What have Jehovah’s Witnesses historically believed about organ transplants?

1967-1980: prohibited as “cannibalism”
The Watchtower, November 15, 1967 p. 702

Those who submit to such operations are thus living off the flesh of another human. That is cannibalistic.

The Watchtower, November 15, 1969 p. 701 – Appreciating Jehovah’s Protection


The day before surgery was due the chairman of the kidney transplant team came in and asked if I would agree to making the kidney I was relinquishing available to a young patient whose kidneys had failed.

It appears that though the artery leading to my kidney was not functioning, the kidney itself was in good shape. The doctor was keen to have my kidney, but I explained to him that as one of Jehovah’s witnesses I must abide by what God’s law indicates in such a matter.

Later that day we informed him of our Biblical position with respect to human flesh and its use and quoted the relevant passages of God’s Word. He asked if I could retain a good conscience after denying my kidney to his young patient. In reply I pointed out that my kidney was not mine to give, and must be used in harmony with the will of the One who created it.

1971: They change your personality
The Watchtower, March 1, 1971 p. 135 par. 10 – How Is Your Heart?

One thing is sure, in losing their own hearts, they have had taken away from them the capacities of “heart” built up in them over the years and which contributed to making them who they were as to personality.

1975: They change your personality
The Watchtower, September 1, 1975 p. 519 – Insight on the News

Following a transplant, one mild-tempered man became aggressive like the donor. The problem may be largely or wholly mental. But it is of interest, at least, that the Bible links the kidneys closely with human emotions.

1980: – permitted
The Watchtower, March 15, 1980 p.31

Some Christians might feel that taking into their bodies any tissue or body part from another human is cannibalistic.


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