Before dismantling this lie, let us discuss the Watchtower articles that apostates claim flip-flopped on organ transplants, and then you can decide if their claims hold any water. Then we will briefly touch on why comparing it to Blood Transfusions is invalid.
The 1961 WatchtowerThe very first time the Watchtower spoke on the issue of organ transplants was in its Questions From Readers section in 1961, which posed the question: Is there anything in the Bible against giving one's eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person?" The magazine then answered:
"The question of placing one's body or parts of one's body at the disposal of men of science or doctors at one's death for purposes of scientific experimentation or replacement in others is frowned upon by certain religious bodies. However, it does not seem that any Scriptural principle or law is involved. It therefore is something that each individual must decide for himself. If he is satisfied in his own mind and conscience that this is a proper thing to do, then he can make such provision, and no one else should criticize him for doing so. On the other hand, no one should be criticized for refusing to enter into any such agreement." [Emphasis ours]
Very clearly, since there is no scriptural injunction against transplanting organs, we could not prohibit them. But did not Jehovah's Witnesses compare transplanting organs to "cannibalizing" them, thereby at least implying a ban?
1967 'Questions from Readers'The November 15, 1967 Watchtower published the following reply to the question: "Is there any Scriptural objection to donating one's body for use in medial research or to accepting organs for transplant from such a source?" This is where the alleged "flipping" on organ transplants is said to have begun. The article replied:
"Humans were allowed by God to eat animal flesh and to sustain their human lives by taking the lives of animals, though they were not permitted to eat blood. Did this include eating human flesh, sustaining one’s life by means of the body or part of the body of another human, alive or dead? No! That would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people. Jehovah clearly made a distinction between the lives of animals and the lives of humans, mankind being created in God’s image, with his qualities." [Emphasis ours.]
While the article did make that comparison in regard to human organs, it did not assert it as the official stand of Jehovah's Witnesses and did not pronounce a ban on human organ transplants, and certainly not on transplants in general. Instead, it highlighted it as only a possible viewpoint and left the decision up to the reader.
But should the cannibalism viewpoint be considered unwarranted? Consider that when an electrician or mechanic takes parts from one machine to make another machine work, it is known as "cannibalizing". So the logic of the author was sound, though it could be seen as interfering with the free choice of others. That was not the intent, however. The article was making a point about personal decision-making.
Should the organization be excoriated for having this viewpoint? No. Why not? Because instead of simply saying "its a conscience matter" and leaving it at that, they endeavored to attain God's view on it, and this is understandable because the question was "is there any Scriptural objection" to organ transplants. What Christian organization excludes God from its decision making?
It is also of interest to note that the above article still left plenty room for the Christian conscience, where apostates, predictably, stop reading:
"It should be evident from this discussion that Christians who have been enlightened by God’s Word do not need to make these decisions simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles recorded in the Scriptures and use these in making personal decisions as they look to God for direction, trusting him and putting their confidence in the future that he has in store for those who love him." [Emphasis ours.]
Before making personal decisions, Christians are encouraged to always take Bible principles into consideration. Readers are also welcome to point out where in this article are organ transplants officially "banned".
1980 'Questions From Readers'This article asked the pointed question: "Should Congregation action be taken if a baptized Christian accepts a human organ transplant, such as a cornea or a kidney?" After considering various views on the issue, the article made these statements:
"Clearly, personal views and conscientious feelings vary on this issue of transplantation. It is well known that the use of human materials for human consumption varies all the way from minor items, such as hormones and corneas, to major organs, such as kidneys and hearts. While the Bible specifically forbids consuming blood, there is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue. For this reason, each individual faced with making a decision on this matter should carefully and prayerfully weigh matters and then decide conscientiously what he or she could or could not do before God. It is a matter for personal decision. (Gal. 6:5) The congregation judicial committee would not take disciplinary action if someone accepted an organ transplant." [Emphasis ours.]
Opposers will argue that this is where the organization "flopped". But for that to be true, they would need to show where in the past was congregational action ordered to be taken against those accepting organ transplants. Between 1961 and 1980, there is not a singe solitary statement that called for action to be taken against those accepting organ transplants.
Then there is the emotionally charged argument that "thousands" of Jehovah's Witnesses died after refusing organ transplants based on the 1967 "cannibalism" comparison. If they did so, they did it of their own conscience, and not because they were ordered not to accept human organ transplants.
Comparable with Blood Transfusions?Let us briefly contrast this with our beliefs on Blood Transfusions to show why this comparison is not valid. While it is true that Blood Transfusions were not explicitly prohibited until 1961, they were never a matter of conscience. The July 1, 1945 Watchtower stated on page 199 commenting on Acts 15:22-29:
"They wrote such instruction concerning blood and carcasses not drained of blood, not because Christians were under the Mosaic law covenant, but because they were under the covenant made after the flood with Noah and which embraced all mankind, Gentile and Jew alike; for all are Noah's descendants and hence under Jehovah's everlasting covenant concerning sanctity of blood. That the Christians stuck to that decision is manifest from the Bible." [Emphasis ours.]
On page 201, the same article stated:
"Seeing, then, that the Most High and Holy God gave plain instructions as to the disposition of blood, in harmony with his everlasting covenant made with Noah and all his descendants; and seeing that the only use of blood that he authorized in order to furnish life to humankind was the use of it as a propitiation or atonement for sin; and seeing that it was to be done upon his holy altar or at his mercy seat and not by taking such blood directly into the human body; therefore it behooves all worshipers of Jehovah who seek eternal life in his new world of righteousness to respect the sanctity of blood and to conform themselves to God's righteous rulings concerning this vital matter." [Emphasis ours.]
Did you notice that it is about how blood is to be disposed of? Was the same thing ever said about organ transplants? Clearly, the organization stood by the Bible's standard on the sanctity of blood, specifically, that it not be eaten (taken into the body) and must be poured out onto the ground (discarded) once it leaves the body, and we stand by that today. Our prohibition on Blood Transfusions is well-known around the world.
Beginning in 1961, we officially prohibited Blood Transfusions. Note what the Proclaimers book stated on page 183:
"Consistent with that understanding of matters, beginning in 1961 any who ignored the divine requirement, accepted blood transfusions, and manifested an unrepentant attitude were disfellowshipped from the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses."
In review, what have Jehovah's Witnesses taught in regard to organ transplants?
- 1945 - Refraining from taking in blood an "everlasting covenant" and officially prohibited in 1961.
- 1961 - Organ transplants a matter of Christian conscience.
- 1967 - Organ transplants compared to cannibalism, yet, still a matter of conscience.
- 1980 - "It is a matter for personal decision".
- The points made about Blood Transfusions are not made regarding organ transplants.
All these articles, except for the 1945 Watchtower, are available in the latest edition of Watchtower Library CD-ROM.
You decide: Did Jehovah's Witnesses flip-flop on organ transplants? Consider: Each time organ transplants were mentioned in our literature, it was left to consience. Only human organ transplants were ever compared to cannibalism. We repeatedly stated that there is no scriptural precedent for rejecting organ transplants as a practice. We have never shunned anyone for accepting organ transplants of any kind.