Mchenry County (Ill) Circuit Court—On July 15, a gravida at 6 weeks’ gestation presented to her obstetrician with a complaint of light bleeding. The physician performed an ultrasound and a series of blood tests that revealed falling hCG levels, signifying a possible miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The obstetrician then performed a dilatation and curettage (D&C) because he believed the patient had miscarried. During the procedure, he resected a small amount of tissue for pathology. On July 18, the pathologist reported a preliminary finding of no chorionic villi, suggesting an ectopic pregnancy. Two days later, the patient was rushed to the hospital with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that required the removal of her right fallopian tube.
In suing, the woman claimed that the physician should have performed a laparoscopy at the time of the D&C. Further, she maintained that he should have suspected an ectopic pregnancy.
The physician argued that since the ultrasound showed no mass in the fallopian tube and the patient did not complain of pelvic pain, he believed that she had suffered a miscarriage and, therefore, the D&C was well within the standard of care.
The jury returned a verdict for the defense.
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.