I Accepted God’s View of Blood
A Physician Tells His Story
I WAS in the hospital auditorium, summarizing the results of an autopsy to a group of doctors. The patient who died had a malignant tumor, and I said, “We can conclude that the immediate cause of death in this patient was hemolysis [the destruction of red blood cells] and acute renal [kidney] failure caused by a massive blood transfusion.”
One professor stood up and angrily shouted, “Are you saying we transfused the wrong type of blood?” I answered, “That is not what I meant.” Showing some slides of tiny sections of the patient’s kidney, I added, “We can see lysis [disintegration] of multiple red blood cells in the kidney and can thus conclude that this caused acute kidney failure.”* The atmosphere grew tense, and my mouth went dry. Although I was a young doctor and he was a professor, I felt that I could not back down.
When this incident took place, I was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was born in 1943 in Sendai, a city in the northern part of Japan. As my father had been a pathologist and a psychiatrist, I decided to study medicine. In my second year of medical school, in 1970, I married a young woman named Masuko.
Moving Into the Field of Pathology
Masuko worked to help support us as I finished my schooling. The field of medicine fascinated me. I was in awe of how well the human body is made! Even so, I never thought about the existence of a Creator. I thought that medical research could give meaning to my life. So after becoming a physician, I chose to continue my studies in medicine by entering the field of pathology
While performing autopsies on patients who had died of cancer, I began to have my doubts regarding the efficacy of blood transfusions. Patients with advanced cancer may be anemic as a result of bleeding. Because chemotherapy exacerbates anemia, doctors often prescribe blood transfusions. However, I came to suspect that transfusions might simply cause the cancer to spread. At any rate, today it is known that blood transfusions cause immunosuppression, which can increase the possibility of tumor recurrence and decrease the survival rate of cancer patients.*
In 1975, I encountered the case mentioned at the outset. The professor had been in charge of the case and was a specialist in hematology. So it was no wonder that he was furious when he heard me say that a blood transfusion caused the patient’s death! However, I continued my presentation, and he gradually calmed down.
No Sickness or Death
It was about that time that my wife received a visit from an elderly lady who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She used the word “Jehovah” in her presentation, and my wife asked what that meant. The Witness answered, “Jehovah is the name of the true God.” Masuko had been reading the Bible since she was a child, but the Bible she used had replaced God’s name with “LORD.” Now she knew that God was a person with a name!
Masuko immediately began studying the Bible with the elderly Witness. When I came home from the hospital about 1:00 a.m., my wife excitedly told me, “It says in the Bible that sickness and death are going to be done away with!” I answered, “That would be wonderful!” She continued, “Since the new world is coming soon, I don’t want you to waste your time.” I took that to mean that she wanted me to quit being a doctor, so I got angry and our relationship became rather strained.
My wife did not give up on me, though. She prayerfully looked for appropriate scriptures and showed them to me. The words of Ecclesiastes 2:22, 23 especially reached my heart: “What does a man come to have for all his hard work and for the striving of his heart with which he is working hard under the sun? . . . During the night his heart just does not lie down. This too is mere vanity.” This applied to what I was doing
One Sunday morning in July 1975, when my wife left for the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I suddenly made up my mind to go too. My wife was very surprised to see me there, and I received a warm welcome from the Witnesses. From then on, I attended every Sunday meeting. About a month later, a Witness began conducting a Bible study with me. Three months after my wife had her first visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses, she was baptized.
Accepting God’s View of Blood
I soon learned that the Bible tells Christians to ‘abstain from blood.’ (Acts 15:28, 29; Genesis 9:4) Since I already had doubts about the effectiveness of blood transfusions, I had no difficulty accepting God’s view of blood.* I thought, ‘If there is a Creator and that is what he says, then it must be right.’
I also learned that the cause of sickness and death is Adamic sin. (Romans 5:12) At the time, I was carrying out a study on arteriosclerosis. As we get older, our arteries harden and narrow, causing such illnesses as heart disease, cerebrovascular disorders, and kidney disease. It made sense that the cause is our inherited imperfection. After that, my zeal for medicine began to wane. Only Jehovah God can do away with sickness and death!
In March 1976, seven months after beginning my Bible study, I quit my studies at the university hospital. I feared that I would never be able to work as a physician again, but I found work at another hospital. I got baptized in May 1976. I decided that the best way for me to use my life would be to serve as a full-time evangelizer, or pioneer, which I began to do in July 1977.
Defending God’s View of Blood
In November 1979, Masuko and I moved to a congregation in Chiba Prefecture where there was a great need for preachers. I found a hospital where I could work part-time. On my first day of work, a group of surgeons surrounded me. They persistently asked me, “As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, what will you do if a patient who needs a blood transfusion is brought in?”
I respectfully explained that I would follow what God says about blood. I explained that there were alternatives to blood transfusion and that I would do the best I could to help my patients. After about an hour’s discussion, the chief of surgery answered, “I understand. But if a patient with massive blood loss is brought in, we will handle the situation.” The chief of surgery was known as a difficult person, but after that discussion we developed a good relationship, and he always respected my beliefs.
Respect for Blood Put to the Test
While we were serving in Chiba, a new headquarters for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan was under construction in Ebina. My wife and I drove there once a week to care for the health of the Witness volunteers building this facility, called Bethel. After a few months, we received an invitation to serve at Ebina Bethel full-time. Thus, in March 1981 we began living in the temporary buildings used to house over 500 volunteer workers. In the morning, I helped clean the construction site bath and toilets, and in the afternoon I did medical checkups.
One of my patients was Ilma Iszlaub, who came to Japan from Australia as a missionary in 1949. She had leukemia and was told by her doctors that she had just a few months to live. Ilma refused to accept blood transfusions to prolong her life and opted to live out her remaining days at Bethel. At that time medicines that stimulate red blood cell production, such as erythropoietin, were not yet available. So at times her hemoglobin was as low as 3 or 4 grams! (Normal is 12 to 15.) But I did what I could to treat her. Ilma continued to display her unshakable faith in God’s Word until her death in January 1988
Over the years a number of volunteers at the Japan branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses have needed surgery. To their credit, doctors at nearby hospitals have cooperated by performing the surgeries without blood. I have often been invited into the operating room to observe the procedures, and at times, I have even assisted in the operation. I am grateful to those doctors who show respect for the stand Jehovah’s Witnesses take on blood. Working with them has provided me with many opportunities to share my beliefs. One of the doctors recently became a baptized Witness.
Interestingly, the efforts of doctors to treat Jehovah’s Witnesses without blood have resulted in significant contributions to medicine. Bloodless surgeries have provided evidence of the benefits of avoiding blood transfusions. Studies show that the patients recover faster and with fewer problems after surgery.
Continuing to Learn From the Greatest Physician
I try to keep up with the latest advances in medicine. Yet, I also continue to learn from Jehovah, the greatest Physician. He does not merely see what is on the surface but sees us as a whole person. (1 Samuel 16:7) As a doctor, I try to treat each patient as a whole person, not just focusing on his or her illness. This allows me to render a patient better medical care.
I continue to serve at Bethel, and helping others learn about Jehovah
According to the textbook Modern Blood Banking and Transfusion Practices by Dr. Denise M. Harmening, “delayed hemolytic transfusion reaction” can occur “in a patient who has previously been sensitized by transfusion, pregnancy, or transplant.” In such cases, the antibodies that cause a patient to react adversely to a transfusion are “not detectable by standard pretransfusion methods.” According to Dailey’s Notes on Blood, hemolysis “can be triggered even when only a small amount of incompatible . . . blood is administered. When renal shutdown does occur the patient is slowly poisoned because the kidneys cannot remove impurities from the blood.”
The Journal of Clinical Oncology, August 1988, reported: “Patients receiving perioperative blood transfusions have a significantly worse prognosis than patients undergoing cancer surgery without a perioperative transfusion.”
For more information on the Bible’s teachings regarding blood, see the brochure How Can Blood Save Your Life? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 14]
“I explained that there were alternatives to blood transfusion and that I would do the best I could to help my patients”
[Blurb on page 15]
“Bloodless surgeries have provided evidence of the benefits of avoiding blood transfusions”
[Pictures on page 15]
Top: Giving a Bible lecture
Right: With my wife, Masuko, today