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Organ Transplants & Vaccinations

Watchtower teachings on medical topics have varied wildly over the years. Organ Transplants is one of these areas. Over the years a Jehovah's Witness:

  • Could have a transplant
  • Could not have a transplant and risked being disfellowshipped if they had one
  • Could have a transplant

For a discussion on transplants and other medical changes see Medical


Organ Transplants

Acceptable

Awake! December 22 1949 -For the full article click for the HTML of the text or a 4Mb PDF scan.
HAVE you lost an arm or a leg in an auto accident? Were some of your arteries or nerves shot away or shattered in the last war? Do cataracts blind your eyes? Have your teeth or hair fallen out? Has arthritis frozen your joints? Have a hole in your skull that needs plugging up? Need a new roof in your mouth? Or do you need a replacement for your lungs, kidneys or heart? If so, you will be interested to know that there are many shops around the country that are now in the business of supplying "spare parts" for the human body, both natural and artificial.

The best-known natural-replacement part is the cornea for the eye, the clear membrane that covers the iris of the eyeball. If you knock the window out of your house, or if the windshield of your automobile is scratched or cloudy, you get new glass to replace the old. Likewise, if "the windows of the eyes" are damaged or defective they can, in many instances, be replaced by transplanting good corneas from other people's eyes.

...Need a new jaw or a shinbone, or a vertebra for your broken back? You can now get these replacement parts and many others for the framework upon which you are hung.... The great success in bone-grafting is down to the fact that the replacement part is actually living cells that soon become an integral part of the body.

...Nerve replacements are even more marvellous when one considers their delicate nature. If only severed, nerves can be "glued" together with special cement, but if a section of nerve is torn away completely, it must be replaced if paralysis is to be prevented.

Watchtower 1961 August 1 p.480 Questions from Readers
"Is here anything in the Bible against giving one's eyes (after death) to be transplanted to some living person?-L. C., United States. 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."

Unacceptable

Watchtower 1967 November 15 pp.702-704
"Sustaining one's life by means of the body or part of the body of another human... would be cannibalism, a practice abhorrent to all civilized people. ... It is not our place to decide whether such operations are advisable from a scientific or medical standpoint. ... Christians who have been enlightened by God's Word do not need to make these decisions based simply on the basis of personal whim or emotion. They can consider the divine principles 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."

Watchtower 1975 September 1 p.519
"A peculiar factor sometimes noted is a so-called 'personality transplant.' That is, the recipient in some cases has seemed to adopt certain personality factors of the person from whom the organ came."

Acceptable

Watchtower 1980 March 15 p.31
"There is no Biblical command pointedly forbidding the taking in of other human tissue . It is a matter for personal decision "


Vaccinations

Unacceptable

Golden Age 1921 October 12 p.17
"Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice...We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can, and to his credit can such evils be placed...Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations."

Golden Age 1931 February 4 p.293
"Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood."



Golden Age 1939 May 31 p.5

Golden Age 1932 March 30 p.409

Acceptable

Watchtower 1952 December 15 p.764
"The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself....And our Society cannot afford to be drawn into the affair legally or take the responsibility for the way the case turns out."

Awake! 1993 August 8 p.25
"Previous articles in this journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have presented a consistent position: It would be up to the Bible-trained conscience of the individual Christian as to whether he would accept [vaccinations] for himself and his family."