Jehovah's Witnesses and red cells!

Frank Pio Russo - January 22, 2018.

There have been many valuable advances in bloodless surgery, thanks to the availability of Jehovah's Witnesses - (JWS) - as guinea pigs volunteers, and their great contributions have recently been recognized.

Nevertheless, medicine still has a great need for blood products - especially with the very recent breakthrough of frozen blood: this means that blood over 6 weeks old no longer has to be thrown out! Plus there are many specific components that are very useful in combating cancers!

Red blood cells however, are still a no-no for JWs, despite the dissemination of Hemopure which supposedly is up to one's conscience (Hemopure: hemoglobin glutamer-250, HBOC-201, which is produced from highly purified bovine hemoglobin.) . One of their common arguments used to be that there is foreign DNA in the red cells' cytoplasms, (despite not having any nucleus)! This however was rather ill-informed and wrong: the only place where eukaryotic cells have DNA outside the nucleus, is in their mitochondria organelles and the fact is that red blood cells do not contain any of these! Furthermore, it should be obvious that if you can sacrifice your life on behalf of your friends, you can of course also give your DNA and your blood!

Of course I - having been an activist against their "No Blood Transfusion Stand" ever since 1984, after their question from readers regarding bone marrow transplants - would yearn for a change on this issue. Off the record, their writing department admitted to me that they would be bankrupted if they were to make such a change, and would thus never do it! However, I now feel that they've established such a good reputation with their bloodless surgery that they have capital to burn!

Finally, I see the need to put their "bloodless surgery" in a proper perspective! The truth is that a transfusion is only necessary when a patient has lost half of his blood or more... as that's when the oxygen carrying capacity for a non-ambulant patient starts becoming critical! Up to that point only plasma expanders are really necessary! One's got to remember that the only reason surgeons demanded blood availability, was because they wanted it as a safety net in case things went wrong: in other words most transfusions were superfluous, and were only needed to protect the surgeon's reputation against any 'unnecessary' deaths! Hence all that the bloodless surgery advances have accomplished, is to give more confidence to the surgeons to operate without blood: do not be misled the need for transfusions of blood products is still there and as large as it ever was!

Frank Pio Russo.