from its normal description: "life-giving."

Of course, it is both. The red and white cells, especially the red that carry oxygen, account for the "life-giving" part. But blood also carries away cellular wastes. Thus, the bloodstream doubles as a sewer. That's okay if you're speaking of your own blood, but it gives you pause for thought if you're thinking someone else's blood, as in transfusion!

Blood banks get better and better at screening. Still, every so often we hear of some new disease or contamination passed on through blood transfusion. In the late 1980s and 1990s, it came out that the Japanese "Green Cross," a pharmaceutical company [Japanese name: Midori Juchi] with $1 billion in assets, ignored government standards for AIDS screening and sold infected blood to medical facilities in the U.S, Japan, and South Korea. 2000 people ended up with transfusion-induced AIDS. Of course, they sued, and in the consequent publicity, the Green Cross' surprising and unsavory past came to light.

The company was the brainchild of Hideo Futaki, Masaji Kitano, and Ryoichi Naito, three principle architects of Japan's WWII medical experiments program. Dubbed Unit 731, hundreds of prisoners perished in sadistic experiments (without anesthesia) that rivaled any deeds from Nazi Joseph Mendele, the Doctor of Death.  Unit 731, located way out there in middle-of-nowhere Mongolia, also brewed plague, cholera, and so forth, released it into the surrounding population to see what would happen...to give Japan a "leg up" in germ warfare. Daniel Barenblatt, author of A plague Upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program, reports hundreds of thousands died. The exact number, he remarks, may never be known, since the victims were peasants who had no idea they were being deliberately exterminated, and thus kept no records. They just thought they were getting sick. Why would they suspect it was deliberate?

Among the experiments performed in the Unit 731 Mongolian prison itself were animal to human blood transfusions. Naturally, all the expendable victims died. After the war, however, Futaki, Kitano, and Naito cut an immunity deal with the United States victors to avoid war crimes prosecution. later, they put their expertise to good use when they founded the Japan Blood Plasma Company, which later changed its name to Green Cross. The Japan Blood Plasma company made major money supplying blood to the U. S. Army for use during the Korean War. Thus, the founders of one of the world's principle blood banks are among the world's great mass murderers!

The Green Cross still thrives, having outlived it's long-dead founders (who were never brought to justice). It changed its name twice and, in 2001, was merged into the huge Mitsubishi conglomerate. Extensive research has, thus far, uncovered no evidence that Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor of death, ever started a blood bank like his Japanese counterparts.

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Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Life Saving and Life Threatening Blood Transfusions

In all history, there's never been a JW detractor who's used the noun blood transfusion uncoupled to the adjective life-saving. Thus, from time to time we hear of so-and-so, who's health is in jeopardy because he refuses a life saving blood transfusion. Always, the message is the same: what kind of a crackpot religion would persuade its members to decline a life saving blood transfusion?

But we now know that life-saving is the wrong term. The correct term is life-threatening. Bloodless medicine, where available, is usually the treatment of choice. Largely due to Jehovah's Witnesses, scores of medical centers exclusively devoted to bloodless surgery have cropped up in North America and worldwide.

Everybody knows that blood is a foreign tissue, even when types match, and they also know that the body tries to reject foreign tissue. Suppress the immune system, and that creates other problems. Bloodless medicine avoids the issue, and is thus safer.

The latest authority to weigh in is cardiothoracic specialist Bruce Spiess, addressing the Australian and New Zealand College of Anesthetists. (May 28, 2007) He declares blood transfusions have hurt more people than they've helped. Transfusions, he observes, are "almost a religion" because physicians practice them without solid evidence that they help. "Blood transfusion has evolved as a medical therapy and it's never been tested like a major drug," he said. "A drug is tested for safety and efficacy, blood transfusion has never been tested for either one."

Hurt more people than they've helped! That's an incredible statement, given that transfusions are always given to help and frequently given in the belief that they are absolutely essential, life saving!

He cites a Swedish study of 499 Jehovah's Witnesses which shows their survival rate after declining transfusions is higher than that of patients who received them. Such studies are becoming commonplace.

He told the conference: "If you come to surgery, we should ethically treat every patient as if they were a Jehovah's Witness...."

This "almost a religion" description squares with my own experience. Through the years, I've personally known three people who were told point blank, curtly and without the slightest empathy, that they would die without a transfusion. None of them agreed to one. None of them died. Alright, one did die years later, but she was in her 80's. I've never personally known anyone who was told they'd die without a transfusion and who actually did die. Mind you, I don't doubt there have been such ones. I've just never known any, whereas I have known three with the other outcome.

My point is that the life-giving blood transfusion mantra is overstated. Partly this happens because, if a person dies after refusing a transfusion, the added blood that never was is always reported as the cause! It does not matter if the person passed through a veg-a-matic beforehand. If nobody ever died after receiving a life-saving blood transfusion, I'd be more moved. But as observed above, they die in greater numbers than those who refuse.

Old habits die hard, in medicine and most other areas, due to inertia. The words of Max Planke the physicist are applicable:

People think new truths are accepted when the proponents are able to convince the opponents. Instead, the opponents of the truth gradually die, and a new generation comes along who is familiar with the idea. 

Over time, and almost entirely born from the organized efforts of Jehovah's Witnesses, bloodless medicine will spread, to the benefit of JWs and non-JWs alike.

Watchtower has produced documentaries on what's being done today and why bloodless is safer. This documentary has won a few "film festival" awards. In other words, it is well done and not schlocky.

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Tom Irregardless and Me    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash