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    Legally Speaking: Tubal ligation failure results in wrongful pregnancy claim

     

    Loss of triplet pregnancy

    An Alabama woman who had difficulty becoming pregnant underwent in vitro fertilization in 2010 and became pregnant with triplets. She was followed by obstetricians at a university hospital. At 17 ½ weeks’ gestation she came to the hospital with vaginal bleeding. Her obstetrician examined her and concluded that she was in labor with the first fetus and that its amniotic sac was in the vagina. The patient was admitted to the hospital on complete bed rest in Trendelenburg position and started on antibiotics. On the day of admission, the obstetrician spoke to the patient and explained that it might be possible to save the other 2 fetuses even if the first fetus delivered. He also stated, however, that he believed that the likelihood of maintaining the pregnancy with fetuses 2 and 3 until viability was remote.

    After a week the patient developed a high fever and exhibited signs of impending shock. An examination by a second-year obstetrical resident revealed a suspicion of chorioamnionitis, and the patient was transferred to labor and delivery, where an obstetrician delivered all 3 fetuses. The first was stillborn, and the other 2 died shortly after birth from severe prematurity.

    Related: Should single embryo transfer be mandatory in women undergoing IVF?

    The patient sued those involved with her delivery, claiming that the physicians failed to make proper efforts to save the second and third fetuses. She alleged that allowing the amniotic sac to remain in the vagina allowed the infection to progress.

    The case went to trial against the second-year resident and the delivering obstetrician. Both denied any negligence in the patient’s management. They stated that the patient developed a life-threatening infection that necessitated emptying the uterus and that the infants were just previable.

    The verdict

    A trial resulted in a defense verdict for the resident and a mistrial for the delivering obstetrician. During a second trial, however, a defense verdict was returned.

     

    Dawn Collins, JD
    MS COLLINS is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, California. She welcomes feedback on this column via ...

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