A young mother died hours after giving birth to twins because her faith prohibited a life-saving blood transfusion.
Emma Gough, 22, was able to hold her son and daughter after the natural delivery, but suffered a sudden haemorrhage and lost a great deal of blood.
As a Jehovah’s Witness, Mrs Gough had signed a form before the birth insisting that she should not be given blood.
Staff at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital begged her husband Anthony Gough, 24, (right) who is also a Jehovah’s Witness, and other relatives to allow the transfusion. But followers believe that blood transfusions are prohibited by the Bible and the family would not sanction the treatment.
Mrs Gough, a shop worker from Dawley, Telford, Shropshire, died early on October 25.
The twins are being cared for by their father, who yesterday led the mourners at his wife’s funeral.
Mr Gough said: “We are coping the best we can. There will be an inquest and issues will arise from that”.
The couple married on the Caribbean island of Barbados in December 2005 in a ceremony attended by 30 family members and friends.
At the time, Mrs Gough was a secretary working for her husband’s gas fitting and plumbing business.
Friends said the Goughs were teenage sweethearts and Emma had been “ecstatic” to learn she was expecting twins.
Their best man, Peter Welch, 24, said Mrs Gough’s death had devastated both sides of the family, all Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Mr Welch, of Sutton Hill, Telford, said: “We can’t believe 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 bond with her twins before the complications set in.”
Mrs Gough’s parents, Glenda Delaney and James Delaney, a long- distance lorry driver, were too upset to comment at their Telford home yesterday.
Mr Gough’s father, Ian Gough, who runs a car window tinting business, said: “We are awaiting a report from the coroner”.
But an elderly neighbour criticized the family for sticking to their beliefs.
She said: “How could she make that decision not to have a transfusion and leave those babies without a mother? It’s terrible, I don’t care what your beliefs are, to refuse treatment like that is awful”.
Another neighbour said: “A friend of the family told us she had suffered a haemorrhage after giving birth to the twins naturally and had refused a transfusion. They couldn’t understand why she hadn’t been given a Caesarean”.
A member of the Kingdom Hall congregation in Madeley, Telford, said: “The basis of the faith is that we follow commands from the scriptures and it is a scriptural command to abstain from blood.
“It is one of a number of things in the scriptures about things you can and cannot do. It is, of course, up to the individual to decide how strongly to follow these requirements. I accept that the faith will receive criticism over this. Some of our beliefs do attract criticism”.
He denied that Mrs Gough was being selfish by putting her own beliefs before the needs of her children, adding: “Children are always a priority. We respect life. We seek the best medical attention we can get but the requirement we have is that we do so without receiving blood. It is very sad and there is a lot of support for the family”.
Dr Maggie Blott, a consultant obstetrician, said women pregnant with non-identical twins are at increased risk of needing a blood transfusion at birth. She added: “When women give birth, they bleed from the placental bed – the area of the uterus to which the placenta is attached.
“With twins there are two placental beds and so twice the bleeding”.
She added that the risk applied regardless of whether the babies were delivered naturally or via Caesarean section. But births carried out by Caesarean increase blood loss – and therefore the need for a transfusion – because there is surgical blood loss on top of the normal bleeding from the placental bed.
Last year only 17 women died in childbirth in Britain.
The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital said it could not make any comment about an individual patient’s care and treatment.
The Jehovah’s Witness movement, an offshoot of Christianity, was developed by the American preacher Charles Taze Russell in the late 19th century.
Its adherents believe Christ’s second coming is imminent, and that soon afterwards the world will be destroyed and 144,000 of the most faithful believers will ascend to heaven.
They consider the Bible to be the word of God – whom they call Jehovah – and interpret many of its scriptures literally.
Witnesses believe three Biblical passages explicitly prevent them from receiving blood transfusions. However the faith’s ruling Watchtower Society allows Witnesses to receive organ transplants, as long as the organ is completely drained of blood.
There are 6.5 million active Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, 125,000 of them in Britain. Followers include Michael Jackson and tennis stars Venus Williams and Serena Williams.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a November 5, 2007 article by Liz Hull, Andy Dolan and Dan Newling in The Daily Mail