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Hemoglobin is the protein found in red blood (erthrocytes) that possesses the unique ability to bind to oxygen in the lungs and transport the bound oxygen throughout the body.

In many respects hemoglobin is the single most important component of blood. For example, it is the largest component of blood. At 13-16% of blood volume, hemoglobin is second only to water in total blood volume. While blood carries out many important functions, the ability of hemoglobin to transport oxygen is central to the role of blood.

Hemoglobin is composed of the protein globin that is bound to the iron-containing heme pigments that give it its unique red color. While the Watchtower Society (WTS) forbids Jehovah's Witnesses from taking red cells, it permits hemoglobin. That such a policy is irrational can readily be appreciated when one understands that red cells are nothing more than donut shaped bags of hemoglobin. The red cell has no other contents, not even a nucleus.

If one considers the dry weight of the red cell they will observe that hemoglobin accounts for 97%. The remaining 3% is the stroma or red cell membrane. When the Watchtower Society bans the use of red cells but permits the use of hemoglobin it is
comparable to telling someone they may drink the contents of a plastic jug of milk but that if they take the jug with the milk in it they are stealing.

The WTS' long standing position, for over four decades, on hemoglobin was that it was blood and unacceptable. This position was suddenly abandoned in June of 2000 as hemoglobin based blood substitutes became available to Jehovah's Witnesses in clinical trials and on a compassionate use basis.

Additional information on this topic:

Watchtower Approves HemoPure for Jehovah's Witnesses

Watchtower Blood Policy Changes Again