Have you ever noticed that when a medical drama wants to create conflict over the use of blood or blood transfusions they always write about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
My wife and I regularly watch medical dramas and a few weeks ago one of those programs put the doctors into just such a situation. A patient needed surgery which would require a blood transfusion. The young man was unable to take medical decisions for himself. After explaining the situation to his parents, they refused the procedure based on their Jehovah’s Witness doctrine of abstaining from blood.
After watching this program and its sad ending (they are all sad endings in this situation), two things occurred to me concerning medical dramas, blood, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
First, the writers usually get it wrong. While Witnesses do not accept whole blood transfusions, they do have the option to take “minor blood fractions” which are products derived from blood and can include injections to prevent infection, a buffering ingredient in a medication, or part of a surgical sealant. Writers often paint with a broad brush and to simply say that no blood or blood products are allowed is inaccurate. The adherents to Watchtower doctrine are often portrayed as inflexible and, in my opinion, used to indict religious people in general.
The prohibition to blood transfusions is one thing among many which sets Witnesses apart from orthodox Christianity, which has no doctrinal problem with the procedure. Mainstream Christians view this practice as another misreading of Scripture on the part of the Watchtower, one of many which separate them into the status of a cult.
Second, the real-life spiritual issue is never explored. The inflexible stand of the characters portrayed in these programs do set them apart from “normal” medical patients. Conflict is the key to good drama and the refusal of blood transfusions puts the conflict into the situation on the program. However, there is a larger issue at work here. Real-life Watchtower adherents can see these conflicts as a vindication of their position to be set apart in following Jehovah’s Witness doctrine. Members of the Watchtower society are involved with in a non-Christian cult which is leading them down the wrong path. Seeing themselves acted out as rigid in their stance can allow members to see themselves as victims of the society at large and allow them to retreat further into the arms of the group. Isolation makes attempts to reach them with the true gospel of Jesus Christ more difficult.
Drama makes television programs interesting, especially medical dramas. It is the tool for moving a story to a conclusion, whether a sad or a happy conclusion. However, this practice of using Watchtower members as convenient tools for conflict can be used as a tool of Satan to keep people in the group and, ultimately, on the road to Hell.