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Misdiagnosis ends viable pregnancy

For many throughout the nation one of the most exciting parts of life is the birth of a child. Sadly in some cases pregnancies do not go full term and the unborn baby is lost in utero. This is usually devastating and can lead to great sadness and depression. In other tragic instances fetuses are lost due to a misdiagnosis of a condition.

This happened to a woman residing in another state a couple of years ago. The woman was nearly through her first trimester when a health care provider determined at a prenatal appointment that rather than being pregnant, the woman possibly had a cancerous mass in her uterus. Believing this to be the case, the woman, who had previously suffered two miscarriages, underwent a D & C procedure at Langley Air Force Base Hospital, to have the mass removed. It was not until a couple of days later that she learned that the mass was in fact a healthy fetus.

After the prenatal appointment with a certified nurse midwife where a heartbeat was not found nor did an ultrasound indicate a fetus, the woman was referred to more tests to determine if this was a molar pregnancy. In addition to blood work, she also underwent a more thorough ultrasound and was sent back to her doctor to discuss the ultrasound findings. Before this could occur however, the woman was informed that a surgeon was available to perform the procedure that day.

When they spoke with the surgeon prior to the procedure the woman and her husband were told that because of her blood work and past history of miscarriages, she had been diagnosed as having a molar pregnancy. Accordingly, she underwent the surgery. The surgeon apparently never saw the results from the more thorough ultra sound.

Since the procedure, the woman and her husband, who were parents to one child at the time of the incident, have been unable to have another child. They first filed a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. When that was denied, they filed a civil lawsuit against the United States' government. The lawsuit which was filed earlier this month, seeks $1.7 million in damages.

Lawsuits such as this one do not undo the harm that is done when a medical professional fails to properly diagnose a condition. As the couple would like to pursue the expensive route of in vitro fertilization, if the claim is successful, the money would likely be very helpful in that endeavor.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Lawsuit: Pregnancy Lost Due to AF Doctor Error," Elizabeth Simpson, Feb. 18, 2013

Our firm handles medical malpractice cases such as the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Pittsburgh failure to diagnose page.

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