Poor care for pregnant woman

AIMEE GULLIVER
Last updated 19:31 07/07/2014

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A woman who had her remaining fallopian tube removed after being wrongly diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy received “suboptimal care”, the health and disability commissioner has found.

The woman’s right fallopian tube had been removed in an earlier ectopic pregnancy in May 2011, when she was aged 40.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus, such as in one of the fallopian tubes. It is highly dangerous for the mother. 

After becoming pregnant again in April 2012, the woman was referred to a Canterbury District Health Board hospital - which is not named in the commissioner's decision - with what was suspected to be another ectopic pregnancy. 

She consented to the removal of her remaining fallopian tube, on the understanding the tube was abnormal. 

But she had not wanted it removed if there were no problems with the tube, she told Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill. 

In surgery, her fallopian tube was removed, and the operation report stated a “small left tubal pregnancy” was found.

A subsequent study of the tube under a microscope showed no pregnancy tissue in the tube, as would be expected with an ectopic pregnancy

Hill said the DHB clinicians should have acted more cautiously, considering the serious consequences for the woman in removing her remaining fallopian tube. 

The clinicians diagnosed the woman with a likely ectopic pregnancy without taking “all reasonable steps required to allow them to conclude this definitively,” Hill said. 

The woman’s remaining fallopian tube was unnecessarily removed, as it was not clearly abnormal.

“The cumulative effect of a number of individual errors resulted in the woman receiving suboptimal care.”

The woman decided to terminate the eight-week foetus she was carrying due to concerns the fallopian tube removal procedure may have harmed it, although she was advised no complications were expected. 

The woman’s rights were breached again when she requested the foetal tissue be returned to her after the termination, but it was destroyed instead, Hill said.

He ordered the DHB to apologise to the woman for its breaches in her care and review its consent documentation. He also ordered one of the obstetricians to apologise to the woman for his failings in the case.


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