Published April 03, 2013
I am in shock over the story of a woman in Ohio suing a clinic over a failed abortion – after she delivered a healthy baby.
This lawsuit is of particular interest to me, because as a high-risk obstetrician, I have had many complicated obstetrical cases. But I still can’t swallow how a physician gets sued for a wrongful birth.
A wrongful birth suit occurs when a doctor, without causing any health risks to a fetus, is charged with negligence after a full delivery of the living child. In this particular case, the patient alleges that the doctors failed to abort her fetus during her initial abortion. The woman was told her pregnancy could put her life at risk, because she had been diagnosed with uterine didelphys – a condition which results in a double uterus with individual cervices.
Let’s look at a couple of facts: A didelphys uterus does not necessarily mean that a pregnancy or a mother’s life is at risk. There have been many successful pregnancies in which the mother has had a double uterus. Yes, there are risk factors involved, especially when it comes to premature delivery. However, to high-risk obstetricians, this condition is well understood.
Even though I have limited knowledge of all the facts in this case, a failed termination – especially during the first trimester – is quite common. The chances are also heightened when, like in this case, the anatomy is distorted, or there are issues of obesity.
It’s not clear to me if the patient wanted to follow up with the clinic to pursue another procedure. According to a statement, she failed to show up for a second appointment. Regardless, lawyers are still pursuing this wrongful birth suit, which in my opinion is unethical and immoral. The reason it will move forward is because there are doctors willing to testify against this clinic for a hefty fee.
I am all for patients receiving compensation when there is negligence or maleficence on behalf of physicians or hospitals. But when you have a healthy mother and a healthy baby, and the only charge is the inconvenience of giving birth to a miracle, then that’s just plain wrong.