*Updated June 8, 2020.*
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have issues with modern medical information because this is seen as against the tenets of the religious faith. In particular, they, for the most part or by theology, have an issue with blood transfusions.
As per the attempts to reduce the negative effects of Covid-19 to medical patients affected by Covid-19, the FDA or the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America issued recommendations or guidelines for healthcare investigators and providers. It is based on some studies into convalescent plasma collected from Covid-19 patients who have recovered from the ill-effects of the virus.
Even with the experimental nature of the treatment, there are some circumstances under which the treatment can be considered well-advised based on some scientists and doctors using it. However, the ones for this treatment would be serious or critical cases along with the symptomatology of Covid-19.
For those with critical case symptomatology themselves or individuals with family members who are, unfortunately, suffering under the suffocating ravages of Covid-19 (coming from SARS-CoV-2), these kinds of potential treatments could – literally – save your life or the life of a loved one, or just save a life of another human being. It becomes incumbent upon us to support science, medicine, and the appropriate application in order to “do no harm.” It’s both a principle of medical professionals and civilized society, i.e., reflective of a common drive of human beings when not driven into insane circumstances.
Unfortunately, while many religious principles reflect some universal sentiments in human beings, at the time, others come out as pre-scientific understandings or rejection of modern medicine capable of helping individuals who may be suffering. One particular group, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been known to reject blood transfusions, as these stand against their stipulated principles of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the governing or legislating body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. This has been a strict policy since 1945.
The basis for the claim is that blood transfusions go against some divine law or ethical precepts derived from their understanding of the oughts of the world through their religious lens. Now, with the recent possibilities for critical or severe cases to be helped by the experimental treatments, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been directed (or commanded by the legislative body) to not use them. More directly, they’re strictly forbidden, as this is Convalescent Plasma Therapy or a treatment using transfusion.
The directive from the Jehovah’s Witnesses stated:
The Blood Issue: There’s talk about the FDA allowing doctors to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients with “convalescent plasma therapy.” It would be wise to advise the publishers that it’s understood that this is giving the patient the whole plasma of the person who has developed the antibodies which would be unacceptable for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
However if the antibodies were extracted from the plasma (fractions/immunoglobulins) and then given to the patient, it would be a conscience matter for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some doctors may view plasma as a fraction. Therefore the publisher may need to explain their personal decision not to accept any of the blood’s four main components, one of them being plasma. (Source: JWsurvey, based on work of Mark O’Donnell in “Jehovah’s Witnesses Denied Plasma Treatment Amid Coronavirus Pandemic” – click for article title for link)
This is a serious public health issue for which the lives of some members of the public religion becomes a public health hazard. As we see with the prevention within the directives (theological and faith-based in character), individuals cannot use the treatments, as they are forbidden, without consequence. If they use it, then the fear of the wrath of the legislative body, as representative of God, can come down like a ton of bricks. It is, as James Randi noted to me, based on fear. If an individual uses the blood or plasma, then they will become “Disassociated” from the community and will not be permitted contact from their own families.
Theology trumps medicine here.