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November 29, 1998
The President of the Constitutional Court of Colombia affirms that denying a blood transfusion constitutes First Degree Murder
The prestigious Colombian investigative television program "SÉPTIMO DÍA" - channel CARACOL - analyzed the problem with the Jehovah's Witnesses blood policy. We present the highlights of the program with specific comments from the participants.
Journalist Luz Adriana Betancourth, commented about the deaths among the 100,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Colombia. Outstanding is the case of the minor Alfonso Cáceres Villamizar, who died in the city of Bucaramanga. His father also appeared in the program (doing some carpentry labor), and blames the Witnesses for the death of his son, affirming that his son would be alive today (Alfonso died in 1996), and could have continued living for some 5 to 10 years if the Witnesses had not been so meddlesome. It was mentioned that this case led to a decision by the Constitutional Court that that "The State should do everything possible, including ordering the administration of blood transfusions, to save a minor of this age."
The Journalist Luz Adriana Betancourth posed the question: "Is it possible that the (Witnesses Biblical) interpretation is erroneous?" Brother Vicente Pulido, from the local branch and in charge of the Hospital Liason Committees, appears saying: "In Acts 15:28, 29 it is established that one should not consume blood in any way," later he is quoted as saying that: "without a doubt many persons have died due to lack of adequate treatment...."
Following there is an interview with Dr. Cornelio Salcedo, who has saved three Jehovah's Witness children, and been established as one of the principal collaborators for the Hospital Liaison Committee. The doctor affirms: "Blood has no substitute, gone is the myth that one cannot operate without blood, but there is no technique that can replace blood."
To continue some images were presented from the prestigious clinic "Fundación Valle de Lili", located in the city of Cali, and it was explained that several Jehovah's Witnesses had died not because of lack of technology or medication, but because they did not receive needed blood transfusions according to Dr. Martín Wartemberg, Director of the Institution. He also added: "In the last 4 months we have had 2 patients that died as a consequence of not accepting a timely transfusion of blood."
At this point the journalist explains that many doctors refuse to treat Jehovah's Witnesses because of fear of legal actions.
Before the commercial break, the director of the program, Manuel Teodoro, appears and affirms that for Jehovah's Witnesses "obedience is the first commandment they follow literally, because if they consume blood they lose the hope of a resurrection, God is the one who decides when they must die."
Next a case is presented where a little girl, the daughter of the Witness Hermelina Valencia, was diagnosed with leukemia. Through the intervention of the Municipal Attorney of the city of Cali, and acting under the Law of Minors, a blood transfusion was ordered one and a half year ago, although the mother stated "because of religious problems, I denied it." Later Sister Valencia appears saying: "Thank God my little girl is doing fine, I am glad, happy!".
The Journalist continues by affirming that there "exist patients and cases that cannot wait and be prolonged by court decisions." At this moment the camera shows various Witnesses, congregated in the home of a family, and Sister Stella de Bermeo, a Jehovah's Witness for 24 years, takes the lead in the conversation saying: "Many small children, lots of them, have died because of not being treated with blood transfusions, and in obedience to God."
Later, the Journalist is shown walking in a park reflecting on the matter, "is this is in reality a case of religious freedom, or a case of unjust tolerance of a crime. If I was a Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or part of any other religion, and I denied a transfusion for my child, I could be charged with murder."
He continues by saying that "doctors and judges know that children have died and admit that in Colombia there has never been a case and trial for this kind of murder."
Next appears the President of the Constitutional Court of Colombia, Dr. Vladimiro Naranjo who states: "This is a form of murder, moreover, First Degree Murder." The Journalist comments that it could be a way of opening the doors for fanatical religious groups with suicidal ideas, and the President of the Court concludes: "Religious freedom is not absolute, there are limitations, a religion that attempts to claim the life of a person cannot be legally permitted."
Next some horrifying scenes and images are presented regarding what occurred in "Guyana under the authority of Reverend Jim Jones, who was able to convince more than 950 persons, that the best way to please God was by killing themselves."
The journalist concludes: "Although the Jehovah's Witnesses are not as radical as they (Jim Jones followers) were, their religious beliefs have left children and adults dead, and if they had received a blood transfusion, surely, they would be among us giving testimony of life."
Finally the Moderator of the program concludes: "Although Jehovah's Witness are considered as one of the most radical religions in the world, this year there was registered before the European Commission of Human Rights an agreement where it was guaranteed that there will not be any control or sanction against members who accept a blood transfusion for themselves or their children, however, here in Colombia it is acknowledged that disfellowshipping occurs for the same reason."
The following comments are from AJWRB members in Latin America:
We would like to extend first of all our gratitude to the Colombian Television Channel, CARACOL, to the program "SÉPTIMO DÍA", and its Director Manuel Teodoro and his team, and particularly to the Journalist Luz Angela Betancourth, for having having the courage to shed light on the horrors generated by this inconsistent doctrine.
We also extend our gratitude to our Colombian brothers, that have helped the news media to handle this painful theme, and also the ones who sent us the translated transcript of the program.
The focus given to this theme in Colombia, has tremendous implications, and provides an interesting form of viewing the issue. We would like to emphasize the importance of a person with the position of Dr. Naranjo, President of the Consitutional Court of Colombia, affirming that we have a case of "First Degree Murder." This should send a very powerful message not just to the local branch of Colombia, but also to the "intellectual authors" of these kinds of crimes who keep a comfortable distance in Brooklyn, and also in different branches around the world. This is an issue that can have serious legal implications, and cause concern that there doesn't exist precedents around this issue, and therefore constitutes a clear message to different authorities, particularly in Colombia, who could, based on the word of the President of the Court, initiate penal actions toward the persons involved.
On the other hand, the expert that appeared in the program left it very clear, that there are circumstances where alternatives for blood DON'T EXIST. Although the tactics of the Watchtower Society has been to distract the news media from the problem by trying to focus on the alternatives (an aspect that has been emphasized during the International Seminars I and II, and directed to the Hospital Liaison Committees, where many of us assisted). The Society dedicates its resources and efforts on the alternatives when this is not the real problem.
Finally, we have an indescribable feeling, when the representative of the Society, Brother Pulido, and also Sister Bermeo, talked shamelessly about the many children who have died because of this doctrine, and during the program, adequately compare, and at least ask every television viewer to reflect on the horrors in Guyana, and not forgetting, the beauty of life when the Journalist Luz Adriana Betancourth, affirms that these persons "if they had received a blood transfusion, surely, they would be among us giving testimony of life." We have no doubts that this is what our loving Creator wants.
Thank you brothers and friends in Colombia, and also brothers from other countries. No doubt this is an important issue that needs to be considered by the news media, because it is through them that the Society's representatives react. Please let's continue drawing attention to what has happened and denunciate the Watchtower Society for not keeping it's agreement with Bulgaria. Let's show that we are not indifferent toward the many deaths and let's talk for those who have been silenced by the Society's murderous doctrine.