Blood Transfusions Overrated?
Blood transfusions are common in modern medicine, but do they measure up to their reputation? What do you think?
In The American Journal of Medicine (February 1993), Dr. Craig S. Kitchens asked: “Are Transfusions Overrated?” He noted that physicians often weigh whether the benefit of a therapy is more than the risk it might bring. What about transfusions?
Kitchens reviewed recent evidence of many risks linked with transfusions, such as hepatitis, compromised immunity, organ system failure, and graft-versus-host reactions. One study summarizing “a myriad of complications” from blood transfusions “concluded that each transfusion event has an aggregate 20% chance for some adverse reaction, some of which are minor but others deleterious,” even fatal.
However, do the supposed benefits justify facing such risks?
Dr. Kitchens reviewed 16 reported studies involving 1,404 operations on Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refuse transfusions in obedience to the Bible command to ‘abstain from blood.’—Acts 15:28, 29.
The result? “The Jehovah’s Witness patients’ decision to forego transfusions for major surgical procedures appears to add 0.5% to 1.5% mortality to the overall operative risk. Less clear is how much morbidity and mortality are avoided by this practice, but they probably exceed the risk of not being transfused.” (Italics ours.) His point? Any medical risk of refusing blood is probably less than the risks involved in accepting blood transfusions.
Hence, Kitchens’ reasonable question: “If not transfusing Jehovah’s Witnesses actually results in little acute extra morbidity and mortality and avoids a significant amount of costs and chronic complications, should patients receive fewer transfusions?”
Those who refuse transfusions on the basis of such evidence will also be acting in harmony with directions from our Creator.