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.
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]
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.
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.
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.