A 27 year-old pregnant woman, who was in her first trimester, went to the emergency room after experiencing abdominal pain and bleeding. The obstetrician who treated her ordered an ultrasound and warned the expectant mother that the pregnancy might be occurring outside of her womb. Called an ectopic pregnancy, this condition is life-threatening and the fetus cannot survive.
Unbeknownst to the pregnant woman, the ultrasound record indicated that a yolk sac had developed within the woman’s uterus. Despite knowing this, the obstetrician continued to treat the woman as if her pregnancy was ectopic and ordered a second ultrasound.
This second test also showed a yolk sac within the woman’s uterus.
The woman returned to the obstetrician’s office the next day with pelvic and rib pain, nausea and vomiting. She was told to go to the emergency room to treat her ectopic pregnancy.
The obstetrician, despite it not being clear whether the woman’s pregnancy had failed, proceeded to order 83 mg of methotrexate, which would flush out what he deemed a failed pregnancy.
The woman, however, was undergoing a normal intrauterine pregnancy and was thus misdiagnosed by the obstetrician.
The methotrexate caused the woman’s child to be born with severe deformities, including heart abnormalities and other substantial medical complications. The child suffers from severe speech and hearing limitations and will require 24-hour medical care for the rest of his life.
The mother’s medical malpractice claim was settled before trial for $5 million.
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