Transfusion could have saved life - coroner

AAP, Australia/November 10, 2011

A Jehovah's Witness who died of complications after surgery would probably have survived if she had accepted a blood transfusion, a Tasmanian coroner has found.

Glenorchy woman Judith Louise Allen, 49, died of internal bleeding in July 2009 after surgery to adjust a lap band at the Royal Hobart Hospital, Coroner Rod Chandler said in findings released today.

Ms Allen and her husband Simon were practising Jehovah's Witnesses and therefore forbidden from accepting blood transfusions.

Medical staff tried to persuade Mr Allen to consent to the transfusion when his wife became critically ill in the hours after the surgery, but he insisted that her religious beliefs be respected, the coroner said.

Ms Allen died early the next morning.

Mr Chandler said a transfusion would have greatly increased Ms Allen's chances of survival.

"(It) is, in my opinion, highly likely that the internal bleeding that arose following the lap band revision could have been successfully treated and Mrs Allen's life saved," he said.

"In these circumstances Mrs Allen's death was clearly preventable."

The coroner said the couple's compliance with their religion had a "tragic consequence".

"No criticism should be made of Mr and Mrs Allen for their choice of religious faith," he said.

"I accept that this doctrine has been an entrenched principle of the Jehovah Witness religion since 1945 despite considerable debate.

"Nevertheless, Mrs Allen's death most graphically illustrates the consequence of the rigid adherence to that doctrine and brings me to recommend, perhaps forlornly, that the Jehovah Witness Governing Body and its elders give consideration to a relaxation of its doctrine."

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