Religion and SCAM

I do not worry much about being dead although the process of getting there gives me pause. I have witnessed a few unpleasant deaths and I hope to never see the Grim Reaper coming my way.

One of the more awful and pointless deaths occurred early in my career. I had a patient with hepatitis C and cirrhosis. He had low platelets, low clotting factors (many of which are made by the liver), a previously undiagnosed clotting disorder, and a mouth full of bad teeth that were removed all at once when he acquired dental insurance.

Then he started to ooze blood from his extractions. An ooze that did not stop, it was a constant trickle of blood that would not clot. After several visits to his dentist he almost passed out and came to the emergency room. After 4 days he had bled out about half his blood volume, his haemoglobin had gone from 12 to 6. At this point we geared up for transfusions of red cells and clotting factors and he let us know that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and, no thank you, he would not accept any blood or blood products.

For the next week he continued to ooze despite all the interventions we could come up with to stop the bleeding and he remained adamant in his refusal of transfusions of any kind, despite the risk of death. At about a hemoglobin of 2 he had a large stroke and severe muscle pain from ischemia. At 1 he had a large heart attack and died. If you could rank deaths as pointless and horrific, this would be in my top 10. And I was struck at how nonplussed the family was, accepting this completely preventable death matter-of-factly.

The Jehovah’s Witness, at least by that name, started in 1931 and began the doctrine of no transfusions in 1944 based on two biblical verses, Genesis 9:4:

But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

and Leviticus 17:10-14:

I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth,

because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.

Sounds more like an admonition against steak tartar or vampirism to me. Jehovah’s Witnesses will accept some products derived from blood but not others, for example albumin. The fine points and the splitting of hairs of doctrine have always baffled me and perhaps are better explained by others.

Several years later we had a grand rounds on transfusion medicine. The head of the bloodless surgery program discussed ways to avoid transfusions and he kept using the word “respect” in relationship to Jehovah’s Witness avoidance of transfusions. Respect? “Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Nope. Understand? Yep. Accept? You bet. Part of what makes America a great place is we all get to do whatever dumb ass activity that suits us. But it is impossible to respect a belief that demands people to drip away their life’s blood.

Participation in SCAMs may not occur in a vacuum, isolated from other belief systems. There are a variety of other ways in which religious beliefs can influence medical care.

The deaths of children whose parents belong to sects of Christianity that rely on faith healing is an unfortunately common topic in the newspaper. It has been known for years that relying of prayer as a substitute for medical care leads to a shortened life expectancy, the archetype being Christian Scientists.

JAMA published a study that looked at outcomes in 5,500 Christian Scientists and compared them to a group of almost 30,000 controls using reality-based medicine.

There was an increased death rate for the Christian Scientists when compared to the control population, a difference made more remarkable as Christian Scientists neither smoke nor drink.

The JAMA study confirmed an earlier study that demonstrated the death rate from cancer among Christian Scientists was double the national average, and 6 percent died from preventable diseases.

Being a Christian Scientist led to 4 years less life for women and two years less life for men (Wilson GE. Christian Science and longevity. J Forensic Sci. 1965;1:43-60)

I would wager there would be similar outcomes in any group who avoids science-based medicine in favor of the topics covered in this blog.

There are belief systems of individual sects that avoid medicine or aspects of medicine. Then there is the effect on whole cultures where religious ideas dominate the culture. As an example, 13% of maternal deaths in South America are due to unsafe abortions, in part due to the Catholic Church’s ongoing opposition to birth control and abortion. Similar deaths can occur in the West, as Ireland recently demonstrated with Savita Halappanavar, who died from sepsis after a miscarriage. She was refused an abortion since “Ireland was a ‘Catholic country,’ she could not have (an abortion) while the foetal heartbeat was still present, although it was non-viable.”

There is a spectrum of influence from various faiths. Sometimes people use their position of authority to make medical pronouncements that run counter to reality, but are not really part of official religious doctrine.

The Bishop of Mozambique said that condoms and antiretroviral medications were manufactured to spread AIDS to Africans and, while not an official position of the Catholic Church, his comments have never been repudiated.

Polio was on the verge of eradication in Africa and the Mideast, but has seen a resurgence in part due to Muslims clerics who thought that vaccinations were a plot to sterilize the population and spoke against vaccination. In Pakistan they assassinated those in charge of vaccination programs.

Vaccinations are an area of doctrinal contention, since acceptance or denial of vaccines depends on whether to emphasize teachings in support helping and protecting each other or focusing on teachings where certain products are forbidden. You may focus on the body as a temple to deny a vaccine and ignore the part about stoning a disobedient child:

In multiple cases, ostensibly religious reasons to decline immunization actually reflected concerns about vaccine safety or personal beliefs among a social network of people organized around a faith community, rather than theologically based objections per se. Themes favoring vaccine acceptance included transformation of vaccine excipients from their starting material, extensive dilution of components of concern, the medicinal purpose of immunization (in contrast to diet), and lack of alternatives. Other important features included imperatives to preserve health and duty to community (e.g., parent to child, among neighbors). Concern that ‘the body is a temple not to be defiled’ is contrasted with other teaching and quality-control requirements in manufacturing vaccines and immune globulins.

Often religious reasons for refusing a vaccine are probably used to support a pre-existing anti-vaccine bias rather than a primary refusal based on religious principles, as was the case with polio vaccine in Nigeria:

Detailed consideration of the Nigerian situation revealed that what was described as ostensibly religious objections and assertions that vaccines spread the HIV virus or were vehicles for sterilization programs masked deeper struggles related to political power, inadequate health services, and a controversial clinical trial of an investigational antibiotic. While the boycott was centered within Islamic social networks, most of the objections raised related to social issues, rather than theological issues.

And the issues surrounding the Catholic Church’s opposition of condoms are not simple and the AIDS misinformation is more than one Bishop’s crazy opinion.

There are religious practices that have disease as a by-product of their participation. Many infectious diseases are spread by crowding: Group A Streptococcus and Meningococcus among many. The Hajj, the mass visit to Mecca every year, is a classic example and a well documented example of crowds facilitating the spread of contagion.

Years ago I was consulted on a patient with severe bloody diarrhea and the stool cultures grew Aeromonas, a waterborne organism. In asking direct questions looking for an exposure I discovered she had a gallon of holy water she had brought back with her from a trip to Mexico and she sipped a bit each day. We cultured the holy water and it grew Aeromonas as well.

Holy water is often contaminated with bacteria, and as a result I hypothesize that Pasteur went to hell:

Our aim was to assess the microbiological and chemical water quality of holy springs and holy water in churches and hospital chapels. Of the holy springs investigated, only 14% met the microbiological and chemical requirements of national drinking water regulations. Considering results from sanitary inspections of the water catchments, no spring was assessed as a reliable drinking water source. All holy water samples from churches and hospital chapels showed extremely high concentrations of HPC; fecal indicators, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus occurred only in the most frequently visited churches.

and holy water can be a source of infections in and out of the hospital, part of the reason that some churches have hands-free holy water dispensers.

There are other infections spread due to religious rituals such as herpes and ritual circumcision, with at least 22 cases reported of newborns acquiring herpes as a complication:

Ritual circumcision has three parts: the ‘milah’ or excision of the external prepuce, the ‘peri’ah’ or slitting of the inner foreskin, and finally the ‘metzitzah’ or sucking of blood from the wound. The metzitzah originated in the 5th century Babylonian Talmud where it states metzitzah should be performed ”so as not to bring on risk,” although what the risk is, is not explicitly stated. Historically, if the mohel failed to perform the metzitzah he was barred from performing future circumcisions. During metzitzah, the mohel sips wine and applies his lips to the involved portion of the penis and then spits the wine into a receptacle, which may be repeated until hemostasis is achieved. Metzitzah with direct oral- genital suction was commonplace until the 19th century when Rabbi Moses Schreiber ruled that an instrument, such as a glass pipette, could be used as an interface between the mohel and the infant.

Can you say ick? That is not a form of hemostasis I would recommend in the operating room.

Hindus can get cutaneous larva migrans, a cat or dog tapeworm that wanders the skin after inoculation causing an intensely itchy serpentiginous rash, from an act of penance known as a side roll:

The most devout penance that a devotee may perform is known as the ‘side roll’ or angapradakshinam where the night prior they engage in a ritual fast, soak in the temple water tank, then lie on the ground and side-roll in the same path that the icons previously traversed. For the comfort of the participants the local government ships in sand from coastal areas and waters the sand twice daily to keep dust down.

Most of the cutaneous larva migrans I have seen have been tourists retuning from the beaches of Asia where they lay in the litter box, er, I mean sand of the beach. Beach sand is often the toilet for many animals and with it their parasites.

There have also been a few cases of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis after ritual ablution where the amoeba was introduced by washing the sinuses with contaminated tap water.

Behavior and risk is never simple. The more I try and understand the motivations for behaviors that lead to disease, the more complex and curious I find them. Of course many human behaviors are associated with infections and diseases. No, make that all human behaviors. It is why I am so much fun at parties, constantly pointing out the infection associated with a particular behavior.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

Leave a Comment (121) ↓

121 thoughts on “Religion and SCAM

  1. elburto says:

    One only has to look at the current diabolical state of reproductive health legislation in the US to see the pernicious example religion has on health.

    We all know that “foetal pain” (which does not exist at 20 weeks) is being used as a proxy for “the soul”. It’s disgusting.

    Banning abortion only increases both the number of procedures, and the numbers of dead and maimed women. If religiously inclined people were “pro-life” then women’s lives would count. If they truly wanted to reduce abortion levels they’d mandate free contraception (with or without insurance) that was freely available from specialist clinics, GPs, etc.

    1. elburto says:

      Oh, and WRT to picking and choosing which teachings to follow, stoning a child may be out of fashion, but beating them with plumbing line from six months of age (and sometimes to death) is fine if yet follow ‘No Greater Joy Ministries’*

      For Metzitzah B’peh the mohelim are supposed to apply cumin to the wound but no-one does that, not least the sects that decry the use of a sponge or pipette to be “not halachic”. What you said about officials “respecting” dangerous ritual beliefs is taken to the extremes in cities with Hasidic enclaves, with authorities almost scared to enforce the laws for fear of being branded “anti-Semitic”.


    2. Calli Arcale says:

      The current arguments revolving around fetal pain puzzle me, because to me, it seems they are inconsistent with the bans on dilation and extraction. While dilation and extraction is surely a gruesome method, it is much swifter than the alternatives available at that stage, which also makes it more humane. A lot of the arguments being widely used in the abortion debate are not, in my opinion, particularly well thought out. They often reveal an understandable reluctance to consider everything going on in this dreadful circumstance, where an expectant mother finds abortion to be the least bad of all the options available to her. I do not think that the emphasis on the fetus being “not a person” prior to birth are very helpful either. Of course it’s a person. It’s a person from the moment of conception. But if that’s all one considers, then one is deciding from a position of passion, not reason. Which is fair, but at least we should be honest about it and not try to gussy that all up with rationalizations about fetal pain and somesuch, as if the ability of the fetus to feel pain is at all relevant to personhood. Better to accept that it’s a person, but so is the mom, and so is the dad, and so are a lot of other people, and this is all a lot more complicated than that.

      1. Harriet Hall says:

        Arguments from fetal pain are missing a crucial point: the difference between pain and suffering. If the pain pathways are working in a fetus, that doesn’t mean the fetus is aware of pain or is suffering.

      2. anthro49 says:

        Many take issue with the notion that a couple of cells is a PERSON.

      3. theLaplaceDemon says:

        “Of course it’s a person. It’s a person from the moment of conception.”

        I actually don’t see why this is a self-evident truth.

        I mean, unless you want to use “person” in the very literal sense of “a human”, I guess maybe you could make that case. But that also totally misses the point of the role of personhood in the abortion debate. It’s not about whether or not a human zygote is a human – obviously it is, or at least a proto-human. But the words “person” and “personhood” are legally and socially inexplicably tied up with the concept of human rights, and that’s where the “personhood” centered arguments focus: At what point do we grant human rights to a developing human? And that’s a legitimate question to ask. To say that a zygote is self-evidently a human completely ignores context, and sidesteps the whole issue.

        1. calliarcale says:

          Any attempt to define a moment of transition from not-person to person is going to run into trouble. Therefore, I think it’s simpler to just remember that arguing about semantics doesn’t really change the actual nature of the thing being discussed. These are important matters; abortion is not a decision to be taken lightly, nor a choice to be removed lightly. You can’t decide it based only on “is it a person”, and that’s the point I make when I express that I’m a pro-choice person who thinks that yes, it’s really a human being we’re talking about.

          (Of course, when it comes to laws, distinctions will have to be made anyway, no matter how pointlessly semantic they will ultimately be, because the law does poorly with gray areas. But this is life, and life is messy.)

          1. theLaplaceDemon says:

            I think we might actually be agreeing but conceptualizing things a little differently.

            I think that the core of the debate is “when is a fetus a person” because when it’s a person defines when it gets human *rights.* I don’t think it’s semantic at all – it’s a core, conceptual part of the argument. You can, if you want, use the literal definition and say “it’s a person from the time the sperm and egg fuse, but it’s doesn’t get human rights until later,” but then all you’re doing is trying to have the exact same argument with language that no one else having the argument is using, and (in my opinion) without any compelling reason to reject the language.

            1. calliarcale says:

              You seem to have come around to the exact reason why I object to focusing on when personhood is attained in an abortion debate: there is no compelling reason to it. Oh, I get that people want an easy answer, and cling to some arbitrary line between personhood and notpersonhood so the questions seem easier. But it’s an illusion.

              That said, a hell of a lot of people *do* argue that it’s a person from the point of conception. It’s just they’re not usually pro-choice. That seems to unsettle people, which is why I do it — it makes people think.

        2. harriet h says:

          The best argument I have heard is the right to bodily autonomy, the fetus thus requires the continuous consent of the mother.

          1. Whilst there may be argument about whether the fetus is a person there is none about whether the mother is.

    3. brewandferment says:

      “FFL [Feminists for Life} is disheartened to hear
      abortion-choice feminists justify
      the violent destruction of
      unborn humans with the very
      same ancient arguments used
      by men to excuse the contempt,
      neglect, abuse and violence
      targeted toward women
      throughout human history.

    4. brewandferment says:

      Bioethicist Peter Singer, quoted by Nat Hentoff: “The pro-life groups were right about one thing, the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make much of a moral differ ence. We cannot coherently hold it is alright to kill a fetus a week before birth, but as soon as the baby is born everything must be done to keep it alive. The solution, however,” said Singer, “is not to accept the pro-life view that the fetus is a human being with the same moral status as yours or mine. The solution is the very opposite, to abandon the idea that all human life is of equal worth.” .

      1. elburto says:

        Got any actual arguments, or are you just going to throw out pathetic forced-birther propaganda?

        I love, just love the pro-liar nonsense that women are waking up at 39 weeks past LMP and saying “Oh no, I’ve just remembered, bikini season starts tomorrow! Off to the clinic I go!”.

        As for your so called “feminists” in the other trite soundbite you puked out, they seem to be using a bizarro-world definition of feminism. Here in the real world feminism does not hold that women are idiotic, unthinking fleshbots with the sole purpose of being ambulatory uteruses, whatever the cost to life and health.

        Lollerskates @ the idea that an embryo should have the same rights as a grown woman. Pure comedy. The right to vote? Own property? To live freely, and not under the control of another? Hell, what’s more controlling than forcing a morula to implant into your endometrium, and making it stay there for up to 42 weeks, forcing it to eat and drink what you’re consuming, and to swim in its own piss. So one could argue that abortion is liberating embryos and foetuses, and setting them free from fundal fascism. It’s not our fault they don’t make the most of their options after being released into the outside world. God loves a trier, but do they try? F*ck no. It’s almost as if the products of abortion (especially spontaneous and medical anyway, at least the surgical ones have an excuse) were incapable of maintaining independent autonomous respiration and circulation, such little effort do they make once past that Portal to Freedom, the cervix. Lazy spongers, always expecting women to do the work for them.

        Now – do you have any actual arguments, or are you just going to brew and ferment some more jenkem to spray around the place?

        1. brewandferment says:

          It’s true I didn’t lay out my thoughts very coherently before I hit post, rather trollish of me. My apologies.

          Feminists for Life makes the point that “Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women.” And that women should not be forced to choose between their child and their other plans; instead eliminate the lack of support and practical resources. Certainly a woman who wants to keep her child, at least not abort it even if she is unwilling to parent but willing to bring it to term, should never feel like she has been forced by circumstances or persons in her life, to have an abortion.

          No one ever said there were droves of women demanding abortions at such a late stage for such vapid reasons; Singer’s point is that it is still legal to do so. Of course children don’t have the same rights as adults–in the US of course they are not fully autonomous until 21–I use that age because they cannot legally consume alcohol until 21 so therefore they still have fewer rights until that age. But at what age should human beings have full personhood? and what is the rationale for choosing a given age? Under what conditions should that age be extended or decreased? Are there other reasons that a human should not have full personhood even upon attaining this chosen age? I was trying (and obviously failed) to make a philosphical observation.

          Nat Hentoff has made a compelling case that anything after conception is an arbitrary and thus inconsistent ethic. When it is arbitrary and inconsistent, then the specter of a return to the eugenics of the early 20th century rears its head; Singer is definitely utilitarian.

          I would not suggest that such a momentous decision is generally undertaken for such shallow motives.

          And I am not making a suggestion for policy, just bringing up the concept in abstract: why is a line drawn at a certain point, and how and why is it held there? should it be?

          After all, JFK’s youngest child died in the early 60’s at only 6 weeks premature; that was often the practical age of viability (I think, not that up on medical history, but it wasn’t much lower); now it’s quite rare that a 6 wks preemie dies. So the age of viability has gone down dramatically (and newborns aren’t really viable for more than a few hours; they will die just as surely without food and warmth delivered by adults). In fact, I seriously doubt that many children under the age of 5 could fend for themselves without significant assistance from others for very long. Are they thus less deserving of human personhood and of less worth? That’s what I mean by an arbitrary ethic.

          1. elburto says:

            Unfortunately you have made a further error. I think you’ll notice that this site is called “Science Based Medicine”, and not “America, fu€k yeah!”. I am not an American, I’m. not interested in nitpicking details about the age of majority in the US, or the age restrictions on certain activities. They have nothing to do with abortion.

            Nobody is being forced to have abortions. People are choosing them after contraceptive failures or for medical indications. What, pray tell, do you advocate for women with pregnancies that cannot be continued (for whatever reason) if abortion is not to be an option? It can only come down to one option, the physical and emotional slavery that is forced pregnancy and birth, and for some women, death or permanent disability. Do you have some other magical solution, foetal teleportation perhaps?

            Adoption is the answer to unwanted parenthood, not unwanted pregnancy. The way it’s practiced in America is essentially selling the lives, bodies and sanity of impoverished girls and women, and handing over babies to the highest bidder. Of course for most of these baby brokers only white, able-bodied and perfectly healthy newborns are the appropriate stock items. These (mostly religious) agencies sell the concept to desperate young women as “gifts” to people with broken reproductive systems and working credit cards. It’s disgraceful to imply that any girl or woman should be forced through pregnancy to surrender the baby to anyone who’s passed a credit check (but often no other checks), just because they were “lucky” that they conceived, and shouldn’t consider abortion because some women can’t get pregnant. It’s emotional blackmail, and the absolute worst reason to go through almost a year of life-altering bodily changes, some permanent, and risking their health and future because some people believe that parenthood is a right.

            In other developed nations adoption rates are far lower, rarely involve newborns, tend not to be for any profit as they’re part of the social service infrastructure, and are not based on coercing the young and vulnerable into making a decision with far-reaching consequences.

            Not to mention that every prospective parent is subject to extensive assessments and background checks. Even people adopting from abroad must pass the same tests and meet all requirements before their potential new child can be cleared to enter the new country, the checks alone can take years, and cannot be waived by waving a chequebook.

            What happens when the results of forced pregnancies and births are disabled or ill, or likely to suffer a lifetime of costly (in the US) treatments? I’ll tell you what happens at the moment, they often end up in nursing homes meant for the elderly, or passed through an ongoing procession of foster carers.

            So if you are advocating forced pregnancies leading to adoptions, as an alternative to abortion, then your thinking is even more flawed than I thought, and driven by a particular agenda.

            I dunno, maybe I’m wrong and you’re working on a contraceptive that is completely fail-proof. I doubt it though.

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              I’d like to see the people who oppose abortion volunteer to raise all the unwanted babies.

              1. elburto says:

                Yup. Foetus-fetishists are usually thin on the ground when it comes to caring about born babies, and even thinner on the ground when seeking support for programmes that would enable women and girls to keep their babies.

                Pro-life – as long as that life is inside someone else. Once they’ve drawn breath then they’re on their own.

          2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Feminists for Life makes the point that “Abortion is a reflection that we have not met the needs of women.”

            …unless the unmet need is for an abortion. Some women may simply not want to have a baby at that time, it’s not like all women are the same, like women’s opinions remain the same throughout their lifetime, or that your imaginations (or projections) about their beliefs are accurate. A woman may not want to have her rapist, father, or one-night stand’s baby, or a husband and wife may not want to have another child.

            And that women should not be forced to choose between their child and their other plans; instead eliminate the lack of support and practical resources

            Your comment assumes that all abortions are due to a lack of support and practical resources. This may be true in some cases, but is unlikely to be true in all cases. Sometimes sex is not meant to, or desired to, result in children. Numerous infertile men and women manage to have sex for instance.

            Certainly a woman who wants to keep her child, at least not abort it even if she is unwilling to parent but willing to bring it to term, should never feel like she has been forced by circumstances or persons in her life, to have an abortion.

            I would agree with this statement, but again there will no doubt be some women who are not forced by circumstances to have an abortion anyway, but still have one.

            I must also echo Dr. Hall in her statement about anti-choice being adopters or hypocrites, to the point that I refer to anti-abortion activists as “pro adoption” because otherwise they are merely contemptable.

            No one ever said there were droves of women demanding abortions at such a late stage for such vapid reasons

            If you legalized 40th-week abortions, the number of people availing themselves of this service would be doubtless miniscule. Most people would still want to have safe, legal abortions during their first or early second trimester, because the point of abortions is to knowingly terminate an unwanted pregnancy – not to be cruel to a viable baby.

            And I am not making a suggestion for policy, just bringing up the concept in abstract: why is a line drawn at a certain point, and how and why is it held there? should it be?

            Because a line must be drawn somewhere, and while it may be informed by objective evidence about fetal viability and maternal health, the reality is that the decision on when to cut off access to abortions is ultimately arbitrary. There is no biologically meaningful point at which an abortion can be defined. Further, people may pretend that there are rational reasons to abort or not abort, the reality is people are making an emotional decision. Someone getting an abortion is not primarily consumed by whether it alters their risk of breast cancer or whether the fetus feels pain; that may affect their decision, but it does not drive it.

            You may pretend there is some sort of magical point at which we can objectively determine an abortion to be OK, but you are incorrect.

            I seriously doubt that many children under the age of 5 could fend for themselves without significant assistance from others for very long. Are they thus less deserving of human personhood and of less worth? That’s what I mean by an arbitrary ethic.

            In which case, I hope you are a strong proponent of the earliest possible access to abortions so the question of viability does not arise.

            1. Harriet Hall says:

              Speaking of hypocrites, I read a book by an abortion clinic doctor. Her clinic was repeatedly picketed by some nasty Pro-Life demonstrators. The leader and loudest voice of the Pro-Life group suddenly went quiet when his own young daughter became pregnant. She chose an abortion and he was in full agreement. It’s easy to tell other people what to do but everything becomes different when you are forced to walk in their shoes.

              1. elburto says:

                This was, and remains, one of the most brutal examples of the sheer collective hypocrisy of the foetus-fetishising forced-birth cult:


                An example:

                “My first encounter with this phenomenon came when I was doing a 2-week follow-up at a family planning clinic. The woman’s anti-choice values spoke indirectly through her expression and body language. She told me that she had been offended by the other women in the abortion clinic waiting room because they were using abortion as a form of birth control, but her condom had broken so she had no choice! I had real difficulty not pointing out that she did have a choice, and she had made it! Just like the other women in the waiting room.”

      2. windriven says:

        “The solution, however,” said Singer, “is not to accept the pro-life view that the fetus is a human being with the same moral status as yours or mine. The solution is the very opposite, to abandon the idea that all human life is of equal worth.”

        Just so. First, the question of worth can be approached from several perspectives. But prior to birth – and truly until some time well after birth – there is no meaningful agency attached to the newborn so worth, from even the most subjective viewpoint, cannot be said to be uniform.

        1. “We cannot coherently hold it is alright to kill a fetus a week before birth…”

          Enough with this myth. A D&E is not considered safe after 24 weeks because of the risk of lacerating the cervix.

          1. elburto says:

            B.b.but sluts! And needing to fit into prom dresses! And bikini season! And fluffy-headed little wimminz who just can’t get their sh¡t together until 39 weeks because they’re too busy slutting it up!

            Surely Fox “News” and the likes of Jill Stanek wouldn’t lie?

  2. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    In the Netherlands there is nowadays en epidemy of measles going in our ‘Bible belt’.

  3. The one thing Jehovah’s Witnesses and I agree on is NO BLACK PUDDING. Would suppose you deep fry it at the Crislip household.

    1. elburto says:

      Shouldn’t JW’s also only consume halal or kosher meat?

    2. windriven says:

      Sorry. I’ve got to split with you and Crislip on the blood pudding. It appears in the cuisines of many cultures and I love them all. German blutwurst, Spanish morcilla. Vietnamese doi huyet and bun bo hue, a lovely soup made with blood pudding. I’m certain that the French and Italians have variants though I’m unable to dredge them up at the moment.


      1. anthro49 says:

        I had black (blood) pudding in England and found it as good as many other foods. People’s “ick” response should not come from lack of exposure or cultural isolation. But hey–I’m the anthropology student who ate the worm in the bottle of mescal passed around at a department party.

        1. windriven says:

          From worms in mescal to ‘stinky tofu’ (delicious) to mountain oysters (delicious) to sweetbreads (thymus glands that are, by the way, delicious), generally what people of other cultures eat, they eat because it tastes good. The Alsatians have a dish called bahkenoef (sp?) that is basically things like ears and other nasty bits cooked in a flavorful slow braise (delicious).

          Three cheers for you eating the worm. I hope your life becomes littered with the husks of things that others are afraid to try.

          1. anthro49 says:

            I’m well “littered”, thanks! Sometimes I like to go to a garden nursery, find a bug, walk up to the checkout, make sure the cashier is looking–and a few others if possible, and then make a reasonable show of popping the bug between my teeth and crunching right down on it.

      2. Alia says:

        And don’t forget Polish “kaszanka”, which is a sausage made with blood and groats. Fried with a bit of onion, it tastes great. And was a popular meal during crisis, when all “better” meats were not available.

        1. weing says:

          Blood sausage is delicious. Haven’t gotten to eating czernina though.

    3. Rork says:

      Place chopped onion or shallot with cubes of bread and spices in pan.
      Cut carotid and capture blood in pan, after soundly bonking animal. This takes 2 people on big turkeys (they flap). Let stand for 30 min, then 350F for 15 min. Works on rabbits, sheep, turkeys. The kids ask for more, and easier than making sausage. Try it the next time you are slaughtering.

      1. windriven says:


        I like the approach of holding the wings together right at the back. This can be accomplished with the thumb and first two fingers with chickens and ducks. That leaves the other hand free to dispatch the bird.

        Can’t say I’ve tried it with turkeys as I’ve never raised them.

  4. windriven says:

    “masked deeper struggles related to political power”

    Religion has often been used as a political tool. Christianity has been used to encourage docility in populations because ‘theirs was the kingdom of heaven’, that is, “you’ll get your reward in the next life.” Islam has famously been used to encourage the opposite, the killing of anyone who does not share precisely the same catechism. Hinduism enforces (though apparently did not create) a caste system that places the Brahmin class (traditionally the religious ‘priests’) at the top.

    “finally the ‘metzitzah’ or sucking of blood from the wound.”
    Hmmm, I guess Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t do the traditional circumcision thing. ;-)

  5. I try not to think of you, Crislip, during sex. The better the sex, the better the transmission.

    1. Mark Crislip says:

      Thank you. I think. It is more efficacious than thinking of baseball. Perhaps that should be the motto for AAMCO.

  6. One of the things that I often find interesting, is how many “Christian” religions still operate as if they are under Jewish Law, but are selective with respect to which parts of the Law they will accept, and which they will not.

    “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” 1 Corinthians 6:12 (KJV)

    While that should be self-explanatory, essentially Paul was saying that he can pretty much do anything that he wants, but he should limit what he does to those things that are necessary or reasonable, and also to consider whether or not those things will take control over him.

  7. Sean Duggan says:

    I’ll admit that I’m among the ranks of Catholics who support modern medicine, but is largely opposed to abortion. Like most pro-life people, I make an exception for the life of the mother. That becomes a matter of that there will always be cases of medicine where you have to decide who will survive. I just oppose the idea that the unborn child has less rights than any other human being. Contraception is a trickier thing. From a moral perspective, it makes it more likely that people engage in sinful behavior, but it can also be used to practice good judgment in spacing children (suprisingly little known, even among Catholics, is that the policy has been to not have children you can’t support for decades. The only debate is on how to do it), and from an objective view, I think it saves more lives. The main area that I object is where contraception and abortion cross paths. I don’t support the abortifacients that masquerade as contraceptives and I believe that “but I took measures to reduce the probability of having a kid” is not a justifiable reason to kill them. Adding seat belts and safety glass didn’t increase the number of auto fatalities, but it does seem to have increased the number of lawsuits from people who feel that they should have been safe because of those safety measures, and it’s someone else’s fault that they plowed into a highway median at 55 MPH. Safety measures in no way remove responsibility.

    1. windriven says:

      “it makes it more likely that people engage in sinful behavior”

      Only if you consider sex without a reproductive motive to be sinful. I don’t. I find sex to be a wonderful celebration of much that makes life worth living.

      “[T]he policy has been to not have children you can’t support for decades. The only debate is on how to do it.”

      Decades ago, before I had reached escape velocity from Catholicism, abstinence was the preferred method. How messed up is that? From Augustine to Saul of Tarsus to Hildebrand, Catholicism (most of the Abrahamic religions, actually) has been marked by a fear or dislike of sex that a less generous person than I might label pathological.

      That said, what consenting adults wish to do or not do in their bedrooms isn’t my business. Their choices of birth control or abortion aren’t my business either. Until, that is, they try to impose their choices on me.

      1. anthro49 says:

        I do thank the gods that I was not brought up a Catholic! Leaving Lutheranism behind resulted in no guilt whatsoever. :-)

    2. Calli Arcale says:

      “I don’t support the abortifacients that masquerade as contraceptives”

      Which would those be? The Pill is not an effective abortifacient. Today, it is a rather ironic victim of an attempt when it first came out to improve sales by saying that even if it missed the egg, it might make it less likely to implant. This claim has actually never been proven, and the clinical evidence suggests it is unlikely. Plan B doesn’t work at all if taken more than a few days after intercourse, with the curve pretty much exactly following the likelihood of interrupting ovulation in time.

      “and I believe that “but I took measures to reduce the probability of having a kid” is not a justifiable reason to kill them”

      Agreed, but understand that for a significant number of people, there aren’t any good options if their birth control attempts fail. It’s easy to sit from a position of comfort and say they should have the baby, but this is mostly because of the lobbying efforts of the more predatory pregnancy crisis centers. I’m not saying abortion for the sake of birth control is right, just that the reality is much darker than you might realize.

      “Adding seat belts and safety glass didn’t increase the number of auto fatalities, but it does seem to have increased the number of lawsuits from people who feel that they should have been safe because of those safety measures”

      I would love to see the basis for your assumption. That said, I don’t think it’s relevant that more people filed lawsuits related to seat belts after they were available than before they were available (which seems sort of obvious anyway). Seat belts did not make people irresponsible. However, that was a common argument against including seat belts as standard equipment on automobiles back in the day. Are you contending that seat belts and safety glass and other safety features have increased reckless driving, independent of any other factors, or that we shouldn’t put seat belts in cars because they give people the illusion that they can be irresponsible? I wonder what percentage of reckless driving incidents involve people wearing seatbelts. My anecdotal experience seems to be that irresponsible people are considerably less likely to make use of safety gear, so I’d be surprised to learn that it was the reverse.

    3. Icewings says:

      It is still illegal to kill “a kid”. It is not illegal to abort a fetus. A kid and a fetus are not the same thing. This is where your beliefs are misguided. Please read up on prenatal development. Your opinions on contraception and abortion will likely change, the more informed you are. That’s what happened in my case.

      1. duggansc says:

        *wry grin* I suspect that we’re not going to reach an eye-to-eye position here. First trimester, I agree that there’s not much one can argue for in terms of them being a person yet. Third trimester, they’re definitely there. Second is the murky middle ground. Viability is a reasonable point to start the argument, but of course that shifts according to advances in medical science.

        Of course, the slippery-slope argument is advanced by both sides. Restrict third-trimester abortions and the pro-lifers will want the second trimester protected. And, of course, legalization of abortion in the United States went from first trimester to right up until the time they get their whole body out. Frankly, if we waited until the developing child was their own person, you could argue that that age isn’t until somewhere in the mid-teens if not later. And indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that a child was considered to be property of their parents to do with as they will, up until the age when they became parents of their own.

        1. Stella B says:

          Third trimester abortions are restricted. Roe v. Wade made 1st and 2nd trimester abortions legal. Over 90% of abortions occur in the first trimester and 99% occur in the first 20 weeks. The remaining 1% are desired pregnancies that are failing for either maternal or fetal health reasons. There is all kinds of data available to support this from the Guttmacher Institute, for instance. The belief that Dr. Tiller did late term abortions so that women could fit into prom dresses (that’s acommon belief among the antichoicers) is quite simply slander.

          Most women are anxious to have the procedure done as soon as possible and the number one reason according to Guttmacher’s surveys 3/4 of women choose abortion because of financial reasons. 3/4 also report that a pregnancy would change their life too much. Half report that their partner doesn’t want the pregnancy. Obviously, individual women report multiple reasons gor choosing abortion.

          1. The last I knew, Tiller had been doing abortions up to 25 weeks; and the few other abortion providers who provided D&Es were doing them only up to 24 weeks. Beyond this time, abortions (D&E) are considered too risky medically. These late abortions usually terminate a wanted pregnancy and are very sad affairs.

            Later than 24-25 weeks, the termination of a pregnancy might more accurately be called induced labor/C-sec done to save the life/health of the mother. Often a problem pregnancy involves numerous mutations, and these can include a malformed placenta and polyhydramnios which can be more of a problem as the pregnancy progresses. I know of a hospital that was reluctant to end a late term pregnancy with no viable fetus, until the threat to the woman’s life was dire, for fear a fundamentalist nurse on staff might make a public fuss.

            1. elburto says:

              @Linda – that is too disgusting for words. Womens’ status as ambulatory incubators clearly doesn’t even end in the absence of a viable foetus. Words fail me.

              If that staff member wanted to save souls then they should have gone into ministry. Medicine is ultimately about saving and improving lives, religion shouldn’t bloody well come into it.

              Polyhydramnios is not something to mess about with. My mother had it when she was pregnant with me, and she developed catastrophically high blood pressure. The decision was made to remove me, but thanks to her irregular periods, a huge ‘bump’, and no ultrasound, I was a failed induction-turned-crash section that resulted in a bit of an “Ohshiiiit…” moment for the theatre staff, and six fvcking weeks in an incubator for yours truly, who was not the bouncing 40-weeker they expected, but a four and a half pound bag of skin and bone.

              However, my mother was the patient, she needed saving. Even the relatively short time in crisis left her with permanent renal and cardiac issues. The thought of someone denying induction/section until she was virtually dying, and the consequences thereof, is very upsetting.

              HELLP is probably the worst scenario I can think of, because it’s pretty much a case of “Stop this pregnancy however you can, or the woman dies” Then the pro-liars point to procedures used to save lives in that situation as “proof” of either – women not trying hard enough, women suddenly realising they don’t want to be pregnant anymore, or conjuring images of blood-drenched “abortion doctors” cackling as they dispatch foetuses.

              1. Eberto, that’s quite a story. Sorry to hear it affected your mother’s health.

                Here’s another polyhydramios story…

                As I understood it from co-workers some years ago, a woman with criss-crossing C-sec scars, polyhydramnios, and a fetus that had no diaphragm (and thus little in the way of lungs), was denied a procedure to end her pregnancy. Her condition too fragile to even risk leaving the hospital, she parked herself in the ER visitor lounge, waiting to explode.

                This hospital, in a liberal community, was…well… nervous about abortion. I wonder to what extent “partial birth abortion” mythology may have created an atmosphere of fear in this country that is interfering with the proper treatment of women with high risk pregnancies?

              2. elburto says:

                Yikes. “Explode” would be the operative word… The US is a scary place to be a woman. The UK is far more secular, so the anti-choice zealots struggle to find a foothold.

    4. elburto says:

      Why are you using two accounts to comment today? You’re appearing as Sean Duggan and the usual DugganSC?

      That was a soft question to ease you in. Now the real ones.

      1. Name the alleged abortifacients masquerading as contraceptives.

      2. What makes you think that a blog called Science Based Medicine, that is a medical and scientific forum, is the place where procedures or medications should be opposed because they encourage “sinful behaviour”? This isn’t

      3. What’s to stop the fairly prevalent belief that the anti-choice (or “pro-life” ) movement exists for any reason but to see that women who have (and enjoy) sex with men are punished for doing so outside of circumstances approved of by the church?

      A religious movement which wishes to all but ban legal abortion, but also wishes to restrict access to contraception is clearly not about restricting the number of abortions, but increasing the number of unwanted pregnancies. Ideal if said religion stands to profit from the sale of unwanted babies (c.f. every country with a Catholic presence, from at least the fifties, and onward ), but otherwise? All it does is punish women and their unwanted children, many of whom are doomed to poverty, abuse, neglect, and perpetuating the cycle thereof.

      4. Back to the theme of medicine. You state that you “make an exception for the life of the mother woman” (ftfy). How marvelously magnanimous of you. However, not all anti-choicers do. What medical or scientific justification could there ever be to indicate that a potential person’s health or existence should outweigh that of the woman carrying it? Also, your disgustingly flippant statement about “killing a kid” (no kid has ever been involved in an abortion, except as the person having the procedure) because of a contraceptive failure not only calls back to the idea that pregnancy is a punishment for sex, but is also completely ignorant of the truth of science, and everything else in life, that nothing works 100% of the time.

      Morally speaking, why should someone actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, ie.- someone who does not want to get pregnant, be forced to spend ten months in physical, financial, emotional turmoil (or ever peril) for being forced to pay for the scientific fact that all contraceptives have a failure rate? Why should she be forced to carry a pregnancy that wreaks havoc on the body as she literally builds that foetus from her own blood, bone, etc., then deliver a new life into the world while risking her own, just because her pill didn’t prevent ovulation? Why should she be forced to do all of that and, if she’s American, incur costs of tens (even hundreds) of thousands of dollars because some* Catholics think that abortion is icky?

      4, What do you believe would happen in the anti-choice patriarchal forced-birth dystopia where contraception and abortion are essentially banned?

      Factually speaking I can tell you the following, based on various Catholic-controlled anti-science, anti-woman theocracies:

      People do not stop hating sex. They’ve “sinned” once, and are now tainted for breaching a sacred (and often non-existent) membrane, so why not carry on doing it?

      Men continue to impregnate women.

      Abortion rates increase, as do deaths caused by illegal and unsanitary procedures. Death replaces pregnancy as punishment for sex.

      Rape, incest and maternal health/life exceptions are scrapped. Women and girls die due to being physically unable to carry to term (perhaps they’re ten years old, perhaps they have a health condition that makes pregnancy into a killer), or being psychologically unable to create, carry, birth, care for and raise their rapists children.

      Male bodies remain unviolated, don’t rot away in septic wards, or clog up morgue fridges .

      Paradise, eh?

      *Neither the Catholic women who abort their pregnancies at the same rate as any other religion,or the religious rapists who force their victims to abort-

      1. elburto says:

        Correction ahead – I’m writing at 7am after two hours of sleep.

        3. What’s to stop the fairly prevalent belief that the anti-choice (or “pro-life” ) movement exists for any other reason but thanto see that women who have (and enjoy) sex with men are punished for doing so…

      2. Stella B says:


      3. Alia says:

        This is a very difficult topic but I would like to add something from my perspective. There was a time in the former Soviet bloc countries (with the exception of Romania, which was exactly the kind of patriarchal anti-contraception, anit-abortion dystopia that elburto has written about), approximately about 1970-1990, when access to reliable contraception was highly limited and abortion was in fact the most popular contraceptive. It was so popular that when my mother came to an ob/gyn to confirm her second pregnancy, the doctor’s first question was “Do you want to continue or terminate it?”. She was 37 then so he thought she was too old for the baby (me, as it is). And I certainly would not want these times to come back. Having said that, I’m pro-choice. I’m for good education, generally available cheap or free contraceptives for every woman that wants them – as well as abortion in case something still goes wrong. Even though I would be much happier, if it wasn’t needed.

  8. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Hinduism enforces (though apparently did not create) a caste system that places the Brahmin class (traditionally the religious ‘priests’) at the top.

    And from my understanding, it’s not merely a social system, it’s also racist. The brahmins tend to be lighter skinned than the lower castes. I’m not sure if it’s uncontroversial history or not, but I believe it was an import by the Aryan invaders from ‘way back when. What I find personally amusing is (IIRC, and I might not) the Kshatriya warrior class were originally the rulers (probably during the invasion), but once you are no longer on an active invasion stance, you don’t really need soldiers – so the brahmin priest class took over. People everywhere, irrespective race, colour, creed, truly are power-hungry bastards. I find it supremely comforting.

    1. windriven says:

      ” I find it supremely comforting.”

      I’m more inclined to find it amusing. :-)

  9. Mork says:

    “Nonplussed” does not mean what you apparently think it does.

    1. Mark Crislip says:

      The comment leaves me nonplussed.

      1. Grytt says:

        Science-based vocabulary is not a thing with you, apparently.

        1. He’s used the word correctly. Twice.

          1. Grytt says:


            Nonplus: “To put at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; bewilder.” (Am. Herit. Dict.)

            In the article the word is used as if it were a synonym for “nonchalant” (“I was struck at how nonplussed the family was, accepting this completely preventable death matter-of-factly”). It is not. The family was evidently the opposite of nonplussed.

            And here I thought it was the woo peddlers who decided that words mean what they want them to. Sad to find it in a science writer and his sycophants.

            1. duggansc says:

              Yeah… as much as I want to get behind you, being the kind of person who grits his teeth when people say that they were “literally nauseous when hearing of the decimation” when they didn’t actually make anyone be sick over the killing of 10%, but the second meaning of “unperturbed” is listed in most dictionaries these days. I am bemused as to why people want to adopt opposite meanings, but eh…

        2. 2. (proscribed, US, informal) Unfazed, unaffected, or unimpressed.

          1. windriven says:

            That’s how I took it.

            I’m usually among the first to jump – and jump gleefully – on transgressions of spelling, usage and grammar. Gorski thinks it is because I’m an asshole. And yes, I am. Thank you for noticing. But I actually do it because I appreciate it when others point out my errors. It helps me to make fewer of them going forward.

            In this case the distinguished Dr. Crislip was within the bounds of proper usage. In my estimation at least.

          2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Just to add to the dogpile:



            It’s specifically an American linguistic novelty – just like Dr. Crislip.

          3. Craig Good says:

            The misuse of “nonplussed” bumped for me, as well. I had to read the sentence over to figure out what was actually meant. That, to me, is the biggest problem with going with the American bass-ackward definition.

            Sigh. Such is language. Illiterates get something consistently wrong enough and eventually they win. This is a mirror of what happened to inflammable.

            Still, the article is excellent and sad. I have a Christian Scientist friend who is now a widower. I suspect his wife’s death was hastened by misplaced faith. I’m 100% behind the idea of respecting people but not all beliefs.

          4. Common usage trumps common sense, Craig. I don’t like it either, it’s introduced ambiguity such that I won’t use that word lest I have to defend its usage when siding with the rest of the world. But I defend both meanings here nonetheless. I think the stonemasons at OED will have no choice but to accept that this new use of nonplussed has become standard in the USA, it’s been around over a decade now. The word “moot” is also bifurcated, UK v. USA, and although that one may have come about more legitimately, I found the situation annoying when the word caught fire here in the 1980s. Color me inflammable.

  10. Harriet Hall says:

    Draining the blood from a slaughtered animal can’t remove all the blood cells from the body. Have believers been confronted with that fact, and if so how did they respond?

    1. Sean Duggan says:

      :-P It’s possible that they’re rational enough to say “we tried our best and we’re sure God will understand we’re not perfect”…

      1. anthro49 says:

        Perhaps you could apply the same to sexually active couples?

    2. Danielle says:

      Nothing in Judaism is that simple ;o) Here is a good link that explains the entire koshering process:

      What is interesting to me is that the laws in the Torah specifically deal with *eating* blood, not using it for other purposes. That’s why you never hear of Jewish people taking issue with blood transfusion…

      Actually, come to think of it, the logic behind the lack of blood transfusions is even more flawed. Humans can’t be made kosher no matter what ;o)

    3. It is curious that JWs are not vegetarian…

      “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul-its blood-you must not eat.” – Genesis 9:3,4.

      I think this is why some Jews soak meat in salt water – to draw out the blood.

      At least the JWs have withdrawn their objection to vaccination. (Official stand: “We have no objection to vaccines in general. Some vaccines contain minor blood fractions, and use of these is a matter of personal choice.”)

    4. Jerusalem Resident says:

      You are correct that draining the blood doesn’t remove all blood. In Jewish legal tradition there are different categories of blood. Any blood that remains after meat has been drained (according to the traditional Jewish procedure) is permitted. Of course, the above represents a crude summary- but the point is that not all blood is prohibited.

  11. Harriet Hall says:

    While discussing this subject, we should mention Sanal Edamaruku, a hero of rationalism, who spoke at TAM. Water was dripping from a statue of Jesus in Mumbai, and the devout were collecting and drinking it. He identified the source as a drain in the washroom behind the statue. Instead of being thanked for identifying a public health hazard, he faces arrest for insulting the Catholic church and refusing to apologize. He has had to leave the country.

    1. windriven says:

      Apropos of this discussion I quote the late, great, Christopher Hitchens:

      “As for the “miracle” that had to be attested, what can one say? Surely any respectable Catholic cringes with shame at the obviousness of the fakery. A Bengali woman named Monica Besra claims that a beam of light emerged from a picture of MT (Mother Teresa), which she happened to have in her home, and relieved her of a cancerous tumor. Her physician, Dr. Ranjan Mustafi, says that she didn’t have a cancerous tumor in the first place and that the tubercular cyst she did have was cured by a course of prescription medicine. Was he interviewed by the Vatican’s investigators? No.”

      Religions like miracles. And they know not to examine them too closely.

  12. My mother, a retired nurse, likes to recount how things were in the “good old days,” the 1960s when she first started practicing. If a Jehovah’s Witness needed blood, the doctor would order it, and they’d hide the bag of blood on the other side of the drapes around the patient’s bed. I have asked her how they hid the tube of red liquid going into the patient’s body, and she doesn’t remember how that worked.

    1. Calli Arcale says:

      The tubes were probably quite a bit more opaque than they are now, and it’s amazing what people won’t notice sometimes.

    2. windriven says:

      Am I alone in being troubled by the ethical implications of giving a blood transfusion to someone who does not wish it?

      1. duggansc says:

        True. I suspect that it was probably done with the intent of “they really need this” and possibly with the idea that the patient couldn’t possibly miss that they were getting blood transfused, so it was all under a nod and a wink to propriety, but I can’t help but feel that this is akin to a “surprise pork sandwich” for a Jewish patient where they get told after they ate it.

      2. anthro49 says:


        Unless it’s a child–then a court order is in order.

      3. Denise D. says:

        I don’t suggest a return to the old paternalistic ethos of medical care. But saving people’s lives whether or not your treatment flies in the face of their silly beliefs has its appeal.

        1. I do have one concern. Blood transfusion is not without risk. Even if you are saving someones life. He may later develop a complication or a disease that is secondary to that transfusion. He may even spread that disease to others causing illness or death for them. He may use blood reducing the supply for willing recipients. Although in this case it looks like all foolishness. I am not convinced that requiring someone to submit to blood transfusions is the best way to deal with this. You are forcing a living tissue from a donor onto someone who does not want it. Despite the nonsense, if he is of age and able to properly understand the risks. My ethical radar says let him/her refuse. Frustrating for the providers and silly to watch, if you are rational, but not the public health issue of lets say Vaccines.
          To our best knowledge the supply is clean. That said there are hep C suffers that were told the same 20 years ago.

  13. Carl says:

    If statues bleed water, will the JW’s stop drinking it?

  14. Therapeutic Touch has obvious religious roots, but not many know that early on it was called LOOH for “laying on of hands.” That apparently didn’t catch on at NYU.

  15. weing says:

    The next time Jehovah’s witnesses come to my door, I will tell them not to waste their time on me, because I am already dammed to hell as I received a blood transfusion. That should stop them from bothering me.

    1. windriven says:

      You should be so lucky.

      1. Say Windriven, back in the 1970s Johnny Carson spoke of a Jehovah’s Witness No Pest Strip. You hang it outside your door. I didn’t buy it, didn’t believe in Shell.

        Kindness is the approach I take to this problem. I tell the JW rep at my door that my beliefs are very different, non-negotiable, that I understand the difficulties of knocking on stranger’s doors, then bid them farewell with the wish that people not be overly rude to them that day. Worth a try, I mean they’re not carrying guns or anything. All they’ve got is Jehovah. I’ve got Harold Garfinkel.

        1. Chris says:

          I have added to my “No Solicitors” sign the definition of the word from an online dictionary. And I clearly explain that it includes anyone who wants me to buy something from, take away my time by listening to them (either political or religious).

          I put it up before an election when campaign door bellers were thick and annoying. In the past year of so I have noticed it does stop political campaigners, but often not religious folks. Since I have given them plenty of warning that they are not welcome to waste my time, I see no reason to be polite.

          Oh, great, now it is a election time again and the robo-calls are coming in strong. Aargh.

        2. windriven says:


          You are a much finer human than am I. I have searched my heart for kindness toward delusional zealots who appear uninvited at my door to regale me with tales of the Flying Spaghetti Monster but found only contempt.

          I think that next time they show up – they always seem to travel in pairs – I’ll spin a tale of obedience to the Dark Lord complete with ritual sacrifice and wild orgies in the moonlight. Or maybe I’ll save that for the Mormons.

          1. It’s more that I’m a goofball and like to experiment on people. In this case kindness won, your results may differ. You know how people elaborately toy with the Nigerian scammers (some devolve this practice into cruelty, be careful); would think we could come up with some cool ideas to try out on our door to door religionists, publish the results, encourage others to do the same. Keep it playful. My enmity is for the organizations whose maw these souls have become entangled in, less so for the individuals going door to door. This may be kindness misplaced, but I heard a still small voice telling me it is so.

        3. windriven says:

          “My enmity is for the organizations whose maw these souls have become entangled in, less so for the individuals going door to door. ”

          It particularly torques my jaw that many religions start brainwashing kids when they’re very young. Of course they call it education: catechism or bible study or whatever. If we did 5% as good a job teaching the foundations of rational thought and the scientific method, sCAM would shrivel in two generations, peace would become a realistic objective in the Middle East, and condoms would be as ubiquitous as e-mail spam.

          Instead we pretend that all that killing in the name of the Abrahamic god over the last 3 millennia or so was just good clean fun, that people’s beliefs are above question much less ridicule, and that it is even marginally acceptable to allow public policy to be influenced by ass-clowns who believe earth to be 5000 years old.

          But hey, it’s time for the second coming of the Mahdi or Jesus or the rapture or something. I think I’ll have a glass of wine and wait.

    2. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in hell. The hell that we non believers don’t believe in they don’t believe in either. You can’t transfuse yourself out of this one, mate.

  16. TJW says:

    Your article would be more persuasive if it weren’t for your tendency to uncritically accept any negative claims made against religious organisations, in particular, the Catholic Church. Referring to Ben Goldacre’s anti-Catholic rant as evidence of anything is good evidence that you’ve shut off your otherwise sharp mind simply because something supports your pre-existing beliefs.

    I’m not a Catholic, nor am I a theist, but I wish anti-Catholic zealots would expose their arguments to the same standards of scrutiny they demand of others.

    1. But Ben Goldacre’s article wasn’t a rant – it was a critique based on actual quotes of high-ranking clergy. For instance:

      “In March 2009, on his flight to Cameroon (where 540,000 people have HIV), Pope Benedict XVI explained that Aids is a tragedy “that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which even aggravates the problems”. In May 2009, the Congolese bishops conference made a happy announcement: “In all truth, the pope’s message which we received with joy has confirmed us in our fight against HIV/Aids. We say no to condoms!”

      His stance has been supported, in the past year alone, by Cardinal George Pell of Sydney and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster. “It is quite ridiculous to go on about Aids in Africa and condoms, and the Catholic Church,” says O’Connor.

      “I talk to priests who say, ‘My diocese is flooded with condoms and there is more Aids because of them.'”


      “In 2007, Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of Mozambique announced that European condom manufacturers are deliberately infecting condoms with HIV to spread Aids in Africa. Out of every 8 people in Mozambique, one has HIV.

      It was Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia who most famously claimed that the HIV virus can pass through tiny holes in the rubber of condoms. Again, he was not alone. “The condom is a cork,” said Bishop Demetrio Fernandez of Spain, “and not always effective.””

      Two points: if condoms don’t reduce the transmission of HIV by 80%, produce the evidence. And if the Catholic church isn’t against condoms, they need to stop saying so.

    2. windriven says:


      Sorry, I call bullcrap.

      “uncritically accept any negative claims made against religious organisations, in particular, the Catholic Church”

      Which claims would those be that Dr. Crislip accepted uncritically, dear non-theist of the non-Catholic persuasion? No fudging now. Enumerate the claims and prepare to defend the position that they are untrue.

  17. Adding to “elburto’s” comments on abortion…

    The divide of opinions starts where religions consider humans as spiritual creatures set apart from the natural world. It is this same irksome, mystical notion of “spirit” that gives us most of CAM practices.

  18. Peter Arthur says:

    The data you cite is very interesting because it gives numbers to the health impact of poor decision making.

  19. mousethatroared says:

    “The head of the bloodless surgery program discussed ways to avoid transfusions and he kept using the word “respect” in relationship to Jehovah’s Witness avoidance of transfusions. Respect? “Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Nope. Understand? Yep. Accept? You bet. Part of what makes America a great place is we all get to do whatever dumb ass activity that suits us. But it is impossible to respect a belief that demands people to drip away their life’s blood.” also gives this definition for the word respect. “4.
    deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.”

    I think this is the kind of respect meant when it’s said that that one must respect a patient’s decision. Sort of like respecting a boundary without feeling esteem or admiration for the boundary.

  20. jwitness says:

    A new Canadian study is challenging the widespread practice of transfusing blood early and aggressively into bleeding trauma patients.

    Another government blood surveillance system – this one tracking transfusion-related errors – identified 31,989 errors between January 2005 and December 2007 among 11 participating hospitals.

    Numerous articles on Transfusion medicine here:

    Enjoy the info.

    1. pmoran2013 says:

      Like most other medical treatments, transfusion has risks and it requires judicious use.

      What I don’t understand is that if “blood is life”, as the ancient texts say, why would the benevolent donation of this life-giving substance to another be an unholy act? And how could some blood products be less irreligious than others?

      Even within the belief framework of your own religion the obsession with this rather tenuous extrapolation from the writings of an ancient priesthood, themselves likely influenced by earlier “pagan” traditions and cultural practices, looks to be something that JWs could be rethinking. Most religions have some capacity to evolve.

      That is, unless you are also seeking to emulate all other aspects of the culture and religious beliefs of those times. At least that would be consistent.

      1. jwitness says:

        All you questions can be answered with a visit from a Witness. You can request this at Jehovah’s Witnesses
        25 Columbia Heights
        BROOKLYN NY 11201-2483

        1. Better yet, you can listen to the testimony of these two beautiful Jehovah’s Witness souls who escaped from Kingdom Hall,

          1. jwitness says:

            (2 Peter 2:22) . . .

          2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

            Jwitness, I’m not sure why you are posting Bible verses. Are you unable to make a cogent argument under your own power? And do you realize that holy books are only convincing to people who are already believers? I think the Bible is just a badly-translated book (the Old Testament from Hebrew, the New from Greek) haphazardly cobbled-together from oral traditions when people realized the world wasn’t going to end and the people who had heard about Jesus second-hand were starting to die, then badly copied for over a thousand years until finally a selectively-edited version from the 500 different versions available at the time. Obviously I’m oversimplifying since I’m not discussing the Old Testament and the King James version is not the only version. Quick question, when was Jesus crucified, on Passover or before?

            I mean, you might want to learn about a book that you hold in such high esteem, though this might lead to it dropping in your estimation. Of course, ignorance of one’s own beliefs is not uncommon among the religious, because they are spoon-fed what to believe by their leaders and preachers who do not encourage increased learning. And should the followers actually delve into these waters, it invariably leads to schism because there is no objective base on which to make one’s decisions. It all becomes whatever makes sense to you – which is fine until you try to leverage it into political action, in which case it becomes dogmatic, divisive and often violent. Thank Jebus people care less about religion these days where I live, so I don’t have to face civil war over imaginary daddy.

        2. elburto says:

          You might want to phone ahead yourself, and warn HQ that there’s going to be a sudden surge in calls!

          Shame I’m not American though. I’ll just have to be left hanging until an SBMer reports back on their little JW tea party.

          1. jwitness says:

            All would be happy if you stopped by.
            We’re in many countries with many branches to tour.
            Paul exhorted them all to “welcome one another,” doing so warmly, cordially, sincerely, in genuine appreciation of a fellow Christian, a fellow believer.
            We welcome you.

            1. elburto says:

              Don’t they have sarcasm on your planet? Not only did I spend the first 25 years of my life having christianity remorselessly shoved down my throat, but once I married out it was into a family that includes ex-JWs. Fortunately for them they mostly escaped with their psyches intact, save for a spot of PTSD here and there.

              Shame the local JW paedo squad weren’t as keen on reading their bibles, eh? Not that the elders blamed them of course, it was all the fault of those stupid sexy children.

              While I’m sure that your lot would love to come to tea with a pair of atheist dykes, I’m sorry, no can do.

              I have more than enough experience with religious hypocrisy and indoctrination, without inviting it into my house.

        3. Chris says:

          I would be very happy if you would tell your compatriots to learn and understand what the “No Solicitors” sign means on a front door.

          They should not be confused when interrupting my dinner preparations with their obtuseness.

          1. Chris says:

            I hate the threading here. I replied to jwitness up thread, and it looks like I replied to elburto. Arggh.

    2. windriven says:

      Unfortunately, the Calgary Herald – nor you for that matter – bothered to link to the actual study. I’m not all that interested in the analysis of some cowtown Journalism major who last had science in the 9th grade. Let’s see the goods and judge them on their merits.

      That said, blood transfusions have saved untold lives. We may argue over the appropriate time to initiate a transfusion but NOT the fact that blood transfusions have saved one hell of a lot more lives than whatever flavor of Jesus you are peddling has. Arguing against blood transfusions isn’t misinformed, it isn’t a difference of opinion. It is slack-jawed rube stupid.

      What you and your fellow cultists choose to believe is your business. Don’t transfuse. Bleed out. I won’t spend my nights worrying about it. But pray to whatever it is you pray to that I’m not on the jury if a child dies from your fantasies.

    3. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Are you attempting to convince us that your religious convictions are based on empirical evidence? That’s just stupid, even if blood transfusion were extremely dangerous, that justifies neither the existence of your deity, nor the validity of your theology. And is your own opposition to blood transfusions based on the medical risks and benefits, or theological reasons? If it’s the latter, why do you care what the scientific research says about the risks of blood transfusion?

  21. jwitness says:

    (2 Peter 2:20-3:1) . . 

    1. After the painful process of disfellowship, a richer life is possible than what you have now.

    2. Chris says:

      For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[c] putting them in chains of darkness[d] to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[e] and despise authority.

      That deity of yours is really a big one for death and destruction.

      Have you considered following the morals that benefit your community, instead of invoking such violence? Perhaps a cooperative alliance that uses science and rationality to make this a better world for everyone. Like doing things to support those we love, preserving the environment, be involved in our communities (reminder: need to vote before vacation) and supporting programs to improve the living conditions in poorer countries. Things like providing agricultural development, health services and education.

      On the latter, I much prefer the work of these people and others than those who choose to ring my doorbell for no other reason than to try to make me think like they do.

      By the way, I just did a Google search on “jehovah’s witness charities.” The whole page were things like “Why don’t Jehovah’s Witness Organization Give to Charity.” Well, that was interesting.

      And all the more reason you need to heed the “No Solicitors” sign by my doorbell, and stay off my porch.

      (note: the top charity we give to each year is to the local Scottish Rite “RiteCare”, a program to provide free and low cost speech therapy for preschool children, something our oldest received for several years, we also give to the library, Red Cross, etc)

    3. windriven says:

      1 Windriven 15:4-5 _|_

  22. Selene01123 says:

    Cutaneous larval migrans is caused by hookworms, not tapeworms.

Comments are closed.