Blood has been the source of religious taboos and worship ever since man first cut himself.
In recent years the Dracula myths and leeching of patients have added to the fears surrounding practices involving the life-giving substance.
Now medical science has the ability to use blood transfusions to cure or alleviate many life-threatening conditions - but some members of society prefer to avoid such treatment. We examine the arguments.
I say Yes
Brendan O'Farrell has been a Jehovah's Witness for 25 years. He has been a church elder in Dublin for the past 12 years and helped set up a hospital liaison committee to ensure members receive medical treatment without blood transfusions.
THE use of blood and blood products has become standard medical treatment for many and is advocated as a life-saving practice.
It might seem strange, and perhaps even fanatical to some, that anyone would refuse blood, particularly where life is at risk.
But this is the case with Jehovah's Witnesses.
As with many things in life, there is another side to blood transfusions which most people are unaware of, or perhaps choose to ignore.
At its best, medicine is a risk business and the hazards and complications of blood transfusion are well documentated. Seldom are they explained to the patient.
Apart from the purely therapeutic benefits, there are ethical, legal and religious aspects of this issue which strike at the very heart of human rights and dignity.
When a patient exercises his rights of choice and bodily integrity, in a high risk situation by refusing blood, emotion generally runs very high.
But few ask 'why?' and really listen to the answer.
Jehovah's Witnesses are not fanatical people. They are simply trying to follow the tenets of their belief and conscience. They are not anti- medicine and indeed consult doctors because they wish good health.
They accept all normal medical practice and therapy apart from blood. By refusing blood transfusion they are not trying to commit suicide. They are simply exercising their right of choice, and freedom of worship.
The main reason why Jehovah Witnesses refuse blood tranfusion is religious. The Bible forbids it. When Noah was given God's approval to eat meat, he was told "Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you . . Only flesh with its soul - its blood - you must not eat." (Genesis 9:3,4)
This was later integrated into the Law given through Moses. "And you must not eat any blood in any places where you dwell, whether that of fowl or that of beast. Any soul who eats any blood, that soul must be cut off from his people." (Lev. 7:26-27)
"Simply be firmly resolved not to eat the blood, because the blood is the soul and you must not eat the soul with the flesh. . You must not eat it, in order that it may go well with you and your sons after you, because you will do what is right in Jehovah's eyes." (Deut. 12: 23-25)
Finally, when the first century Christian congregation were deciding what carried over from the Mosaic Law into the Christian system they wrote: "For then holy spirit and we ourselves have favoured adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you." (Acts 15: 28,29)
Jehovah's Witnesses believe these words forbid blood tranfusion, just as surely as they forbid idolatry and fornication. We believe words are as valid today as they when they were first written.
They wish to put the doing of God's will first in their lives, even when the 'going gets tough' in sickness.
They keep their eyes on the promise of everlasting life which God holds out to people of integrity. …