By Michael Egbejumi-David
firstname.lastname@example.org / Twitter: demdemdem1
I got the first phone call just before 1:00pm, UK time. This was Tuesday 13th November 2012. It was from my sister in Lagos. She was frantic. Our younger brother’s wife was bleeding, losing a lot of blood, laid out on a bed at the National Hospital, Abuja. She had just delivered a baby, their second in just over two years. My sister informed me that despite serious pleas from everyone in the family, from clinical staff at the hospital, and from concerned strangers, my brother refused to give his consent for his wife to have blood transfusion.
Why? Unfortunately for his wife, my brother is a Jehovah’s Witness.
I called my brother and spoke to him. He didn’t budge. He said his faith; his religion forbids its members from accepting blood under any circumstance. Though I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I said that it was ok. I told him that he could refuse blood transfusion when he is the patient, but since it was his young wife at death’s door, he should give consent for the treatment for her. I added that after his wife has been saved, he could go ahead and ask for forgiveness from the anti-transfusion god, and once again reconcile himself to his faith.
I then went into the medical aspect of what was happening. I informed my brother that the average male has only about 5.5 litres of blood in their body. The average female has even less. I told him that if the body loses too much of that, there wouldn’t be enough for the heart to pump, and the heart would stop beating. The patient will die. He still didn’t budge. In fact, he promptly hung up on me. I called him back a few more times but the young man refused to answer his phone.
I called back my sister in Lagos and reported my failure.
The second call came at exactly 2:00pm. This time my sister was crying. The young lady has died.
I immediately called my brother again. I wanted to tell him to take a bow and to clap for himself. But he was still refusing to take my calls.
I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about religion. I know that religion has its many benefits, but I am beginning to wonder whether these are outweighed by its negative aspects. Most people appear to check their intelligence at the door when it comes to their religion and practicing their faith. Unfortunately, my brother is one of them. I couldn’t believe that an educated man (he has a Master’s degree from the University of Ibadan) would sit around and watch his wife die when he could have very easily prevented her death by signing a piece of paper. What has religion done to us?
I called my other sister in Abuja to get more details. I wish I hadn’t.
She informed me that she spent more than an hour on her knees begging our brother to give his consent for his wife to be given blood, but he refused. He refused her, and he refused all pleadings from the medical staff, some of whom were begging him with tears in their eyes. He was told repeatedly that without blood transfusion, his wife would die. He wasn’t moved. He informed them all that if his wife died from bleeding and never got blood transfusion, she would go straight to Heaven. This is a novel idea. If only Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Abacha and the rest of them knew this nice little secret. All they needed to do was slit their own wrists and the express lift to Heaven would have come for them.
Then it got worse. I was informed that the young lady’s mother was present throughout at the hospital. The doctors went to her to give consent for her daughter to be given blood to save her life, but the mother also refused!
She too is a Jehovah’s Witness. She maintained throughout that only the husband can give consent, she would not.
In desperation, the doctors called the young lady’s younger brother who is a junior doctor in Jos. The deceased worked at the National Assembly and was the main breadwinner in her birth family. She paid for the education of all of her siblings, including that of this junior doctor. As the doctors in Abuja pleaded with him on the phone to give consent for his sister to receive blood to save her life, this junior doctor demurred. He directed that she be given some coagulants and blood clotting agents. He was informed that all of that has been tried but the patient was still losing blood. In the end, he refused to give consent. He claimed that it was the duty of his sister’s husband, not his, and terminated the call.
He too is a Jehovah’s Witness. A doctor! What has religion done to us?
Before this, I have never imagined that any mother could sit on a chair, fold her arms and watch her child die and not do something about it. This was a child she gave birth to and nurtured, and who in turn, had been taking care of her in her old age. I don’t know whether I’m the one losing my mind. What has religion done to us?
Anyway, the mother and my brother were finally called to go to the lady’s bedside as it became obvious that she was struggling through her last breaths. Mama ran in the opposite direction shouting, “Jehovah o! Jehovah is life! Life is Jehovah!”
My brother took his place by his wife’s bedside and watched life ebb out of her. He stood there and watched her die. What kind of boldness is that? What kind of cold-heartedness is that? When asked why he did what he did, he responded that when he dies, he would marry his dead wife again in Heaven! Is this logical? I have to confess that I am not the most religious person in the world, but are there marriages in Heaven? Are we going to continue having more children in Heaven?
More importantly, would God be pleased with a person who had the power to save one of his children, one of his creations, but deliberately refused to do so? It is one thing to watch helplessly and only give comfort as someone lies dying on a motorway, but to deliberately and actively withhold life-saving consent? Especially to your own wife? Your own child? Your own sister?
My brother has become a latter-day Abraham. He even went further by sacrificing his wife on the altar of religious principles. But why are some religious people like this? Is it the fear of going against the grain of their faith’s community? Is it the fear of being seen or being thought as not faithful enough by their fellow religious comrades? Is it the shame of being considered weak by one’s religious peers? And if this is the case, are these feelings not trumped by love for another human being? Personally, I think that it has got to be illiteracy of the mind.
Once upon a time, the Earth was thought to be the centre of the Universe. That was the Church’s established view. It was widely accepted that the Sun and all heavenly bodies revolved around an unmoving Earth. Furthermore, it was thought that if the Earth moved, why are we not flung off its surface? As Copernicus and science began to intrude, the Church was compelled to re-assert that the idea that the Sun stood still and that the Earth moved were "false" and "altogether contrary to Holy Scripture." Well, Galileo later published a book, ‘Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems’ in which he argued and proved that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe, and that the Earth does move. The Church and its head, Pope Urban VIII (who was actually Galileo’s friend) were enraged. In 1633, Galileo was arrested and found guilty of heresy. His book was banned, he was forced to recant, and was placed under house arrest until he died.
But all of that took place in the 16th and 17th centuries. Why are people today still favouring antiquated religious policies over love for one another – especially after the advent of Jesus Christ? It cuts across all strata! I don’t get it!
The entire belief system of Jehovah's Witnesses is founded on the basis of its teachings about the second coming of Christ. They are so fixated on the end of the world that they sit there, petrified, unable to move forward. From year dot, they have been making loud predictions about this. Some examples:
- 1877: Christ's kingdom would hold full sway over the earth in 1914; the Jews, as a people, would be restored to God's favor; the "saints" would be carried to heaven.
- 1891: 1914 would be “the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men.”
- 1904: "World-wide anarchy" would follow the end of the Gentile Times in 1914. 1914 came and went. Nothing happened.
- 1916: World War I would terminate in Armageddon and the rapture of the "saints”
- 1920: Messiah's kingdom would be established in 1925 and bring worldwide peace. God would begin restoring the earth. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other faithful patriarchs would be resurrected to perfect human life and be made princes and rulers, the visible representatives of the New Order on earth. Those who showed themselves obedient to God would never die.
- 1922: The anti-typical "jubilee" that would mark God's intervention in earthly affairs would take place "probably the fall" of 1925.
- 1924: God's restoration of Earth would begin "shortly after" October 1, 1925. Jerusalem would be made the world's capital. Resurrected "princes" such as Abel, Noah, Moses and John the Baptist would give instructions to their subjects around the world by radio, and airplanes would transport people to and from Jerusalem from all parts of the globe in just "a few hours."
1925 came and went. We are still here. Things are still the same.
- 1938: In 1938, Armageddon was too close for marriage or child bearing.
- 1941: There were only "months" remaining until Armageddon.
- 1942: Armageddon was "immediately before us."
- 1966: It would be 6000 years since man's creation in the fall of 1975 and it would be "appropriate" for Christ's thousand-year reign to begin at that time. Time was "running out, no question about that." The "immediate future" was "certain to be filled with climactic events...within a few years at most", the final parts of Bible prophecy relating to the "last days" would undergo fulfillment as Christ's reign began.
- 1969: The existing world order would not last long enough for young people to grow old; the world system would end "in a few years." Young Witnesses were told not to bother pursuing tertiary education for this reason.
- 1971: The "battle in the day of Jehovah" was described as beginning "shortly, within our twentieth century".
- 1974: There was just a "short time remaining before the wicked world's end" and Witnesses were commended for selling their homes and property to "finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service."
Nope. Nothing happened. 1975 came and went un-obstructively as well.
Well, after mama ran away, my brother too voted with his feet. He couldn’t be found for a few hours. Eventually he showed up and took his day-old baby over to our sister in Abuja to look after. The next day, ten of his fellow Kingdom-hallers turned up to stare at the baby. I cannot help but wonder what would have been going through their minds. Would they be jubilating that a fellow member has been ‘martyred’ by her husband? Are they happy that a needless and easily preventable death took place in their midst?
My brother is now faced with the daunting task of raising two infants on his own. I wonder whether he has thought much about the future. What would he tell his children when they become old enough and ask about their mother? Is he going to lie to them for the rest of his life? They would find out eventually, of course. And when they do, would they thank him for the leading role he played in their mother’s death?
And bringing up those two infants on his own would be tough – very tough. I assume he would have to stay single now for the rest of his life since he claimed that when he dies, he would remarry his dead wife in Heaven. It would therefore be illogical for him to marry someone else again in this world. That would complicate things for him in Heaven, unless Jehovah Witnesses are entitled to marry more than one wife in the great beyond.
But God is so patient! The many mad things we do in His name! What a waste. What a complete waste of human life and human potential. What has religion done to us!
Well, three days later, my brother called me. He was looking for N250,000 towards funeral cost. Of course I hung up on him…