The Most Precious Fluid in the World
Even if blood transfusions could be dismissed as the dangerous and unnecessary products of a frequently greedy industry, that still would not explain why Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse them. Their reasons are altogether different and much more important. What are they?
A DROP of blood is so easy to take for granted. It wells up from a scratch or a pinprick, a tiny dome of glittering red, and we rinse it away or wipe it off without a thought.
But if we could shrink ourselves down until we were so small that this dome loomed overhead like a mountain, we would find in its crimson depths a world of incredible complexity and order. Within that single drop, there bustle great armies of cells: 250,000,000 red blood cells, 400,000 white blood cells, and 15,000,000 platelets, which are but some of the ranks. Launched into action in the bloodstream, each army sets about its separate task.
The red cells scurry through the intricate network of the vascular system, carrying oxygen from the lungs to every cell in the body and removing the carbon dioxide. So tiny are these cells that a stack of 500 of them would only be 0.04 inches [0.1 cm] high. Yet, a stack of all the red cells in your body would soar up to 31,000 miles [50,000 km]! After about 120 days of making the trip through the body 1,440 times a day, the red cell is retired. Its iron-rich core is efficiently recycled, the rest disposed of. Every second, three million red cells are removed, while the same number of new ones are made in the marrow. How does the body know that a red cell has reached the right age for retirement? Scientists are mystified. But without this system of replacing old red cells, according to one chemist, “our blood would be thick as concrete in a couple of weeks.”
Meanwhile, the white cells prowl the system, seeking out and destroying unwanted invaders. The platelets gather instantly where there is a cut and start the process of clotting and sealing off the break. All these cells are suspended in a clear, ivory-colored fluid called plasma, which is itself made up of hundreds of ingredients, many of them playing vital roles in carrying out the blood’s long list of duties.
Scientists with all their collective brainpower are at a loss to understand everything that blood does, let alone duplicate it. Could this miraculously complex fluid be anything but the work of a Master Designer? And doesn’t it stand to reason that this superhuman Creator has every right to regulate how his creations should be used?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have always thought so. They view the Bible as a letter from our Creator that contains his guidelines on how to live the best life possible; it is a book that is not silent on this matter of blood. Leviticus 17:14 says: “The soul of every sort of flesh is its blood”—not literally, of course, since the Bible also says that the living organism itself is a soul. Rather, the life of all souls is so inextricably tied up with and sustained by the blood in them that blood is appropriately viewed as a sacred fluid representing life.
For some, that is hard to understand. We live in a world that holds very little as sacred. Life itself is rarely valued as it should be. Little wonder, then, that blood is bought and sold like any other commodity. But those who respect the Creator’s wishes do not treat it that way. ‘You must not eat blood’ was God’s command to Noah and his descendants—all mankind. (Genesis 9:4) Eight centuries later He put that command in his Law to the Israelites. Fifteen centuries later he reaffirmed it once again to the Christian congregation: ‘Abstain from blood.’—Acts 15:20.
Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to that law primarily because they want to obey their Creator. By means of the sacrificial death of his own beloved Son, the Creator has already provided mankind with lifesaving blood. It can prolong life not just for a few months or years but forever.—John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7.
Furthermore, abstaining from blood transfusions has protected Witnesses from myriads of dangers. More and more people besides Jehovah’s Witnesses are refusing blood transfusions today. Slowly the medical community is responding and reducing its use of blood. As the Surgery Annual put it: “Clearly, the safest transfusion is the one not given.” The journal Pathologist noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses have long insisted that blood transfusions are not advisable treatment. It added: “There is considerable evidence to support their contention, despite protestations from blood bankers to the contrary.”
Whom would you rather trust? The wise Being who designed blood? Or the people who have made the selling of blood a big business?
[Pictures on page 15]
The human vascular system, with capillaries (inset) that are so fine that blood cells are forced to travel through them single file