Healthy fetus aborted by mistake

The Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne has mounted an investigation into the accidental termination of a healthy 32-week-old fetus.

The pregnant woman with twin boys at the centre had decided to abort one fetus on doctors' advice because it had a congenital heart defect, which would have led to serious medical problems. The procedure took place this Tuesday but after it was completed, it was found that the wrong baby had been aborted. The woman then had to have an emergency caesarean section to terminate the sick fetus.

A hospital spokeswoman has described the bungle as a distressing clinical accident. She says it is a terrible tragedy and the hospital is deeply sorry.

Victoria's Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson says there will be a thorough investigation. “The hospital needs to do a full root-cause analysis. That is, they need to find out exactly what happened and why,” she said. “They have to share that information with the family in an open, honest manner. I have worked with this hospital before and I'm confident they'll do just that.”

Ms Wilson added that she and her office would be involved in the investigation reports. “I'll be watching this very closely to see what unfolds…There may be a number of possibilities of investigations. My office could be one. It will depend on what this family wants. I hope that the family will feel free to contact me. I'd like to offer any support to them that I can.”

The family of the woman have engaged a lawyer, but Kate Booth, a medical negligence lawyer, says hopefully legal action will not be necessary. “They may not need to go to the court room to solve this as far as the compensation side of things,” she told ABC local radio. “It is unusual that the hospital have issued an apology straight away and that that's good.”

Lorraine Long from the Medical Error Action group expressed her shock at the incident. “How they could get that so wrong after pin-pointing what was wrong and then doing it incorrectly, makes me speechless,” she said.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu says it is a tragedy for everyone involved. “I don't think it's appropriate for anybody to draw any conclusions other than this is a horrible tragedy,” he said. “We'll make sure that the investigation is as thorough as it can be.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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  1. Mark Skinner Mark Skinner Australia says:

    Negligent manslaughter.

  2. Pat Smith Pat Smith New Zealand says:

    This is so bad. Shame on you for those involved. Fancy doing this so late in the pregnancy!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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