On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. vol.99 n.2 Cape Town Feb. 2009
Blood alternative products: correction regarding Jehovah's Witnesses
C F Muller
Chairman, Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses of South Africa firstname.lastname@example.org
To the Editor: You published a gross inaccuracy in the SAMJ1 by stating that Hemopure has the 'Thumbs up from Jehovah's Witnesses'. With regard to bovine and human-derived haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) you also incorrectly stated that both 'Hemopure ... and another similar product, Polyheme ... are unconditionally accepted by Jehovah's Witnesses'. These statements are very misleading to readers who may treat our members who endeavour to follow the Bible injunction to 'abstain from ... blood' (Acts 15:20).
First of all, it is not our policy to endorse any medical product. Secondly, the decision as to whether an individual Witness will accept or reject fractions from red blood cells, such as Hemopure or Polyheme, is a personal one and will vary from one Witness patient to another.
The manager of the American Biopure Corporation in South Africa, Dr Mandisa Mholwana, is aware of our stand on this matter, which was communicated to her in writing in early 2008, and she agreed to delete any statement in their publications and website to the effect that Hemopure is acceptable to Jehovah's Witnesses. It is regrettable that she did not inform you of our clearly stated viewpoint on this.
Considering the importance of the underlying personal, medical and constitutional issues in connection with an individual's decision whether to accept Hemopure, we are sure that you would wish to correct any impression given in the article that we, as Jehovah's Witnesses, unconditionally accept such commercial products.
1. Bateman C. Metanalysis critical of blood alternative product challenged. S Afr Med J 2008; 98: 746-748.
Chris Bateman replies: I apologise for what seems to have been a misunderstanding of the claims made by the Hemopure designers and distributors during my interview with them, but more especially for not having contacted you to verify and clarify. The intention was to convey that the product, unlike human blood, was acceptable to Jehovah's Witnesses, a contention I accepted in good faith.
One of the key Hemopure designers quoted in the article, Professor Colin Mackenzie, has read your objections. He acknowledges that Jehovah's Witness patients abstain from blood, noting also that many Jehovah Witnesses do accept HBOCs. Professor Mackenzie adds: 'the author is correct, the decision to accept HBOCs is an individual decision. The Jehovah's Witness religious movement does not and never has endorsed any medical product such as HBOCs.'
Professor Mackenzie has apologised for the confusion about the church stance that arose during the interview, as has Dr Mahlowana for any inference that Hemopure is acceptable to all Jehovah's Witness patients. We hope that publication of your letter and this response will help better inform our readers.