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Medical Verdicts


Fetus discovered during hysterectomy

December 2002 · Vol. 14, No. 12

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

A woman suffering from irregular and painful menses of unknown etiology presented to a hospital for a hysterectomy. A pregnancy test was not performed, given the patient’s 20-year history of infertility.

During the procedure, uterine curettings at frozen section revealed a decidualized benign endometrium, but the pathologist did not find chorionic villi. The operating physician subsequently performed a pelvic examination, during which he discovered an enlarged uterus. Despite 2 findings consistent with pregnancy, the doctor proceeded with the hysterectomy and discovered a fetus of about 12 weeks’ gestation. Further pathological review revealed well-developed villi, along with a normal fetus, placenta, and cord.

In suing, the patient claimed that she should have received a pregnancy test prior to undergoing the hysterectomy, despite her history of infertility. In addition, she argued that the decidualized benign endometrium and enlarged uterus should have prompted the doctor to stop the procedure and perform a pregnancy test. The plaintiff further claimed that she would have delivered a viable infant had these standards of practice been followed.

The physician contended that given the patient’s history and her claim that she had menstruated 3 to 4 weeks prior, a preoperative pregnancy test was unnecessary. In addition, he claimed, since chorionic villi were not found on frozen section, it was not inappropriate to continue with the hysterectomy.

  • The case settled for $160,000 at mediation.

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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