A woman who refused a blood tranfusion died because she chose her faith over life, an inquest heard.
Allison Mallender, a 44-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, had been admitted to hospital for a routine hysterectomy.
After years of severe abdominal pain the mother-of-one was looking forward to surgery and a lifetime without constant pain.
But during the three-hour operation at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield surgeons encountered a series of complications.
Mrs Mallender’s abdominal organs were stuck together following a previous operation and she had begun to bleed heavily, the inquest was told.
As a result there was a significant drop in the levels of haemoglobin carrying oxygen to her major organs and she lost consciousness.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
Although the surgeons had repaired some of the damage she was immediately placed on a ventilator in intensive care. Although her condition improved during the first three days it soon deteriorated and two days later she was dead.
“She did not want to make a fuss about the fact she was a Jehovah’s Witness which is why she had not mentioned it until the day before the operation,” said Professor Ti C Li, who conducted the operation.
He told the hearing that it was rare for a blood transfusion to be needed during a hysterectomy but not unheard of.
“I asked her if she wanted to go on because of the increased risks, especially if there was significant bleeding,” he said. “But she was clear in her mind that she wanted to get on with the operation. Having satisfied myself that she realised the risks, we proceeded with the operation .”
Soon after the operation began, however, he and the three other surgeons in theatre were confronted with a series of problems, including heavy bleeding. For the next three hours they battled to separate her abdominal organs.
But during the process Mrs Mallender suffered a tear to her small bowel and was losing a lot of blood. Later, whilst in intensive care she was given drugs to try to counteract the blood loss but on 11 June she lost her fight for life.
Mrs Mallender’s mother and father, who have been Jehovah’s Witnesses for the last 35 years, are believed to have backed her desire to refuse any blood products.
The inquest was told that her decision not to have a blood transfusion was not the primary cause of her death. She died, the hearing was told, because of a catalogue of problems stemming from the tear in her small bowel, including multi-organ failure, septic shock as well as her refusal to accept blood products.
An anaethetist claimed that although her blood level was low, it was not low enough to end in her losing her life.
Her husband, Daniel, 47, who is not a Jehovah’s Witness, was also at her bedside with their 23-year-old daughter, Rebecca, when she died. Last night, at the couple’s home in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, he refused to comment.
The inquest into her death, held at Sheffield Coroners Court, heard how she had only mentioned her religion a day before the surgery. She had waited for the operation and was determined to see it through, despite the risks.
Mrs Mallender’s mother and father, Alan Iddon, 66, and Isabelle Iddon, 64, refused to speak about their daughter’s death or her decision not to accept a blood transfusion.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses they see blood as sacred and according to their beliefs it was God’s will that it should not be shared.
Sheffield Coroner Chris Dorries returned a narrative verdict and said that Mrs Mallinder died after suffering complications during and after surgery “and the subsequent treatment regime against a background of refusal to accept blood products.”