A woman has filed suit against an Air Force base hospital and a former North Carolina doctor, claiming her pregnancy was terminated under the erroneous determination that she was suffering a molar pregnancy.
As our Charlotte medical malpractice lawyers understand, that turned out to be false. A molar pregnancy is one in which the tissue that would normally develop into a fetus instead becomes an abnormal and sometimes cancerous growth.
According to the Virginian-Pilot, the woman was diagnosed with the condition when she was 12 weeks along. Doctors had no reason to immediately believe that the tissue had become cancerous, but indicated there was grave potential for it to become a rapidly-progressing and potentially terminal illness. They advised an immediate suction dilation and curettage, which is a type of abortion procedure used to extract tissue from the womb.
She underwent an immediate series of tests - blood work, ultrasounds, exams and x-rays.
She and her Air Force husband had been ecstatic about the pregnancy, and the news of the molar pregnancy was devastating. But as a mother, she did not want to risk not being there for her son to grow up. She underwent the procedure.
She would later reveal in court documents that the procedure was emotionally gut-wrenching and physically painful. But that was little, she would later say, compared to what she learned afterward: The tissue that was removed was actually a healthy fetus.
Because the incident occurred in a military hospital, the lawsuit had to be filed in federal court. But similar cases have been noted in other parts of the country. In 2011, a Colorado woman filed suit after her pharmacist mistakenly gave her an abortion pill, as opposed to the antibiotic she was actually there to pick up, while she was six-months pregnant.
A recent study published in the journal Surgery combed through a federal database of medical malpractice claims to determine how often problems were caused by surgeons either performing performing the wrong procedure, leaving a foreign object inside a patient or operating on the wrong person. The researchers found that between 1990 and 2010, some 9,745 medical malpractice settlements were reached after these kinds of situations, which resulted in payments totaling $1.3 billion.
It's unclear how many instances involved pregnancy-related malpractice, but we do know that birth injuries are exceedingly common. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 7 out of every 1,000 babies born in the U.S. suffer some form of birth injury. Most of these happen at non-profit hospitals. Additionally, 6 out of 7 will suffer mild to severe complications as a result, including erb's palsy, fractures, cerebral palsy, facial paralysis and spinal cord damages.
About 135 out of 100,000 live births result in death due to medical malpractice. Some of the more common mistakes include:
- Failure to recognize fetal distress;
- Improper use of vacuum or forceps;
- Untimely C-sections;
- Instrumental births.
Doctors take an oath upon becoming licensed to never do harm. Sadly, not all keep their word.