A Jehova’s Witness from Reawla died from a ruptured spleen after declining a blood transfusion, an inquest in Truro heard.
The inquest was told that Fay Alyson Thompson “would have survived” if she had gone straight to Treliske Hospital rather than being taken to West Cornwall Hospital by ambulance paramedics.
West Cornwall coroner Dr Emma Carlyon was told that Mrs Thompson, a 50-year-old mother-of-two, died on her husband’s birthday after going to watch the aborted world record balloon altitude attempt in St Ives Bay.
Ian Thompson said that on September 3, 2003, the family had gone to Godrevy at around 6.30am to watch the launch. His wife fell over, landing on her binoculars.
“My wife was carrying her binoculars, they were held around her neck on a strap. She fell forward flat on her face on some rocks. The binoculars landed in an upright position and she fell heavily on them. The eye pieces hit her in the stomach.”
Mr Thompson said that his wife had initially been concerned that the binoculars may have struck her in the region of her pacemaker, but was more worried about not being able to stop bleeding from cuts to her fingers and knuckles because she was taking the anti-coagulant Warfarin for her heart condition.
Mr Thompson said his wife began to feel a bit better, but when they returned home to Reawla she began to feel increasingly unwell and they called an ambulance which took her to West Cornwall Hospital.
In a statement Dr Hocking, an A &E consultant at West Cornwall Hospital, said that Mrs Thompson was admitted at 8.48am and had said that the binoculars had struck her in the area of her pacemaker.
“Mrs Thompson was feeling faint and nauseous but was not in pain,” said Dr Hocking, who revealed at this time she was only suffering from “mild tenderness” of the abdomen.
However, by 10am Mrs Thompson was complaining of abdominal pain – but blood was not taken “in view of her request for no blood products”.
Dr Hocking said Mrs Thompson “would have survived” if she had been taken directly to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske rather than West Cornwall.
Consultant surgeon Mr Martin McKenzie said Mrs Thompson’s only chance of survival, given her refusal of a blood transfusion, was the use of a Soul Saver which, he explained, recycled the patient’s own blood by sucking it out of the abdominal cavity.
Anaesthetist Dr Saville, who is based at Treliske, said there was no Soul Saver device at West Cornwall Hospital – and even if there were the hospital did not have personnel trained to use it.
She told the inquest she received a phone call from West Cornwall Hospital at 11am and it was decided she should go there and return to Treliske by ambulance with Mrs Thompson.
The inquest heard that Dr Saville took a taxi from Treliske and arrived an hour later.
Mr Rickford, a consultant surgeon from Treliske, said that Mrs Thompson arrived in the operating theatre at 1.15pm and suffered a cardiac arrest – but was resuscitated and an operation to remove Mrs Thompson’s spleen was conducted.
Dr Sinclair, from Treliske’s intensive care unit, said that Mrs Thompson’s family had asked doctors to give a blood transfusion, but they had to “respect the patient’s wishes”.
Mrs Thompson died in Treliske’s intensive care unit at 9.28pm.
Dr Carlyon said ambulance personnel were not to blame, but it would be a pro-active move if, in future, the matter of faith and blood products could be considered at the outset.
Dennis Seagar, the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust’s legal services manager, said the ambulancemen’s response was fair given that they understood the problem to have been linked to a pacemaker.
In her summing up, Dr Carlyon said it was “important to respect religious beliefs”.
She recorded a verdict that Mrs Thompson had died as a result of an accident.