Jury sides with family of woman who refused transfusion

Associated Press/April 24, 2004

Clayton, Mo. -- The family of a Jehovah's Witness who refused a blood transfusion and died after surgery in November 2001 won a lawsuit against a surgeon who operated on her.

A St. Louis County Circuit Court jury on Friday awarded $412,500 to the family of Linda Grissom. The lawsuit was against Dr. Ronald Gaskin, the surgeon who cut Grissom's aorta when she was having her gallbladder removed and repaired the wound during the operation.

However, Grissom could not then have blood transfusions because that would have been contrary to her beliefs.

In the ruling, the jury awarded total damages of $750,000, but found the surgeon only 55 percent at fault and the family 45 percent at fault, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Saturday.

Grissom, 64, of Imperial, was a production line supervisor, a wife and mother close to retiring from her job before she died on Nov. 21, 2001, a day after surgery. She was also a Jehovah's Witness, who believed the Bible prohibited her from accepting blood from others.

Gaskin is a general surgeon who has surgical privileges at an area hospital and a south St. Louis County practice.

Philip Willman, who was representing Gaskin, argued it was unfair to blame the doctor in the death, when the woman had rejected blood transfusions.

Willman pointed out a hematologist, Dr. Victoria Dorr, told the jury that Grissom would have survived if she had accepted blood transfusions.

Alvin A. Wolff Jr., representing Grissom's family, said cutting the aorta during what was supposed to be a bloodless surgery would be "malpractice every time. I can't imagine anything else."

Gaskin acknowledged he had cut or nicked arteries in 1996, 1997 and 1998, and took a voluntary suspension of privileges at a medical center for a little over two months in 1998.

The plaintiffs in the case were Linda Grissom's husband, Gene, and her daughters, Patty, Lisa and Sheila.

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