Jehovah'S Witness Bleeds To Death After Giving Birth

(London) The Daily Telegraph/February 5, 1993
By Michael Smith

A JEHOVAH'S witness bled to death after the birth of her second child because religious principles prevented her from having a transfusion.

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 transfusion."

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 out.

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."

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