A JEHOVAH'S witness bled to death after the birth of her second
child because religious principles prevented her from having a
Mrs. Yvonne Leighton, 28, and her husband, Gordon, had signed
forms refusing hospital staff permission to give her blood.
Doctors had to stand by helplessly as she hemorrhaged during a
simple operation for new mothers, 10 days after her son was born.
She died over a protracted period of several hours as Mr. Leighton
and other relatives waited by her bedside at Sunderland General
Hospital, Tyne and Wear.
A hospital spokesman said: "She was conscious for most of
the time, but she refused to have a transfusion. She was given
blood alternatives, but when you are suffering that much, you
need blood. She was prepared to do anything but have a blood
Her fellow Jehovah's Witnesses were so anxious to ensure that
the hospital staff complied with her wishes that a legal representative
was sent to the hospital to ensure the transfusion was not carried
The hospital spokesman added: "It was heartbreaking, not
only for the woman's family, but for the doctors and nurses."
Mr. Leighton's brother said last night: "The whole family
is very distressed. We are all Jehovah's Witnesses. My brother
has been comforted by ministers of the church since his wife died."
Mr. Leighton was being comforted by relatives at this home in
Washington, Tyne and Wear.
One said: "Gordon has just lost his wife, he's been left
to look after a tiny baby on his own. He is totally distraught.
He doesn't know what to do. His life has been shattered."
Mr. Ray Varty, a Jehovah's Witness, and a close friend of Mr.
and Mrs. Leighton, said last night,: "She was a very loving
woman who will be deeply missed."
Jehovah's Witnesses are forbidden to allow any form of human or
animal blood into their bodies. A spokesman at their London headquarters
said last night that the Bible "repeatedly instructs people
not to take blood into their body."
"It's not that we decline medical treatment. We believe
strongly in medicine. We don't have a death wish."
Mrs. Leighton, who also has a six-year-old daughter, Rachel, went
into the hospital on Wednesday for the operation known as dilation
and curettage. It involves scrapping away the lining of the womb
and is commonly carried out to treat or diagnose the cause of
heavy menstrual bleeding.
The hospital spokesman said: "It's very simple and done
every day. The consequences of not having a blood transfusion
were explained to her and her family on three occasions."
"The anesthetist was continually trying to get her to change
her mind. The medical team were distraught.
"A full medical team were present throughout her treatment
and all possible steps were taken to save her - bearing in mind
the wishes of her and her family.
"It is a very difficult situation for medical staff. But
if they were to give the transfusion they would have been breaking
the law and open to a charge of criminal assault."
"We offer our sympathy to the family, but this incident will
stay with the staff for the rest of their lives."