This kind of infection kills women

Dr Jen Gunter says the doctors at that Catholic hospital in Michigan should be sued along with the bishops.

This case happened at Mercy Health Partners,, a Catholic hospital in Muskegon, Mich. What makes it even worse is that Ms. Means is one of four women to suffer the same negligent care with ruptured membranes before viability at Mercy Health Partners who were denied adequate care. The cases were apparently discovered by a federally funded infant and fetal mortality project.

While there is a lot of press over this legal tactic, we must not lose sight of a crucial fact. If the events as reported are supported by the medical record Ms. Means was the victim of medical malpractice.

It is standard to care to offer termination at 18 weeks with grossly ruptured membranes. This is because the risk of infection is 30-40% just walking in the door with ruptured membranes at 18 weeks (meaning 30-40% of the time membranes ruptured because of an infection). If an infection isn’t there initially, it almost always develops. This is because once the membranes ruptured there is no barrier preventing the vaginal bacteria from ascending into the uterus. Regardless of gestational age. Regardless of viability. This kind of infections kills women. One needs to look no further than the Savita tragedy for a terrible reminder. And so, because the risks are very great, it is standard of care to include the discussion of termination at 18 weeks with ruptured membranes.

This kind of infection kills women. Let’s not stand idly by and let Catholic bishops order hospitals to let infections kill women. Let’s not stand idly by and let hospitals obey the orders of bishops instead of providing the standard of care. Let’s not just loll around watching reality tv while Catholic hospitals let religious dogma trump medical knowledge.


  1. Andrew G. says

    There may be a tactical reason not to sue the doctors or the hospital, or if so, to make that a separate case. The lawsuit against USCCB et al is at pains to point out that they are not healthcare providers under Michigan state law, so there may be procedural or other differences in how such a case would have to have been brought.

  2. says

    There may be a tactical reason not to sue the doctors or the hospital…

    That could be to highlight the fact that the malpractice in question resulted from a USCCB directive, which overrode both the doctors’ judgement and the hsopital’s normal procedures. I’m sure a case could be made that the doctors and hospital staff were perfectly competent, and would have done the right thing had they not been overruled by people who had the power to fire them. And it would make political and PR sense not to sue the doctors, because they’re not the enemy — they’re potential allies, and our side needs allies.

  3. thascius says

    @2-The AMA is not a licensing board. It is a professional advocacy organization for doctors and the strongest disciplinary action it could take against a member physician would be to kick them out. And I think (though the # could be off) only about a third of US physicians are members anyway. Licensure is done by state medical boards. A complaint could be made to the Michigan medical board (and may have been), but unfortunately many state medical boards are reluctant to take action against doctors despite really egregious misbehavior.

  4. Pteryxx says

    The information about four other women subjected to similar negligent care comes from that public health educator. Dr Jen’s source: link

    Means, it turns out, was not the only miscarrying woman who did not receive the normal standard of care at Mercy Health Partners. Her case was discovered by a public health educator working on a federally funded infant and fetal mortality project, who also found four other, similar cases where the hospital failed to induce labor in pregnant women whose membranes had broken before their fetuses were viable.

    According to the lawsuit, when the educator brought the cases to the attention of Mercy Health Partners’ vice president of mission services, Joseph O’Meara, he said the decision not to induce labor was proper because the bishops’ directives prohibit such a thing.

    As far as I can tell that info comes from the lawsuit itself. WaPo has a copy of it:

    WaPo article

    PDF link to complaint filing

  5. Pteryxx says

    Hey, there’s also now a Beatriz lawsuit: Salon link

    Feminist and human rights groups in El Salvador are suing the government over its treatment of a critically ill pregnant women and the country’s ban on abortion under all circumstances.

    The groups filed the suit on behalf of Beatriz, a 22-year-old woman who was 26 weeks pregnant with a nonviable, anencephalic fetus when she filed an emergency request with El Salvador’s Supreme Court for a therapeutic abortion. Abortion is illegal without exception in El Salvador, but Beatriz’ doctors warned her that — because of severe health complications related to lupus, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease — she would likely not survive the pregnancy.

    For more than a month, the court ignored Beatriz’ urgent health request — supported by her doctors, El Salvador’s health minister and international human rights organizations — while she languished in a hospital, away from her family and young son.

    and more at RHR:

    Feminist organizations assert that Beatriz’s story reflects the consequences of the absolute criminalization of abortion and the institutional violence that is exercised against Salvadoran girls, adolescents, and adult women. According to data gathered by the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, between 2000 and 2011, a total of 129 women in El Salvador have been charged with abortion or aggravated homicide, with sentences ranging between two and 40 years in prison.

    Currently there are at least 30 women serving prison such sentences, the majority having suffered the loss of their pregnancies for various obstetric complications.

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