The Misdiagnosis of Ectopic Pregnancies

The family of a 4-year-old Oregon girl recently filed a lawsuit against a health care center for misdiagnosing the mother while she was pregnant with the child. According to reports, doctors diagnosed the pregnant woman with an ectopic pregnancy, a life threatening condition that can be fatal to the mother and fetus. In response, medication was ordered to medically abort the pregnancy. Though the mother reportedly followed the instructions of the doctor, she still gave birth to her daughter. However, the child reportedly suffers from numerous health concerns and the lawsuit alleges that the misdiagnosis, along with the subsequent actions, are to blame.

What is ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fetus begins to form outside of the womb. Most often, the egg becomes lodged in the fallopian tube while passing from the ovary to the uterus. It is not able to properly develop and survive. Though rare, these types of pregnancies can also occur within the ovary or cervix, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). While the fetus cannot survive, removing the abnormally developed cells can preserve the mother’s life.
There are several potential causes for ectopic pregnancies:

*Defects within the fallopian tubes
*Severe endometriosis
*Scarring that results from a previously ruptured appendix
*A previous ectopic pregnancy
*Scarring from a previous reproductive area surgery
*Pregnancies in mothers over the age of 35-years-old
*Tubal Ligations

*Becoming pregnant with an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted
Due to the extreme danger of these pregnancies, correct and timely diagnosis is vital to the safety of the mother and the child. As in the Oregon case, the misdiagnoses of what turned out to be a normal pregnancy allegedly resulted in lifelong medical issues for a young girl. According to the court complaint, shortly after receiving the abortion medications, doctors discovered that the fetus was viable and properly located inside of the uterus. The mother was reportedly told that the pregnancy was high-risk due to the possible effects of taking the abortion medications. The baby was born with breathing issues and a low birth weight. The lawsuit asserts that she also suffered kidney damage that may necessitate a transplant when she is older.

The frequency of this problem is alarming. Earlier this year, news outlets reported on a similar case, which resulted in the miscarriage of twins when a physician mistakenly diagnosed a mother with an ectopic pregnancy during an emergency room visit. She was also administered an abortion medication, only to learn afterwards that the twin fetuses were actually properly located within the uterus. The case is still pending in court.

According to the NIH, ectopic pregnancy symptoms can range from vaginal bleeding to pains in the lower back. Doctors have various ways of diagnosing the condition. Pregnancy hormone levels are monitored to determine if there is an adequate and normal increase. Ultrasounds are another tool that is used to diagnose ectopic pregnancy.

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