A Jehovah’s Witness died after refusing a blood transfusion because it was against her religion.
Margaret Rose Cornelius, 72 and a grandmother of seven, died from a heart attack after a routine hip operation at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant.
Her daughter Gaynor Campbell, wife of Motorhead guitarist Phil Anthony Campbell, today claimed faith elders had visited Margaret in hospital to ensure she would stick to the religion’s strict ban on receiving blood transfusions.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
Gaynor, of Llantwit Fardre, near Pontypridd, believes she may have been able to persuade her mother to accept blood had religious leaders not intervened.
She and Phil were on holiday in Penzance when she received a chilling phone call.
“My son called to say, ‘You better get back, Nan’s refusing blood,’ said Gaynor, 47.
“She was very frightened. I thought the elders wanted to see someone who was ill in hospital, I thought she’d have her friends around her.”
Gaynor said elders even called her to check when she was returning from Cornwall, and believes they visited Margaret as Gaynor and Phil, 46, drove back to South Wales.
When she arrived at the hospital, Gaynor tried desperately to persuade medical staff to give her mother the potentially-lifesaving transfusion. Margaret resisted but Gaynor believes her judgement may have been affected by pain-killing morphine.
“I think I should have been able to make the decision for her,” said Gaynor, who lost her father 16 years ago and her brother Mark two years ago.
“The doctors wouldn’t listen to me. I was saying, ‘I’ll take the blame, just give her blood.’ Mum was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness and it was in her brain. It’s like she had been brainwashed.”
Margaret was admitted to hospital in January after falling in her kitchen at her home in Vale Gardens, Graigwen, Pontypridd, and cracking her hip.
She underwent an operation but complications during her recovery meant a low red blood cell count was straining her heart and she needed a transfusion. Margaret later suffered a heart attack and died. “All she thought was, ‘If I have blood I’m not going to be resurrected.’
“She had been a Jehovah’s Witness all her life. She had deep beliefs but never really preached it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a cult religion. I find it weird – but they were her friends,” said Gaynor.
Gaynor and Phil, who have three sons – Todd, 24, Dane, 20, and 16-year-old Tyler – met representatives of Pontypridd and Rhondda NHS Trust in March to discuss concerns over Margaret’s treatment.
Fighting back tears, Gaynor today said the pain of her mother’s death was still raw. She said: “She loved life. We all miss her terribly.”
‘We would not have tried to stop Margaret if she wanted to change her mind’ – claim
A JEHOVAH’S Witness spokesman today denied faith elders would have tried to stop Margaret changing her mind about receiving blood.
But Paul Gillies, from the faith’s public information office, admitted they would “provide support” so Witnesses were able to stick to their original wishes against medical or family pressures. Asked if elders would have tried to persuade Margaret not to have a transfusion, he said: “That scenario doesn’t fit with my experience. We make our decisions based on the Bible, but if somebody changed their mind and said, ‘I do want blood’, then that’s up to them.
“We would never pressure anybody otherwise.”
But he added: “We will be supportive of someone if they are in a pressurised situation.
“We would never pressure anybody to go against their Bible-trained conscience.”
He explained why Jehovah’s Witnesses are against blood transfusions.
“We refuse blood because the Bible says: abstain from blood,” he said. “We believe the creator of life knows much more about human bodies than ourselves and when He gives us instructions they are of benefit.”
A CORONER criticised Pontypridd and Rhondda NHS Trust for apparently allowing Jehovah’s Witnesses to visit Mrs Cornelius in hospital.
Philip Walters said: “One has to question the wisdom of people being allowed to come to the wards and get patients who are ill to sign forms, whether it’s confirming something they have already said or whether it’s changing opinions they already hold.”
During the inquest, staff nurse Joanne Langton told Pontypridd Coroner’s Court: “I explained to Mrs Cornelius how much better she would feel if she had the blood, but she refused.”
The inquest heard there was confusion over whether, as she lay dying, Mrs Cornelius may have changed her mind over her refusal to accept a blood transfusion. Coroner Mr Walters said he believed Mrs Cornelius had waived the original order refusing blood, but added: “The issue of consent is a very difficult and complex question.”
Pathologist Dr Jason Shannon, who performed a postmortem examination, said Mrs Cornelius died from a heart attack because of complications following the operation. The coroner asked Dr Shannon: “If she had been administered blood, would it have made a difference?”
Dr Shannon replied: “It may have.”
Recording a verdict of accidental death – due to the initial fall in her kitchen which led to her hospitalisation– Mr Walters said: “I’ve no doubt there’s every distinct possibility that had she had that blood she would have lived longer.”
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