A Fulton County jury awarded just over $100,000 to the family of a woman who died after refusing to receive blood transfusions because of her beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness. The verdict came after three weeks of trial and two days of deliberation.
An attorney for the plaintiffs had argued that the Atlanta Medical Center—which offers a bloodless medicine and surgery program for patients who wish to avoid “bank” blood or blood products—could have saved Miriam Anderson’s life had it acted sooner in response to her bleeding 10 days after delivering a baby.
But, said Kenneth Connor of Augusta, jurors couldn’t get around the fact that Anderson had refused to accept a blood transfusion despite knowing that her life was in peril. “There was no question that she realized she was in dire straits,” said Connor. But Anderson, he said, was faced with a “Hobson’s choice: put her soul at risk or put her life at risk. And she was unwilling to forfeit her religious beliefs.”
The hospital, he said, touts its bloodless medicine program but failed to provide the care Anderson needed to prevent her from having to make that choice.
Connor, whose team included Connor & Connor colleagues C. Caleb Connor and Camille Godwin and Atlanta solo Tracee Benzo, said he was gratified that the jury found for his client on one of 10 claims: negligent misrepresentation against the Atlanta Medical Center
Connor said the plaintiffs’ team is considering its options regarding any post-trial motions regarding the verdict.
The Atlanta Medical Center was represented by Kevin Race, Brian Mathis and C. Elizabeth Stell of Insley & Race.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Anderson family,” said Race in an emailed statement. “However, we strongly support the actions of the staff and physicians at Atlanta Medical Center who fought to save Ms. Anderson’s life while also respecting her and her family’s deeply held religious beliefs.”
Weathington Firm partners Paul Weathington and Tracy Baker represented a co-defendant, emergency room doctor Mark Waterman, who was cleared of any liability.
“We think the jury got this right,” said Baker. “This was a tough, unusual case, and the jury was very smart and attentive.”
According to the attorneys and trial documents, Anderson, 27, gave birth to her second child in July 2011 in a normal, vaginal delivery at the Atlanta Medical Center and was discharged. Ten days later, she was experiencing vaginal bleeding and called 911. Emergency medical technicians responding wanted to take her to the hospital, but she declined. Later that day, Anderson again called 911 and was taken to the Atlanta Medical Center emergency room.
According to the defense portion of the pretrial order, Waterman examined her in the ER, determined she was experiencing “moderate at worst” bleeding and ordered intravenous fluids and an ultrasound test.