Jehovah’s Witness died after refusing blood transfusion

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A woman who died of blood loss after an elective hysterectomy was a Jehovah’s Witness who left conflicting requests about whether she would consent to a blood transfusion, an inquest has heard.

Heather Winchester, 75, died at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle on September 27, 2019, after initial surgery in Maitland Hospital. The inquest is examining the medical care she received.

Winchester, a doorstep convert to the religion, left an advanced care directive statement that said she did not consent to receive blood transfusions, but other information she supplied to medical staff suggested she was open to receiving some blood-derived products.

“There was a contradiction in documents in relation to what products she would accept,” counsel-assisting Eva Elbourne told the court.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible prohibits Christians from accepting transfusions, or from donating or storing their own blood.

The church provides guidance to believers but ultimately leaves it up to individuals to decide whether they receive transfusions.

The Crown Solicitor’s office told the inquest that it would tender expert medical opinion that a blood transfusion may have saved Winchester’s life.

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