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Medical Verdicts


Hysterectomy interrupts desired pregnancy

August 2002 · Vol. 14, No. 8

<court>Unknown County (Minn) District Court</court>

Following a long history of irregular and painful menses, along with more than 20 years of infertility, a 43-year-old woman presented to the hospital for a dilatation and curettage (D&C) and a hysterectomy.

The endometrial specimen obtained by curettage demonstrated decidualized benign endometrium at frozen section—a finding consistent with pregnancy. However, the pathologist did not find chorionic villi. The surgeon continued with the hysterectomy and discovered a fetus of approximately 12 weeks’ gestation. The postoperative pathology report of the uterus confirmed well-developed chorionic villi. In addition, the fetus, placenta, and umbilical cord were normal.

In suing, the patient claimed that a pregnancy test is required prior to a hysterectomy in all women of reproductive age, regardless of a history of infertility. Further, she contended that when the physician discovered an enlarged uterus, the procedure should have been discontinued. Had these standard practices been followed, she added, she may have delivered a viable infant.

The physician argued that given the patient’s history of infertility, along with menstruation 3 to 4 weeks prior to the surgery, a preoperative pregnancy test was not required. In addition, because chorionic villi were not found on frozen section, it was well within the standard of care to proceed with the hysterectomy.

  • The case settled for $160,000.

The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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