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"We wouldn't give an endorsement on a specific product (such as PolyHeme), but we're watching developments carefully," said Mark Sanderson in a telephone interview from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, at its Brooklyn, N.Y. headquarters, where he is with hospital information services . Sanderson said his group tries to keep abreast of relevant developments.
He said that the Watchtower Society, the governing body of the Jehovah's Witnesses, has ruled that the use of substances that contain a product fractionated from red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma was permissible.
"Using blood substitutes remains a matter of conscience," Sanderson added. Although some patients have embraced this type of product, many will take a more guarded view based on risk, benefit and religious considerations.
Sanderson said it was difficult to estimate the number of people who died because of refusing a whole blood transfusion and because an acceptable substitute was unavailable. He also noted, "Our patients have been undergoing major surgeries from liver transplants to open-heart surgery without blood transfusions for many years before these products were ever conceived."