Inquest into Jehovah’s Witness hospital deaths begins

letter from Ann Marr, chief executive of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
letter from Ann Marr, chief executive of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

AN inquest hearing began this week into the death of a Jehovah’s Witness who died after a routine hospital procedure went tragically wrong.

An inquest at Bootle Town Hall heard on Monday (December 5) how grandmother-of-three Jean Gilman was admitted to Whiston Hospital in March 2009 after going to her GP complaining of shortness of breath.

X-rays showed that the 59-year-old had fluid on her left lung which needed to be removed by a pleural aspiration.

However, rather than follow British Thoracic Society guidelines and use an ultrasound machine to locate the fluid, a doctor instead attempted to guess where to insert the needle.

Later that day Mrs Gilman’s health began to deteriorate and that night she was rushed into the hospital’s operating theatre suffering massive internal bleeding.

Due to her faith - she had been a Jehovah’s Witness for 40 years - Mrs Gilman refused to have a blood transfusion. Tragically, four days later she was dead.

On Monday (December 5), the inquest heard evidence from nursing staff and doctors, both about Mrs Gilman’s admission to hospital and what happened during the ill-fated pleural aspiration procedure.

Nurses told how Mrs Gilman had suddenly begun to look pale and unwell following the procedure and her blood pressure had plummeted.

Mrs Gilman’s family insist that, despite signs her health was rapidly deteriorating, medical intervention came too late - however hospital chiefs say her subsequent treatment was “timely and appropriate”.

Hospital bosses have already apologised to Mrs Gilman’s family, admitting that mistakes were made in her initial treatment.

A hospital spokeswoman said: “Mrs Gilman underwent a procedure carried out by a senior doctor who had performed this procedure many times. On this occasion the doctor did not follow guidelines and made an error, which resulted in Mrs Gilman needing further treatment.

“Thereafter, she received timely and appropriate care but, as a Jehovah’s Witness, she chose not to receive blood products and her life could not be saved.”

Mrs Gilman’s widower Peter, 62, of Sutton Leach, disputes that a blood transfusion would have saved his wife’s life.

The three-day inquest is set to resume today (Wednesday, December 7) and conclude on Friday (December 9).

A narrative verdict is expected from Coroner Christopher Sumner next week.