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Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 21:09 GMT
Call to change blood refusal law
Rachel Underhill
Rachel Underhill refused a blood transfusion when she gave birth
A former Jehovah's Witness who refused a blood transfusion when she had an emergency Caesarean section has called for a law change over patients' wishes.

Currently there is nothing doctors can do if an adult refuses medical treatment on religious grounds.

Rachel Underhill, 32, from Sussex, said she had a chill down her spine when she read about Jehovah's Witness Emma Gough dying in a similar incident to hers.

She said transfusions should not carry "fear of censure or legal action".

Mrs Gough, 22, of Telford, Shropshire, gave birth to twins on 25 October but died after refusing a blood transfusion, apparently because of her faith.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that accepting one would be a sin.

'Override wishes'

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the British Medical Association, said: "If somebody believes that having blood will excommunicate them from their religious beliefs, then they will often say no and accept the risk of death.

"It's something we just have to live with - the alternative would be to change the human rights law."

But Ms Underhill, from Brighton, argued: "Hospitals can override parents' wishes when it comes to treatment of Jehovah's Witness children.

"The same should be true of Jehovah's Witness adults.

"This could all have been avoided if only Jehovah's Witnesses would recognise how out-of-date and out-of-touch they are with other Christians on this matter and change their policy," Ms Underhill added.

"Instead, another person has died."

But Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committees argued there was a place for the "detailed care plans" they draw up for treatments not involving blood.

David Jones, a committee member for North Bristol NHS Trust, said: "We are ever more favourably received - doctors are increasingly sympathetic to the needs of the community."

A former Jehovah's Witness has called for a law change

Mother dies after refusing blood
05 Nov 07 |  Shropshire
The right to die for Jehovah
05 Nov 07 |  Health

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