Child death blamed on church:

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Em­manuel Kafe

AJEHOVAH’S Wit­ness lost her baby dur­ing child­birth be­cause she and her hus­band fol­lowed church teach­ings and turned down blood trans­fu­sions that could have averted the tragedy.

Getrude Seneri (28) said she ex­pe­ri­enced labour com­pli­ca­tions on Septem­ber 20, 2017 and doc­tors said blood trans­fu­sions were nec­es­sary to save both her and her child.

How­ever, the cou­ple stuck with their reli­gious be­liefs re­sult­ing in the child dy­ing and her hus­band, Misheck Bande, stepped in to au­tho­rise trans­fu­sions for her when he was told that his wife’s life was also on the brink.

Now, the cou­ple have de­nounced the church for its teach­ings on blood trans­fu­sions

There are 8,3 mil­lion Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses in the world, and they are pro­hib­ited from get­ting blood trans­fu­sions “even in mat­ters of life and death”.

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses say the Bi­ble pro­hibits in­gest­ing blood and that Chris­tians should not ac­cept blood trans­fu­sions, do­nate or store their own blood for trans­fu­sion as dic­tated by a pol­icy dat­ing back to 1945.

While for­bid­ding the trans­fu­sion of blood and “ma­jor” blood com­po­nents, the church al­lows pro­ce­dures in­volv­ing “mi­nor” blood com­po­nents like al­bu­min and im­munoglob­u­lins.

Price too high

Open­ing up to So­ci­ety last week, Seneri and Bande spoke of how they were ini­tially will­ing to risk their lives for their reli­gious be­liefs but had changed their minds af­ter the loss of their child.

Seneri said af­ter the or­deal, some mem­bers of the church had spo­ken of their ad­mi­ra­tion for her faith, but in­side she felt that it had been a price too high. Bande, who was a Wit­ness for the past 18 years, nar­rated how for three weeks prior to the loss of the child, doc­tors had warned that trans­fu­sions would be nec­es­sary but faith had held firm over sci­ence.

“At first doc­tors tried by all means to con­vince us hop­ing that (Seneri) would just break down and re­ceive a blood trans­fu­sion even­tu­ally. They tried by all means to stop the bleed­ing, the last ditch was to trans­fuse blood in her sys­tem so that she could live but as fate would have it, we lost the baby,” re­counted Bande.

It was at this point that Bande said he started ques­tion­ing the JW teach­ings on blood.

“We started to read more and more of the Bi­ble, and found things that the Je­ho­vah’s Wit­ness pub­li­ca­tions got wrong,” he said.

Ab­surd lit­er­al­ism

Among the prob­lems the cou­ple and other peo­ple have with the JW in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Ge­n­e­sis 9:5-4.

In those verses, God in­structs, in part: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will de­mand a reck­on­ing...”

How­ever, crit­ics say this is in ref­er­ence to ac­tual con­sump­tion of an­i­mal blood and not life-sav­ing trans­fu­sions us­ing hu­man blood.

Op­po­nents of the JW in­ter­pre­ta­tion say the use of the cited Bi­b­li­cal verses amount to noth­ing more than “ab­surd lit­er­al­ism.”

Fur­ther, they say the church speaks of be­liev­ers not be­ing bound by Mo­saic Law but in this in­stance turn around and use it for doc­trine and pol­icy. Standing firm A spokesper­son for the church in Zim­babwe, John Hun­guku, told The Sun­day Mail So­ci­ety they could not com­pro­mise on their be­liefs.

“We don’t ac­cept blood trans­fu­sion based on scrip­tures, Ge­n­e­sis 9:4-5.”

He said the mat­ter at hand was a reli­gious one rather than a med­i­cal ques­tion: “Blood rep­re­sents life, so we avoid tak­ing blood not only in obe­di­ence to God but also out of re­spect for Him as the giver of life.”

Hun­guku said church mem­bers who did oth­er­wise were free to come back into the fold be­cause “we al­ways wel­come them given that they want to re­pent and fel­low­ship with us again”.

Not alone

Je­ho­vah’s Wit­nesses are not alone when it comes to re­ject­ing blood trans­fu­sions.

Prince Marezva, an el­der of the Jo­hane Ma­sowe Apos­tolic Sect said they were to­tally against blood trans­fu­sions and or­gan trans­plants.

“We be­lieve that one’s iden­tity and life ex­ist in the blood, even the be­havioural pat­terns of hu­man be­ings is in the blood. No won­der our elders used to in­ject herbs or cer­tain medicines af­ter pierc­ing a part of the skin (kutema ny­ora). It’s not good to be given blood that is not yours be­cause it is in the blood that life ex­ists,” said Marezva.

Quizzed on what could be done in a sit­u­a­tion that re­quires ur­gent trans­fu­sion of blood to mem­bers of the sect, he said it is up to the in­di­vid­ual to de­cide be­tween faith and sci­ence.

Zim­babwe Na­tional Tra­di­tional Heal­ers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Ge­orge Kandiero said trans­fu­sions were shunned be­cause peo­ple feared tak­ing in bad spir­its from the donor’s lin­eage. But times are chang­ing, al­beit slowly. “We have de­cided not to live a prim­i­tive life as cul­ture is dy­namic and is sub­ject to change ev­ery day. We are em­brac­ing blood trans­fu­sion but a per­son has to go through some spir­i­tual cleans­ing af­ter blood trans­fu­sion,” Kandiero said.

An­other reli­gious group that does not con­done blood trans­fu­sions is the Church of Christ, Sci­en­tist (aka Chris­tian Sci­ence). The church pro­motes heal­ing of phys­i­cal and men­tal ill­nesses and dis­or­ders through prayer, though things like bro­ken bones can be set by physi­cian be­fore heal­ing is sought from a Chris­tian Sci­ence prac­ti­tioner.

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