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Is blood transfusion permissible in Jewish belief?

Is blood transfusion permissible in Jewish belief?


There is nothing in Jewish law that would preclude a person from benefiting from a blood transfusion (or donating blood, for that matter).

Furthermore, according to Jewish belief, saving a life is one of the most important mitzvot (commandments), overriding nearly all of the others. (The exceptions are murder, certain sexual offenses, and idol-worship—we cannot transgress these even to save a life.) Therefore, if a blood transfusion is deemed medically necessary, then it is not only permissible but obligatory.

All the best,

Rochel Chein for

Mrs. Rochel Chein is a member of the Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (16)
December 10, 2014
Re the above comment that murder is forbidden, even to save life. This is a more complex issue than that comment would indicate. Firstly, are 'murder' and 'killing' synonymous? Some argue that 'murder' is for personal reasons and 'killing' is for duty or humanitarian reasons. Having the ability to save life and not doing so, is the same as taking life. Seeing a person in the act of taking the life of another, having the ability to prevent that murder (even perhaps multiple murders) but only by killing the perpetrator, is not a hypothetical situation. It is an issue Police Officers and Armed Forces personnel face in the line of their duty. Having to make such a decision is unlikely for most individuals, it was forced on the passengers and crew of flight 93 on 9/11. This is a fraught question, a deeply personal one, and one which we will need to justify before G-d, but the principle is better decided after careful thought rather than in the heat and uncertainty of a stressed situation.
David Rankin
New Zealand
October 24, 2014
Blood Transfusions should be against the Torah
The Torah commands "You must not eat nothing containing blood." Leviticus 19:26. Isn't receiving a blood transfusion just as bad as eating blood? The Torah also commands "You should pour [the blood] out on the ground like water." Deuteronomy 12:16. Receiving a blood transfusion would be in violation of the scripture at Deuteronomy 12:16 which states that the blood (the source of life) should be poured into the ground like water. In addition, there are blood alternatives that can be used such as erythropoietin. Erythropietin or Epo can be used make the bone marrow produce more red blood cells. In addition, blood transfusions are not necessarily safe. In Sherwood v. Danbury Hosp., 896 A.2d 777 (Conn., 2006) a patient filed suit against a hospital claiming that she contracted HIV from from a blood transfusion given prior to surgery. The court sided with the hospital stating that the plaintiff's complaint was time barred due to the statute of limitations.
May 19, 2014
Dear Mrs. Chein,

Your fine answer does not go far enough in support of Jews (and others) donating blood. Yes, saving a life trumps all but three mitzvot. While donating blood is permitted, saving lives is required. If your spouse, parent, child or rebbe needed blood, you would rush to give, provided it did not endanger your own health. Every day someone's beloved needs blood. The fact that we do not know their name is no excuse under Jewish law. (In the 8 levels of tsedakah from Maimonides, giving when donor and recipient are anonymous to each other ranks #2 from the top. Because of medical confidentiality, this is always the case with blood.)

Thus, because the need is always here and it is safe for the donor, Jews must search out this simple way to save lives. Giving a pint of blood takes about one hour from walking in to walking out.
Dennis Briskin
Palo Alto CA
April 21, 2014
Shirin Bar-Sela's comment
Dear Mohammad Khan, You obviously misunderstood my comment. In no way have I ever promoted the eating of pork. I used that example, as have many Muslim and Jewish scholars, only to show that even the most important of laws can be broken to preserve a life. Taking my comment out of context is nothing more than flaming, and there was no reason other than that to feign disgust at my comment. I know nothing of witches' remedies, but I do know of health laws; my father was a scholar of both Islam and Judaism, and translated the Asaf and Rambam into English. All I said - and you repeated it - is that is it permissible to eat pork to save a life.
Shirin O'connor
December 22, 2013
Shirin Bar Sela's comment
As a Muslim I found Shirin Bar Sela 's comment horrible and violation of G-d's law. There is no medical research indicating that a patient would get healed by eating pork. That would have to be remedy from witches of thousand years ago.
However under Islam pork and meat of other animals is only allowed during the outbreak of famine and war when only no other food is available. You only eat as much to sustain your life in that circumstance and not for enjoyment.
Mohammad Khan
April 14, 2013
As a former Jehovah's Witness that watched her mom die from not having a blood transfusion, even though the doctor said she has a good chance of dying if she did not receive one was upsetting to me. It is not up to your conscious, if you take one you would be disfellowshipped (shunned by friends and family in the religion). They never told the members of her congregation why she really died even though it is on her death certificate, they did not acknowledge it.
April 1, 2012
blood of my blood
In England Witnesses go door to door in an attempt to convert people. Sadly this is more often than not greeted with scorn and foul derision. I, on the other hand, as a practising agnostic, invite them in and try to convert them.

Mudz, kudos to you. Porphyria - what a genius question!

Anonymous, what happened to you in those three weeks that caused you to u-turn so vehemently? It should also be noted that medicine evolved as it did because of the certain knowledge that blood is even more essential to life than water. We all know that we've only got a few days without taking in fluids but I challenge anyone to survive for just one second without blood. Why do you think keyhole surgery even exists? It will always be chosen before slicing someone open.

If god really exists then surely he would want us to use our brains for our own benefit.
Yeovil, England
March 16, 2012
This was quite enlightening. I am curious though, if blood transfusions were also considered as part of the prohibition and therefore disrespectful to G-d, would the commandment to preserve life override this?
Or another way to put it. If literally eating blood became a medically beneficial procedure that could save lives, which takes precedence?
November 11, 2011
Blood transfusions
Abraham -
Rochel Chein is correct. My father was a scholar of Talmud and the Rambam and medicine. Saving a life, or even improving health, take priority over almost all other laws. As long as you are not violating laws such as those stated above, one should do everything within one's power to heal the sick or save a life. It was taught to us that such a mitzvah is so important, that if a doctor says you must eat pork in order to live, that is what you must do.

As for everyone else - please debate J's Witnesses on another forum.

Shabat shalom.
Shirin Bar-Sela
Houston, Texas
February 1, 2011
"Ease up on Mike" Anonymous, Marathon, NY
From the tenor of your response, I am convinced that you are a Jehovah’s witness. Therefore, I know that your mind has already been made up. However, let me just remind you that when I said that witnesses do not have the freedom of using their own conscience, I was talking from the perspective of someone who had a close enough relationship with witnesses in school, at work, and in my neighborhood. Witnesses I have known are generally good people who are doing their best to please God. What kind of conscience are you talking about when the mere acceptance of a blood transfusion can get a witness in serious trouble with the faith? Put your own conscience to the test and prove me wrong. I challenge you to even once try to publicly voice your disagreement with a decision from the headquarters. You will see how fast you will be excommunicated on the basis of your so-called conscience. Believe me, you are not as free as you think, especially when men are allowed to play game with your life.
Queens, NY/USA
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