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Organ Transplants

This site does not endorse the following Watchtower quotes. They are simply presented to show what the Watchtower has taught regarding the topic.

Watchtower teachings on medical topics have varied wildly over the years. Organ Transplants is one of these areas. Over the years Jehovah’s Witness have flip-flopped their views:

1961 – Are acceptable; an individual matter

“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.”

[Watchtower 1961 Aug 1 p480]

1967 – Not acceptable; viewed as cannibalism and risked being disfellowshipped. Yet, transplanting animal parts was a personal decision.

“Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic. However, in allowing man to eat animal flesh Jehovah God did not grant permission for humans to try to perpetuate their lives by cannibalistically taking into their bodies human flesh, whether chewed or in the form of whole organs or body parts taken from others.”

“At present scientific researchers are starting to use artificial or animal parts where formerly human parts were thought necessary, such as in the case of cornea transplants. Whether wider use of such operations will be made, we do not know. Nor can we decide whether a Christian should accept some animal part as a transplant; that is for personal decision. (Gal. 6:5)

[Watchtower 1967 Nov 15 p702-703]

1980 – Are acceptable.

“There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue … It is a matter for personal decision…”

[Watchtower 1980 Mar 15 p31]

Experience

Woman dies from refusing bone marrow transplant in 1978 – only two years before Society’s reversal on organ transplants:

Thirteen-year-old Lori Mason of Natick (Mass) dies on same day special court session was scheduled to ensure that her rights were being fully presented after Boston judge upheld her decision to decline bone marrow transplant from her sister. Had refused transplant on religious grounds as member of Jehovah’s Witnesses and feared possibility of endangering her sister’s health. Had suffered from disease called Fanconi’s aplastic anaemia.

1978 NEW YORK TIMES November 26, 1978, Sunday

https://www.nytimes.com/1978/11/26/archives/girl-13-is-dead-after-refusing-marrow-transplant-from-sister.html

Mainstream Church view of transplants

“Giving organs is the most generous act of self-giving imaginable”

Rt Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, 2011

“Thousands of people in the UK today are waiting for an organ transplant that could save or dramatically improve their lives. The simple act of joining the donors’ register can help make the world of difference to those in need. I hope that everyone will consider whether they can give life to others after their own death.”

Sentamu Ebor, Archbishop of York, 2010

https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/helping-you-to-decide/your-faith-and-beliefs/christianity/

In general, the Catholic Church approves organ transplantation, as reiterated by Pope John Paul II in an Address to the International Congress of Transplants on August 29, 2000.  Quoting from his encyclical The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II said, “One way of nurturing a genuine culture of life ‘is the donation of organs, performed in an ethically acceptable manner, with a view to offering a chance of health and even of life itself to the sick who sometimes have no other hope”

https://catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-churchs-teaching-on-organ-transplants/

Comment

Shamefully, the Watchtower organisation has never stated that the view had changed. The Watchtower Index does not reference the 1967 article in regards to transplants. No apology has been published for the sake of those that were wrongfully disfellowshipped and those that unnecessarily lost their lives. How must this make a Witness feel that lost a loved one over the issue during the 1970’s?

Finally, ‘Reasoning From The Scriptures’ [False Prophets p136 par4] comments:

“Matters on which corrections of viewpoint have been needed have been relatively minor when compared with the vital Bible truths that they have discerned and publicized.”

Article’s Original Source JWFacts.com

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