Jehovah's Witnesses


Charles Taze Russell founded the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1872, although it did not become known officially as such until 1931. Jehovah's Witnesses view themselves as Christian and regard Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but not in the sense of being equal with God or one with God. Jehovah's Witnesses consider their religion to be a restoration of original first-century Christianity. They accept both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as inspired by God. They do not, however, use the symbol of the cross because they believe it to be of pagan origin.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe it is important to share their views with others and are well known for calling on people  at their homes and for their magazine The Watchtower. Today the Jehovah's Witness publishing complex in Brooklyn, New York, issues 800,000 copies of its two magazines daily and publishes 100,000 books.

Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions and take a non-negotiable stance on this matter (see relevant section).


Attitudes to healthcare staff and illness

Most Jehovah's Witnesses have a positive attitude towards healthcare staff and are willing to seek medical help and advice when sick. They may be keen to make sure that medical staff are aware they would reject blood transfusions.


Religious practices

There are no specific religious practices that would affect a Jehovah's Witness while in hospital.



Jehovah's Witnesses reject foods containing blood but have no other special dietary requirements. Some Jehovah's Witnesses may be vegetarian and others may abstain from alcohol, but this is a personal choice. Jehovah's Witnesses do not smoke or use other tobacco products.



Jehovah's Witnesses are not required to fast for religious reasons, but must not consume blood (for example in blood sausage or in animal meat if the blood has not been properly drained).


Washing and toilet

Washing and toilet present no unusual problems for Jehovah's Witnesses.


Ideas of modesty and dress

There are no particular points to be noted in this area and few Jehovah's Witnesses would object to being examined by doctors of the opposite sex.


Death customs

Jehovah's Witnesses do not have special rituals for the sick or the dying. You should make every reasonable effort to provide medical assistance and comfort. Spiritual care will be provided by local Witnesses (friends, family and elders).


Birth customs

There are no specific Jehovah's Witness customs relating to birth itself.


Family planning

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God or Jehovah. As the Bible does not directly discuss birth control, birth control is seen as a personal decision and is left to the individual's conscience. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that human life begins at conception and do not therefore approve of abortion. If the termination of a pregnancy is the only means of saving a mother's life, the choice is up to each individual. Witnesses are strictly politically neutral and do not get involved in any debates or demonstrations on this issue.


Blood transfusions, transplants and organ donation

Jehovah's Witnesses carry on their person an advance medical directive/release that states they must not receive blood transfusions under any circumstances, while releasing medical practitioners and hospitals from responsibility for any damage that may be caused by their refusal of blood. When entering the hospital, they should sign consent/release forms that reiterate this and specify the hospital care needed.

Jehovah's Witnesses' religious principles do not absolutely prohibit the use of minor blood components such as albumin, immune globulins and haemophiliac preparations. Each Witness must decide individually whether he or she can accept these. While forbidden to take blood, they are not specifically forbidden to take in tissue or bone from another human. Jehovah's Witnesses currently accept organ transplants, although any surgery would have to be performed on a bloodless basis. Some Jehovah's Witnesses may not wish to donate their organs because someone else's blood would then flow through them. In the case of organs that do not involve blood flow, for example corneas, they would have no religious grounds to object to donation. Therefore, whether to accept an organ transplant or donate organs is a personal decision.