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Medical Verdicts


Woman delivers fetus’s head into toilet

July 2005 · Vol. 17, No. 7

<court>Fulton County (Ga) State Court</court>

A woman at 20 weeks’ gestation went to the hospital with complaints of cramping and a lack of fetal movement. After an ultrasound was performed, the on-call obstetrician diagnosed intrauterine fetal demise.

The next day the woman’s own obstetrician took over care. Before he could perform the planned vaginal delivery of the nonviable fetus and placenta, however, rapid cervical dilation to 6 or 7 cm led to a bulging bag of waters, and the small fetus had almost completely delivered except the head, which separated with normal traction and remained inside the uterus. Oxytocin was given to stimulate the process, without success. An evacuation procedure was performed to remove the remaining products of conception. The procedure was thought to be successful, and the patient was discharged.

However, the next day the woman was bleeding and felt unusual pressure and delivered part of the fetus’s head into the toilet. The EMS crew placed the partial head into a zip-lock bag and transported it with the woman to the hospital, where any remaining products of conception could be removed.

In suing, the woman claimed negligence in the decapitation of the fetus and negligent performance of the dilation and evacuation. She also claimed to have posttraumatic stress disorder from seeing the partial head in the toilet.

The obstetrician alleged that the separation of the fetal head was unavoidable due to the woman’s abnormal uterine anatomy and that she was upset at the loss of the fetus, but did not suffer posttraumatic stress disorder.

  • A defense verdict was returned.

The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn (www.verdictslaska.com). 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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