Nonblood Treatment—What Experts Say
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN NORWAY
“EVEN if I should forget everything else from this congress, I will not forget your booth.” So said a doctor who attended the 25th Congress of the International Society of Blood Transfusion, held in Oslo, Norway, last summer (June 27 to July 2, 1998). He had just visited the information booth that Jehovah’s Witnesses had set up as approved exhibitors.*
Over 1,700 doctors from 83 countries attended this congress. Many delegates represented blood banks, but there were also hematologists, surgeons, and anesthesiologists. What information did the professionals share at this high-level meeting? What did Jehovah’s Witnesses present at their exhibit, and what response did they get from the delegates?
Among the topics considered were blood transfusion, blood testing, and medical alternatives to human blood. Dr. C. V. Prowse, of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, spoke on “Alternatives to Human Blood and Blood Resources.” He mentioned various recombinant (synthetic) growth factors that can increase blood cell levels by stimulating the body’s production of these cells. For example, erythropoietin is produced by the kidneys and stimulates the formation of red blood cells. But now this can be produced in laboratories. Dr. Prowse said that synthetic “erythropoietin is well established as a treatment for various forms of anaemia.”
A similar substance has been developed to stimulate the body’s production of blood platelets. Dr. Prowse said: “The most recent discoveries in this area are the thrombopoietic growth factors. Interleukin 11 is already licensed for its effect in improving platelet count . . . , and it seems likely that thrombopoietin and its homolog, rh-PEG-MGDF, soon will be.”
Dr. Prowse also mentioned synthetic clotting factors (plasma proteins) that have proved valuable to hemophiliacs: “Recombinant equivalents of a number of plasma proteins are licensed, and in some cases are established as the preferred therapy due to concerns over the viral infectivity of plasma-derived products.” Dr. Prowse added that “a number of other coagulation factors are now in development for production.”
N. S. Faithfull, who is affiliated with a pharmaceutical corporation, gave a presentation on perfluorocarbon (PFC) compounds. Certain perfluorocarbons can transport oxygen in the circulatory system. The first generation of these chemicals did not prove satisfactory as “artificial” blood. Has progress been made? Faithfull said: “Over the last few years, further development of PFC technology has progressed and clinical trials have been performed using [two second] generation PFC emulsions.” He reported on trials of one of these involving 256 patients undergoing orthopedic, gynecologic, or urologic surgery—procedures that often result in high blood loss. The results? “The data from both studies indicated that Oxygent was significantly better than blood at reversing these triggers [a trigger indicates a need for a blood transfusion] and that the triggers were reversed for significantly longer than the reversal caused by autologous blood.”
The congress also heard that the size of PFC particles in such emulsions “is very small . . . , about 40 times smaller than the diameter of an RBC [red blood cell]. This small size can enable PFC particles to traverse capillaries through which no RBCs are flowing.” This seems to hold promise of benefit in the case of certain damaged, blood-starved tissue.
A British physician emphasized the need of saving blood in surgical procedures. He urged this because of the shortage of blood and because of the hazards connected with transfusions. To illustrate how much can be done to reduce the use of blood, he told of a surgeon who used blood in only 10 percent of the hip operations that he performed. Other surgeons at the same hospital used blood in 70 percent of hip surgeries.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Represented
Information about many such alternatives and methods was made available at the booth of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One poster indicated that around the world, 120 medical centers now offer bloodless medicine, and printed handouts contained abstracts from some 1,000 medical articles. Information was presented to show different methods of avoiding blood transfusion—techniques that might be applied before, during, and after surgery.
The response was very favorable. During the congress the Witnesses at the booth spoke with about 480 physicians— many of whom came back for more information, even bringing colleagues along. A professor of anesthesiology and surgery from California remarked: “This is impressive.” A professor from Germany said: “I can use this information in the education of my students.” A doctor representing the largest blood bank in China noted: “We badly need such information because of the shortage of the blood supply.”
The day after receiving the printed handout, the head of the blood bank at a Norwegian hospital returned and said: “May I have two or three more? I will give them to the surgeons and anesthesiologists and tell them to use these methods to reduce or avoid the use of blood transfusions in connection with operations.” Another doctor said: “This is the most interesting booth at the congress.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active around the globe in helping individuals to locate physicians who can and will treat patients without blood transfusion. The Witnesses have also made available current information on medical alternatives to blood transfusion. At the congress, hundreds of doctors, including surgeons, as well as other medical staff, from scores of lands, expressed interest in such information. This should have a positive impact as these individuals endeavor to use the many procedures and products that make blood transfusion unnecessary.
For religious reasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusion, asking instead for nonblood alternative medical treatment. (Acts 15:28, 29) For information on the reasons for and reasonableness of this, see How Can Blood Save Your Life?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.