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Japanese lawyers decry Christian group’s blood transfusion ban

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuses to allow its followers to avail blood transfusions for their children citing religious grounds
Jehovah’s Witnesses members pose for a photograph in front of a house of worship in Japan

Jehovah’s Witnesses members pose for a photograph in front of a house of worship in Japan. (Photo: Jehovah’s Witnesses Examiner / Facebook)

Published: February 28, 2023 10:27 AM GMT
Updated: February 28, 2023 10:33 AM GMT

A US-based Christian religious group in Japan has forbidden its followers from conducting blood transfusions for their children during medical treatment and emergencies in violation of government guidelines, says a Japanese lawyer’s group.

“This is a serious problem involving kids’ lives,” a Tokyo Bar Association lawyer told reporters, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Feb. 27.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses – a United States-based Christian group – has refused to allow its followers to avail blood transfusions for their children citing religious grounds.

Reportedly, the children are made to carry an “identification card” that – in the case of an accident or other emergency – informs doctors and others that the cardholder wishes to receive medical treatment but not blood transfusions, due to religious reasons.

Kotaro Tanaka, an ex-member of the Christian group, pointed out that the denial of necessary medical treatment for children, including blood transfusions, was “a form of abuse.”

Tanaka had formed a support group to deal with the issue of medical care denial after some followers of the Jehovah’s Witnesses had contacted him citing concerns about the health and well-being of their children.

The support group is made up of 15 lawyers and doctors, six of whom are former followers raised as second-generation Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The group has prepared a report on the issue which was handed over on Feb. 27 to the authorities for further action.

In 77 of the 78 cases reviewed, people said they were whipped and forced to believe the organization’s teachings when they were young.

The blatant denial of much-required medical care by the religious group is rampant despite the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry giving out clear guidelines to enable Japan’s municipalities to prevent children from facing harm due to religious beliefs.

Earlier, in response to the government guidelines, the Jehovah’s Witnesses group had issued a press statement reaffirming their stand on the practice.

The press statement said that parents who were followers of Jehovah’s Witnesses understood “the serious responsibility of passing on their beliefs to their children and teaching them to live according to sound morals,” the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Earlier in 2000, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that a person has a legal right to refuse a blood transfusion based on religious beliefs.

However, in 2008, the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy, and others, issued guidelines saying blood transfusions should be carried out for people younger than 15 when there is a risk to life, even if they or their parents refuse consent.

An official of the Japanese branch of Jehovah’s Witness stated that the complaints being voiced against it are false and misleading.

“There have been distorted reports and wrong conclusions based only on comments made by disgruntled people who used to be related to [the Jehovah’s Witnesses], and such opinions are factually incorrect,” the Asahi Shimbun reported

According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses website, Japan has 214,359 ministers who teach the Bible and 2,893 congregations.

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