'I refused blood during Caesarean and nearly died'

Times, UK/November 6, 2007

A woman who almost died when she refused a blood transfusion after her twins were delivered has spoken of her distress at Emma Gough's case.

Rachel Underhill, 32, remembers eight years ago being persuaded to tick the form refusing blood treatment by elders from the Jehovah's Witnesses when she was admitted to hospital for an emergency Caesarean section.

"I can even remember the anaesthetist waving her arms up and down saying, 'Do you realise you are going to die, do you realise you are going to leave your babies motherless?'. I was terrified. But because of the religion I was brought up in, because of what I had been told to do, and because I was not in a fit mental state to change my mind, I refused to accept blood."

Her babies, one of whom has cerebral palsy as a result of being born ten weeks prematurely, were kept in a special baby care unit for six weeks.

Ms Underhill survived only after having large iron injections and a diet of beetroot to restore her haemoglobin levels.

Three years later, when elders at her Kingdom Hall refused to let her use disabled parking privileges to make it easier to bring her daughters to church, Ms Underhill finally plucked up the courage to leave the religion. She brought about her own "disfellowshipping" by fabricating an adulterous affair, which got her out of both the religion and her unhappy marriage.

Now engaged to someone else and running a successful business, she has set up a website for others suffering for the faith and attempting to leave.

Ms Underhill told The Times that she was "chilled" by the story of Ms Gough. She said: "It was déjà vu. My own story came flooding back to me all over again and I realised just how lucky I am to be alive. I also feel angry because this could all have been avoided if only the Jehovah's Witnesses would recognise how out of date and out of touch they are with other Christians on this matter and change their policy. Instead, another person has died.

"I've just seen my own daughter have an operation. I was told she may need a blood transfusion and I was overjoyed to be able to sign the consent form saying the hospital could treat her in any way they felt best.

"If I had still been a Jehovah's Witness, the situation would have been very different and I find that shocking."

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