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Nixed Blood, not Doctors, Killed Jehovah’s Witness

(CN) - The family of a Jehovah's Witness who died after refusing a blood transfusion cannot successfully claim medical malpractice, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled.

Gwendolyn Rozier had cited her religious beliefs in her decision not to accept blood in her treatment for end-stage renal disease in 2007.

Three days after receiving a kidney transplant from her daughter, Rozier returned to the hospital with abdominal pain. A CT scan showed a large mass around the kidney, and a drop in hemoglobin indicated internal bleeding.

Dr. Heung Oh explainted to Rozier's husband, Gregory, that she needed a blood transfusion to survive. Rozier had signed a document stating that she would not accept a transfusion.

The doctors successfully removed the transplanted kidney, but 55-year-old Rozier died after the procedure.

Eric Braverman, the personal representative of Rozier's estate, sued Oh, four other doctors, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, and St. Clair Specialty Physicians, alleging medical malpractice and wrongful death.

The defendants argued that they were not responsible under the doctrine of avoidable consequences, which bars recovery for damages that could have been avoided through reasonable efforts.

Braverman countered that the defendants' negligence placed Rozier in the position where she needed the forbidden blood transfusion.

A judge in Macomb County sided with the defendants' stating that Rozier's death could have been avoided.

"Defendants have no legal obligation to pay damages for Ms. Rozier's death because her death was avoidable and the refusal of the blood transfusion by Ms. Rozier was objectively unreasonable," the judge found.

A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Thursday.

"Had the blood transfusion been accepted, Rozier likely would have survived. Reasonable minds could not disagree that the blood transfusion was a reasonable means under the circumstances to minimize damages following Rozier's original injury, i.e., to avoid Rozier's death and the damages arising from her death," the unsigned opinion states.

"Therefore, because the blood transfusion was refused under these circumstances, reasonable minds could not disagree that reasonable efforts were made to avoid Rozier's death and the resulting damages," the appellate judges added. "The trial court did not err by concluding that the doctrine of reasonable consequences precluded plaintiff from recovering damages for Rozier's death."

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