What do you really know about blood?
It is one of the most mysterious fluids in existence, yet it is essential for sustaining life. It has been used by many in history to treat illness and accident, yet it has been sanctified and religiously avoided by others. It is often associated with the occult and magic, yet it is the subject of ongoing research and scrutiny by biologists, physicists and medical authorities. It has been known to save lives but also to cost lives. This strikingly red fluid is immediately identifiable as soon as it leaves the human body. Without it, a living organism will die within hours. One ancient document summarizes it perfectly when it says “The life (the soul) is in the blood.”
What do we really know about this fluid of life? How should we view and treat it and, should we use it habitually in the many ways that societies do? Are there dangers in blood that we are not made aware of? This article examines the composition, history and use of blood, and it may open your eyes to some surprising facts.
Blood serves many purposes in a living organism, some which may perhaps still be unknown to science. It carries oxygen through the body, removes carbon dioxide, helps adapt to temperature changes, and aids in the fight against disease. One textbook describes blood as “The only organ in the body that’s a fluid.” The same reference calls blood “A living transportation system.”
“The circulatory system is like the canals of Venice,” says scientist N. Leigh Anderson. “It transports all the good things,” he continues, “and it also transports a lot of junk.” As blood makes its way through the 60,000 miles [100,000km] of our circulatory system, it comes into contact with nearly every tissue in our body, including the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs - vital organs that process and rely on blood.
It is no wonder then that human beings throughout history have been fascinated by blood and it's function in life. As far back as the ancinet Egyptian and Roman empires, physicians and magicians have been using blood, both from animals and humans, to treat illnesses, weave spells, and to try and prolong life beyond the normal human span. One historian noted that, for some cultures, such as Egypt - “Human blood was regarded as the sovereign remedy for leprosy and epilepsy.”
A physician revealed the therapy given to King Esar-haddon’s son when the nation of Assyria was on the leading edge of technology: “[The prince] is doing much better; the king, my lord, can be happy. Starting with the 22nd day I give (him) blood to drink, he will drink (it) for 3 days. For 3 more days I shall give (him blood) for internal application.”
The book “Flesh and Blood“ reported that “Blood in its more everyday form did not ... go out of fashion as an ingredient in medicine and magic.” In 1483, for example, Louis XI of France was dying. ‘Every day he grew worse, and the medicines profited him nothing, though of a strange character; for he vehemently hoped to recover by the human blood which he took and swallowed from certain children.’”
However, through all mankind's bloody history (pardon the pun), there has been one group of people who had a completely different view of blood and a deep respect and reverence for it. They have never used blood - human or animal, in any way. In fact, they have always considered the use of blood, for either food or medicine as unnatural and unethical. Who were they, and, why did they stand out so differently from the nations around them?
In the 16th century BCE, the nation of Israel was given a law code, said to come from the creator of life – Almighty God himself. From that law the Israelites learned that “The soul (life) is in the blood.” This meant that blood was the literal life of the living being and, as such, was as sacred as life itself. To spill blood, in God's eyes, was to take life illegally, to steal from God. So serious was this that the nation were given specific laws on how blood should be viewed and treated. The law commanded that no blood should ever be consumed. Even when a person slaughtered an animal for food, its blood was to be poured out on the ground. The penalty for using blood was death. Later, when God revealed his means for restoring humans to perfection, he commanded that the blood spilled from animals was to be offered as a sacrifice, signifying the human imperfection and need for forgiveness.
But this forbidding of the consumption or other use of blood did not end with the Israelites when their religious system was destroyed by the Roman Empire. In the first century, the Christian Elders in Jerusalem wrote to the congregations to remind them that they were still under obligation to “Abstain from blood” (Acts 15.28). This was to become one of the identifying traits of genuine Christianity, along with love, refusal to fight wars, and refusal to become embroiled with the political affairs of the nations. In fact, for centuries onward, Christians were well known for their abstention from all blood.
In 177CE Religious enemies accused Christians of, among other crimes, eating children. A noted writer of that time - Tertulian reported the response;
“How would such men eat children, when they are not allowed to eat the blood even of irrational animals?” Tertullian later wrote: “Consider those who with greedy thirst, at a show in the arena, take the fresh blood of wicked criminals ... and carry it off to heal their epilepsy.” He contrasted them with Christians, who “do not even have the blood of animals at [their] meals ... At the trials of Christians you offer them sausages filled with blood. You are convinced, of course, that [it] is unlawful for them.” So, early Christians would risk death rather than take in blood.
Later in history, in 692 CE the Trullan Council, at Constantinople ruled;
“The eating of the blood of animals is forbidden in holy scripture. A Cleric who partakes of blood is to be punished by deposition, a layman by ex-communication.”
Even as late as 1616, Thomas Bartholin, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Copenhagen, wrote;
“Canibals are condemened. Why do we not abhor those who stain their gullet with human blood? Similar is the receiving of alien blood from a cut vein, either through the mouth, or by instruments of transfusion. The authors of this operation are held in terror by the divine law, by which the eating of blood is prohibited.”
In the 18th century, Scientist Joseph Priestley concluded: “The prohibition to eat blood, given to Noah, seems to be obligatory on all his posterity ... If we interpret [the] prohibition of the apostles by the practice of the primitive Christians, who can hardly be supposed not to have rightly understood the nature and extent of it, we cannot but conclude, that it was intended to be absolute and perpetual; for blood was not eaten by any Christians for many centuries.”
However, this scriptural view of blood was not to last much longer. Once William Harvey mapped the circulatory system in 1628 and helped mankind understand better the functions of blood, attitudes began to change. Christendom gradually ignored the Bible's command on blood. Medical advances over the next two centuries began to experiment with blood as a potential medicine and surgical solution. Today, in our new millenium of technology and mass information, blood is regularly used for many things including food and surgery.
Yet, according to the Bible, the laws and principles given to both Israel and Christians were “To safeguard your lives,” and “To benefit yourselves.” Is it possible that the Bible was right about the use of blood, and that we have been misled by history and the medical world? Would people consider drinking a pint of someone else's blood if it were offered to them? Probably not, yet people receive blood into their veins and organs.
Some years ago, my wife and I were notified of a government campaign in our country (England) to vaccinate our children with the MMR jab (Measles, Mumps & Rubella). We were told that the risks of not vaccinating our children could be severe and that all children should be vaccinated to safeguard the nation. When we inquired about the risks and side effects of the actual vaccine, we found that, not only was there very little information on this but that it actually irritated the authorities and the medical service practitioners when we asked these questions. We were given blanket statements such as that the risks of the illnesses were far greater than those of the vaccine, and that the possible consequences of the vaccine were negligible and extremely rare. Without more information, and with some genuine concerns, we declined the vaccine for our children and, thereby came under a great deal of official condemnation and criticism from others. Some years later however, it was uncovered that the risks from the vaccine had been significantly played down, resulting in many casualties, while the risks from the actual diseases had been exaggerated. Since then, there have been many such controversies in our land, where governments and medical authorities have misled and bullied the public over medical treatments. These include CJD, Salmonella, and Foot and Mouth Disease.
Which brings us back to the use of blood in medicine and surgery. There are many questions that need answering, especially if patients are to put their trust in transfusions to treat them and save lives. What are the facts about blood? Is it really a life-saving process, as we are regularly and authoritatively told? Are there risks, side-effects, consequences to dabbling with blood? And, like most medicines and medical procedures, are there alternatives available?
We are regularly told by the medical authorities and sources of information that there are four blood “types.” According to the NHS England website - “There are 4 main blood groups (types of blood) – A, B, AB and O. Your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents. Each group can be either RhD positive or RhD negative, which means in total there are 8 blood groups.”
However, this is not the full story. Science has discovered quite recently that each person's blood is specific and unique in many ways. Danish scientist Niels Jerne shared the 1984 Nobel Prize for Medicine. When asked why he refused a blood transfusion, he said: “A person’s blood is like his fingerprints—there are no two types of blood that are exactly alike.”
Lcne Bourdel, professor at the French Higher School of Anthropobiology, wrote “The genetical combinations in procreation are such that our blood is unique, never identical to that of either of our parents, nor to that of our children. And we make this same blood all our life. In fact, no matter how many transfusions we may receive, we will never adopt the blood that the donor has given us; it is always our own blood that prevails and that is renewed perpetually and identically.”
The Encyclopeadia Britannica says;
The large number of different red cellantigens makes it extremely unlikely that persons other than identical twins will have the same array of bood group substances.”
There are currently 20 known blood group systems, and 400 red-cell antigens. As such, “comparability” is not as straightforward as we are led to believe.
Are there risks, side-effects, consequences to dabbling with blood? Indeed, and they are numerous, and can be fatal. Below is a list of just some of those risks;
Acute Immune Hemolgic Reaction (fatal if not treated)
Hepatitus B & C
Graft versus Host Disease
In the article - “Blood Transfusion: Uses, Abuses, and Hazards,” Dr. Douglas H. Posey, Jr., wrote: “Nearly 30 years ago Sampson described blood transfusion as a relatively dangerous procedure ... [Since then] at least 400 additional red cell antigens have been identified and characterized. There is no doubt the number will continue to increase because the red cell membrane is enormously complex.” - Journal of the National Medical Association, July 1989.
When doctors transplant a heart, a liver, or another organ, the recipient’s immune system may sense the foreign tissue and reject it. Yet, a transfusion is a tissue transplant. Even blood that has been “properly” cross matched can suppress the immune system. At a conference of pathologists, the point was made that hundreds of medical papers “have linked blood transfusions to immunologic responses.” - “Case Builds Against Transfusions,” Medical World News, December 11, 1989.
At the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conference, 1988, it was reported that “Approximately 1 in 100 transfusions are accompanied by fever, chills, or urticaria [hives]. ... Approximately 1 in 6,000 red cell transfusions results in a hemolytic transfusion reaction. This is a severe immunologic reaction that may occur acutely or in a delayed fashion some days after the transfusion; it may result in acute [kidney] failure, shock, intravascular coagulation, and even death.”
My own wife was given a blood transfusion years ago and she had a severe reaction to it (the first on the list). She described the feeling at that time - “I felt like I was going to die” The doctors had to urgently administer treatment to prevent her death. She was never made aware of such a risk beforehand.
Have you ever heard of a medicine or treatment where the risks were not identified to the patient and, the patient was not offered a choice as to whether they want to accept them or not? Did you personally know of the risks identified in this article? If not, why not? We are regularly advertised to and encouraged to give blood.
It is true that screening procedures have improved over time. However, so have the range of diseases that can be transmitted increased. Dr. Terrence J. Sacchi, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine wrote “While blood transfusions are safer today than in the past, they still pose risks, including immune reactions and contracting hepatitis or sexually transmitted diseases.”
But, assuming that the patient is informed of the risks, as is their legal and ethical right, many would argue that the need to save lives far outweighs the risks associated with blood transfusions. Yet, here again, the facts of the matter have been obscured, often because blood is a very profitable industry in some countries.
According to the publication - “The Body in Question”, Dr Millar writes;
“The most immediate threat to life is not shortage of blood, as such, but an inadequate volume of fluid. ... The administration of ... plasma substitute, is an acceptable stop-gap in the early stages, since it imitates the natural tendency of the body to restore the bulk of the blood at the expense of diluting it.”
This is true when we consider that, at the scene of an accident, where a person has suffered extensive blood loss, the medical personal at the scene, after stopping the further loss of blood, then hook the victim up to a drip of clear solution, known as a “volume expander.” No blood is stored in ambulances and no blood can be given to a patient until their blood group has been determined at the hospital.
Professor Guyton states: “Various plasma substitutes have been developed that perform almost exactly the same [circulatory] functions as plasma [the fluid part of blood].”
Which brings us to the little known or publicized fact that there are many alternatives to blood transfusions including Saline, Dextrose, and Ringers Solution. Many new treatments are currently in development and bloodless medical care has become a priority for some medical authorities after seeing growing evidence of the benefits and avoidance of health risks.
The journal Cancer (February 15, 1987) gave the results of a study done in the Netherlands: “In the patients with colon cancer, a significant adverse effect of transfusion on long-term survival was seen. In this group there was a cumulative 5-year overall survival of 48% for the transfused and 74% for the nontransfused patients.” Physicians at the University of Southern California followed up on a hundred patients who underwent cancer surgery. “The recurrence rate for all cancers of the larynx was 14% for those who did not receive blood and 65% for those who did. For cancer of the oral cavity, pharynx, and nose or sinus, the recurrence rate was 31% without transfusions and 71% with transfusions.”—Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology, March 1989.
What do such studies suggest regarding transfusions? In his article “Blood Transfusions and Surgery for Cancer,” Dr. John S. Spratt concluded: “The cancer surgeon may need to become a bloodless surgeon.” - The American Journal of Surgery, September 1986.
Another primary task of the immune system is to defend against infection. So it is understandable that some studies show that patients receiving blood are more prone to infection. Dr. P. I. Tartter did a study of colorectal surgery. Of patients given transfusions, 25 percent developed infections, compared with 4 percent of those who received no transfusions. He reports: “Blood transfusions were associated with infectious complications when given pre-, intra-, or postoperatively ... The risk of postoperative infection increased progressively with the number of units of blood given.” (The British Journal of Surgery, August 1988). Those attending a 1989 meeting of the American Association of Blood Banks learned this: Whereas 23 percent of those who received donor blood during hip-replacement surgery developed infections, those given no blood had no infections at all. Dr. John A. Collins wrote concerning this effect of blood transfusions: “It would be ironic indeed if a ‘treatment’ which has very little evidence of accomplishing anything worthwhile should subsequently be found to intensify one of the main problems faced by such patients.”—World Journal of Surgery, February 1987.
Yet despite this growing evidence, many medical authorities refuse to acknowledge or offer the safer alternatives.
Dr. Alex Zapolanski, Director of Cardiac Surgery at the San Francisco Heart Institute stated “Most physicians have knee-jerk reactions with transfusions and just give them out liberally and indiscriminately. I don’t.”
Dr. Johannes Scheele, professor of surgery, Jena, Germany wrote “I don’t see any conventional abdominal operation that in a normal patient routinely requires blood transfusion.”
In Britain, after a decade of infection of up to 30,000 people with contaminated blood had been called “The biggest treatment disaster in NHS history” in which thousands have died, The NHS blood and Transplant service “currently doesn't accept blood donations from those who have had a transplant since 1980.”
The National Library of Medicine actually went as far to say “The benefits of blood transfusions have never been conclusively demonstrated, but evidence of transfusion related harm continues to accumulate.”
As cardiovascular surgeon Denton Cooley notes: “A blood transfusion is an organ transplant. ... I think that there are certain incompatibilities in almost all blood transfusions.”
Dr. Charles Huggins, who is the Director of Transfusion Service at the large Massachusetts General Hospital, made this very clear: “Blood has never been safer. But it must be considered unavoidably non-safe. It is the most dangerous substance we use in medicine.” - The Boston Globe Magazine, February 4,1990.
It is of interest on this subject to note that - of all so-called “Christian” denominations in the world today (apparently 15,00 of them) only one group still obeys the Biblical law and principles on blood. Jehovah's Witnesses are well known, (and often criticized and ridiculed) for their refusal to accept blood transfusions, even when they are told that they may lose their life as a result. Because of this adherence to the Biblical law, which they consider as a direct commandment from God, the Witnesses live their lives in a way so as to respect life and health. They plan ahead, don't take risks and don't take life for granted. Further, they try to obey all driving and Health and Safety laws. Becoming a Witness, means they are far less likely to be involved in accidents, fights and emergencies than others. Jehovah's Witnesses seek out the best, safest healthcare available and, because of their determination to obey the Bible's commands, they have been the catalyst for many medical improvements around the world, which have saved countless lives. On this, Dr. Cesare Buresta, Chief Surgeon of the Hospital of Ripatransone in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, pointed out that “With human blood, there is the risk of hepatitis or immunological incompatibility due to the Rh factor. The curious thing is that... Jehovah's Witnesses reject other people's blood by virtue of a supposed Biblical prohibition, that is to say they are against transfusions.” However, after his surgical team used artificial blood in three cases with positive results, Dr. Buresta concluded: “Now it seems that science is saying (the Witnesses) are right.”
Supporting these conclusions, Professor Luc Montagnier, discoverer of the AIDS virus, states: “The evolution of our understanding in this field shows that blood transfusions must one day die out.”
In all aspects of daily living, human beings, particularly those in the developed world, pride themselves on being informed, educated and able to choose their own medical treatments. Yet, as has been demonstrated, there is considerable ignorance, prejudice, and distortion of the facts about blood and healthcare.
It is a matter of historical record that the ancient nation of Israel, to whom the law prohibiting the use of blood was given, were the healthiest and most successful of ancient races. Their disease rates were low, their crime rates negligible and their civilization the most medically advanced of all contemporary nations. While other societies were rubbing human excrement on cuts and swellings, the Israelites were commanded to bury theirs away from their cities. While other nations were ignorant of contamination of disease, and freely handled dead bodies, the Isrealites were commanded to quarantine infected persons for seven days and to wash themselves thoroughly if they came into contact with a corpse. While other nations fed on almost anything, the Israelites were warned not to consume carnivores and scavengers. Was this human wisdom … or divine instruction?
The truth is that blood is not a natural, safe means of medical treatment. Neither do we fully understand the nature of this miraculous substance today. Perhaps in the future, when medical experts have considered all of the evidence, and abandoned their own traditions and prejudices, when citizens are given real, informed choices of medical treatments, posterity may look back and gasp that humans ever transferred blood from one person to another because, in the words of the Holy Bible “The soul – the life" - your life, is really, and literally, “in the blood.”