Abortion death: doctor taken to task

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Pretoria - While medical mistakes were common in procedures like the termination of pregnancy, professionals who know what they were doing immediately recognised the signs and acted quickly to rectify them.

When a doctor perforates a woman’s uterus he is able to feel the wall give way and has to stop and take action towards repairing the damage, obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Vusumuzi Hlongwa said in Pretoria.

Hlongwa was testifying under cross-examination during the case of Dr Melusi Amod at Dr Melusi Amod in a Health Professions Council (HPCSA) committee hearing on Friday.

A 20-year-old Pretoria girl died a month after having an abortion in Amod’s rooms in 2010.

Hlongwa told a hearing convened to decide on Amod’s professionalism in the termination: “You can also have an incomplete removal, and the sound signalling that it has not been cleared properly, or the bleeding of the patient should raise red flags.”

The young woman ended up in Hlongwa’s rooms at Mediclinic Medforum a week after Amod had attempted to remove her 22-week foetus from her uterus in his consulting rooms in the city centre.

Hlongwa said when she arrived her uterus was severely septic, and some of the infection had seeped into her abdomen through the punctures made by Amod.

A team of experts had taken the young woman into theatre twice within three days of her arrival, and while they had attempted to clean up the pus and remove dead cells, they found two severely macerated limbs still inside her body.

“An upper limb and a lower one – which indicated that the pregnancy was already in its second semester – were removed,” said Hlongwa.

The doctors removed the girl’s uterus and ovaries in an attempt to remove the infection and save her life, but because of a hole in her rectum complications continued and she deteriorated.

She later died from, among other complications, sudden respiratory distress, when there was difficulty in the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in her alveoli.

Dr Lesiba Ledwaba, who had been asked by the HPCSA to look at all evidence and compile a report on the events leading up to and including the death of the woman, said Amod had been unco-operative when asked for information, so they had no knowledge of the premises he operated from, or whether these premises were adequately equipped.

She said: “We needed to know if he acted according to his scope of work; if he and the consulting rooms were licensed for termination of pregnancy; and if the receptionist who assisted him in abortions was qualified and registered with the nursing council.”

Her recommendation was that he be charged for: performing an illegal abortion, which was past the legal stage; the mismanagement of the patient, in that he failed to follow procedure in completing the process mechanically; lack of adequate care facilities like oxygen tanks, qualified nursing staff and a theatre; and, unprofessional conduct, among others.

The case was adjourned on Friday, and the hearings are to resume on May 13 and 14 for further evidence and processing.

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Pretoria News


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