Medical News

Coroner describes circumstances surrounding abortion death as “desperately sad”

West London’s senior coroner criticised “repeated failures” at an abortion clinic in the lead-up to the death of mother-of-one, Ms Aisha Chithira (31), hours after she had her foetus terminated in 2012.

Reporting his findings on the first of May, Dr Sean Cummings, described the case of Ms Aisha Chithira as “desperately sad” in his narrative verdict.

Ms Chithira was a Malawian citizen living in Ireland who had underlying health issues that led to severe pregnancy complications and she requested a termination early in her pregnancy. However, when it became clear that this procedure could not take place in Ireland because of the Eighth Amendment, she applied for a visa to travel to the UK that took her a month to obtain. As a result of the late stage of her pregnancy, a number of clinics refused to accept her.

West London Coroner’s Court heard of how Ms Chithira subsequently died in January 2012 following a late-stage abortion in a west London clinic that discharged her despite her vomiting and feeling dizzy, as observations taken by a nurse had shown that her blood pressure and pulse were normal.

Later that night Ms Chithira suffered catastrophic internal bleeding of around two litres and died due to a tear to her uterus during the “blind” procedure performed under anaesthetic, as the surgeon struggled to remove a 22-week-old foetus from a womb that had not fully dilated.

Charges against Dr Adedayo Adedeji, who performed the procedure, and nurses Gemma Pullen and Margaret Miller, for manslaughter by gross negligence and a health and safety breach were dropped in 2016.

The chief executive of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), Niall Behan, commented: “The fact is that if Aisha Chithira had received the care she needed in Ireland, she would be alive today. In any other country in Europe, she would have got that care.

Mr Behan described it as “unacceptable” that, under current Irish law, the pregnant woman is left to make her own arrangements for care in another country, asserting that the care pathway in Ireland as it stands is “broken”.

He concluded: “No woman should ever be in this situation. We must start providing proper care for women in Ireland. The only way to do this is to repeal the Eighth Amendment”.

Doctors for Life declined to comment on the case, explaining that without the clinical notes, it would not be reasonable to make any judgement.

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