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C-Section Death In Boston Reminds Us Of Risks

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 9:53 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: C-Sections, Pre-Term Birth, Children's Health, Medical Malpractice, Birth Injuries

There's been a c-section death in a Boston hospital.  



IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ premature baby/ U.S. Agency for International Development 



C-sections are considered a safe alternative to having a baby vaginally. But this story out of Boston reminds us that statistically, the risks are much higher.

A patient undergoing a C-section at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center died Friday while undergoing a caesarean section, the first time in ten years at that hospital. 

The baby appears to be improving though did initially suffer complications.

The hospital said in a statement, “We immediately launched an internal review and have reported to the Department of Public Health. This is obviously a very sad and distressing event for our staff who have not experienced a loss like this for over 10 years. We continue to extend our deepest sympathy to the family."

There is no name on the woman or details about the complication.

C-section or caesarean section risks are roughly fewer than 1 in 2,500, significantly more than the one in 10,000 risks for vaginal birth.

About 36 women per 100,000 die while undergoing a Caesarean section, or C-section, compared with 9.2 deaths per 100,000 vaginal deliveries, according to a published study in  the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Meanwhile, the number of C-sections is climbing.

C-sections are generally used to get the baby from the womb when there is a complication during birth such as a breech position, delayed delivery, or a cord wrapped around the baby’s neck. 

Risks include infections, hemorrhage, transfusion, injury to other organs, anesthesia complications, psychological complications, and a maternal mortality two to four times greater than that for a vaginal birth.

But increasingly, c-section is used as a way to schedule a birth and avoid much of the pain of delivery. Instead, women replace the delivery pain with pain at the incision site.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one-third of births are now C-sections, up 40 percent from 1996. The rise is driven by women requesting a C-section for their first delivery and doctors insisting on the procedure for subsequent deliveries. 81.5% of all C-section deliveries have a repeat procedure.

More than 520,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year – that’s one in eight. And a study in the June issue of Clinics of Perinatology, links premature births to C-sections before 40 weeks or full-term.

Prematurity, especially those babies born sooner than 34 weeks, are associated with a wide host of health problems that include delays in development, neurological problems, increased mortality and lower IQs.  Preterm birth – delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy – increases the risk of death in the first month of life.

Dr. Alan Fleischman, medical director and senior vice president of the March of Dimes suspects the “convenience factor, non-medically indicated reasons maybe part of the problem at hand.”

Women requesting C-sections before 39 weeks, not based on medical necessity, need to understand that babies born prematurely are at risk for a broad spectrum of health problems.

Entering a hospital, IB attorney Peter Wetherall reminds consumers to ask about caps on damages. 

In Nevada, a government owned facility and are the victim of medical malpractice, your awards are capped at $75,000 per claim.  A private hospital will generally have a much higher medical malpractice caps.

In the case of Nevada, where Wetherall practices, at Sunrise or Spring Valley Hospital, your cap under our regular medical malpractice scheme is $350,000 as to pain and suffering damages, and no cap on economic losses (with certain exceptions).   

The best predictor of a c-section is maternal height, say researchers reporting in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. #


Anonymous User
Posted by Lucy
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 12:16 PM EST

The infant is suffering from complications, don't you think it's more likely that it was in distress during labor and that's why they did the c-section? You should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting that the woman died because of some sort of selfishness when it's far more likely that she was given an emergency section to save her child and her death was an unexpected outcome of that effort.

Anonymous User
Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 12:37 PM EST

Hello Lucy-

Thank you for your comments and concern.

I'm always appreciative to hear from readers who frequently have very good insight into a story.
In this case I'd like to clarify as I think I've been misunderstood.

We actually have no idea why this woman died or whether her baby had any complications before birth. That information is not forthcoming at this time.

The additional information about the increase in c-sections due, in part, to a preference on the part of patients and doctors, does in no way reflect on this unfortunate family in Boston.

Thanks for the opportunity to make that clearer.
If you are interested, we can continue to follow this story and see if we can find out more on her case.

But the point of the story is that opting for a c-section option does carry more risks than natural birth.

Thanks for reading and participating.
Best and stay well-
Jane Akre
Editor-IB News

Anonymous User
Posted by mike
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 1:32 PM EST

I knew the family and was at the wake last night.think how you would feel if you were reading about "the family in boston" do the story in a couple of weeks let the family greive have some class for a change!

Anonymous User
Posted by Mary
Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:14 AM EST

"The infant is suffering from complications, don't you think it's more likely that it was in distress during labor and that's why they did the c-section?" If in fact that IS the case, I think the bigger question here -- and with many c-sections -- is why the infant was suffering complications? Was it b/c the mother was induced far before her body was ready to give birth or the baby was ready to be born? The truth of the matter is, here in the U.S. careproviders are too often disrupting the balance of body and baby by inducing or augmenting labor. Despite what docs may think, they have NOT perfected that balance -- either w/ vaginal or c/s births. As our c/s numbers continue to sky rocket, so will our maternal and infant mortality rates. My greatest sympathy with this family and now motherless baby. I hope we can all learn a few things from it, so this mother has not died in vain.

Posted by Elizabeth
Friday, October 24, 2008 4:35 PM EST

A story like this breaks my heart.

It's hard to comment since we don't really know what happened or how it could have been prevented. C-sections have saved many lives but a c-section is still serious abdominal surgery and with any surgery comes risk.

It was a blessing that the baby has survived however the family must be devastated. These are people I will definitely keep in my prayers.

Anonymous User
Posted by Laura
Friday, October 24, 2008 5:17 PM EST

This is an absolutely devastating story, and I can't imagine the pain this family is suffering. As a practitioner, this incident reminds me of the fundamental importance of informed patient choice. We live in a culture that does not support women in being truly informed, and while the details of this person's death is as of yet unknown, I absolutely wonder if she and the other women simultaneously undergoing risky obstetric procedures really understood the relative risk of what they were undergoing. Of course, even if she did it doesn't make her death any less tragic. But I believe we need a complete re-examination of obstetric care and procedures in this country; our maternal mortality rate is appalling compared to other industrialized countries. As Mary said, let us hope that this woman didn't die in vain.

Anonymous User
Posted by Anonymous
Monday, October 27, 2008 1:21 PM EST

Are there any additional details of the unfortunate events leading up to this tragedy? What were the complications? Who was the doctor performing the surgery?

Comments for this article are closed.

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