Emma Gough suffered severe blood loss after giving birth to a boy and girl at the Royal Hospital in Shrewsbury ten days ago.
Doctors and medics begged her 24-year-old husband, Anthony, and other relatives to overrule a form she had ticked insisting that she should not be given blood because of her faith. But the family refused to do so.
Peter Welsh, the best man at the couple’s wedding on a beach in Barbados two years ago, told The Sun newspaper: “Everyone is devastated by what has happened. We can’t believe that she died after childbirth in this day and age, with all the technology there is.
“What makes it even more sad is Emma had time to hold and start to bond with her twins before the complications set in.”
Terry Lovejoy, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Telford, said today that the local religious community had rallied round the bereaved family.
He said: “We are supporting the family – they are going through a very difficult time and we understand their grief.”
A spokesman for the faith’s central office in London said: “You don’t find many Jehovah’s Witnesses taking blood. If someone did they would be saying I don’t really believe in the basic tenets of the faith.”
The biblical injunction against blood transfusions was comparable to the injunctions against adultery, he said. “You can’t pick and choose,” he said.
– Four Dangers of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization
Tom Taylor, Chief Executive of The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said today: “We have offered our deepest condolences to the family, and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
A spokeswoman from the British Medical Association told The Times: “It’s a tragic case but its cut and dried from where we are standing. The doctors’ hands are tried. Competent adults have the right to refuse any medical treatment even if that refusal results in permanent physical injury or death. I am sure the doctors will have done all they can do to try to persuade this woman or her family to allow the blood transfusion but you can’t force someone to. To do so would be against the Human Rights Act.”
An inquest into the death has been opened and adjourned, according to the coroner’s department in Shrewsbury.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, who espouse an early version of Christianity, are automatically declared outcasts from their faith if they take blood into the body, whether through the mouth or veins.
They cite verses from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to support their position, including Genesis 9 vs 3-4: “Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat.”
Acts 15:28-29 says: “For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favoured adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”
Transfusions of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma are forbidden. In 2004 The Watchtower Society, the official body representing Jehovah’s Witnesses, did however notify its members that fractions from each of these, including red blood cells without a membrane, can be used in medical procedures according to a Witness’s own conscience.