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MedUni Vienna: No medical malpractice in Sandra W.´s case

(Vienna, 9th February 2012) There is no medical malpractice in patient Sandra W.’s case. That is the result of the expert opinion from Univ. Prof. Dr. Klaus Friese, the President of the German Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which has been presented by Wolfgang Schütz, rector of the Medical University, today. Schütz had ordered this expert opinion a week ago following accusations against doctors at the General Hospital.

“We sympathise with Ms. W. and her family. It is extremely unfortunate that she has lost her child, but this painful loss is not attributable to a medical error.” Schütz used these words to present the expert opinion findings to the press. “Professor Friese expressly states that losing a child in the early stage of pregnancy is a common occurrence, which affects almost every other woman of childbearing age at some time. Unfortunately, and this is confirmed by Friese, there are no drug treatments against this type of bleeding before the 24th week of pregnancy. We can only recommend rest to the patient and hope that the bleeding stops, particularly when it is slight bleeding.”

“On the basis of these findings Prof. Friese determined that there has not been any medical error in Ms. W.’s treatment. When saying this, he expressly states that this applies not only to the General Hospital, but to all three hospitals that the woman had visited, and so in chronological order, the Göttlicher Heiland, the General Hospital and the Rudolfstiftung,” said Schütz quoting from the expert opinion.

The Head of the University Department of Gynaecology, Peter Husslein, highlighted in the press conference that the medical judgement and course of action in Sandra W.’s case was practically the same at all three hospitals. To demonstrate this Husslein once again recalled the medical care process. “Ms. W. had been given a follow-up consultation on the following day at the Göttlichen Heiland for examination due to her bleeding and a note had already been made for registration for delivery”, said Husslein. “When she wanted to register for delivery with us, her pregnancy was not classified as a risk pregnancy and was therefore, as is also the case here, refused. Bleeding is a frequent occurrence in the early stage of pregnancy.”
“I make reference to Prof. Friese’s expert opinion that there is no drug treatment for these cases, only rest”, said Husslein in conclusion.

An excerpt from the expert opinion provided by Prof. Dr. Klaus Friese, President of the German Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics:
During the assessment of the preceding events, we can only state that miscarriage is a very common medical occurrence, which affects almost every other woman of childbearing age.
Unfortunately up until the 22nd and 24th weeks of pregnancy, and therefore up to almost twice as long in terms of weeks of pregnancy as is the case with this patient, there simply is no option to perform sufficient treatment. In this event we can only recommend rest to the patient and hope that the vaginal bleeding stops, even when it is slight. This is common procedure, particularly as there is no drug treatment, e.g. with contraction inhibitors or through antibiotics, which could prevent this bleeding.

There are multiple causes for vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy, and particularly for a miscarriage. There can often be a genetic predisposition, it can be due to an infection or it can be a patient’s general disposition, and it can be due to many other causes.

A patient is admitted to hospital, which also happens in my hospital, when there is severe bleeding, which represents a risk to the mother. This was not the case in either the Göttlicher Heiland Hospital, nor in the University of Vienna’s Gynaecology Department. If the patient had had severe vaginal bleeding, she would not have had to wait as we would then take a different course of action due to the highly dramatic and severe events for her.

With regard to the Medical University of Vienna’s hospital no errors at all have been committed in my eyes. We can see this in the fact that the patient had this slight bleeding, and once again, this is a common occurrence, even in a pregnancy which then progresses completely normally. She was subsequently also seen in another hospital and there on 12.1.2012, two hours later, there had also been no indications for inpatient admission.

In my own clinic 4,316 children were born last year, and we also give medical care for significantly more than 500 miscarriages a year. I have already informed you of the causes and the therapeutic procedure as stated above. In the event of severe bleeding a patient is admitted, even without any drug treatment being available for the bleeding which can prolong the pregnancy for certain. In my own hospital a registration for delivery is also only available from the 24th week of pregnancy, as only at this stage the child is expected to be able to survive.
We do not find any malpractice whatsoever from the doctors or from the hospitals.
And once again, when there is severe bleeding, a patient is admitted only if there is a risk to the mother’s life, and not in order to save the child in early pregnancy. However this has not been the case in the 3 hospitals, therefore I believe that all the different doctors with all their different competences have made the correct decisions.