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Doctors Induced and Performed Cesarean on Non-Pregnant Woman

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The Fay Observer reported today that two Fayetteville, North Carolina doctors induced labor and performed a cesarean section on a woman who was not pregnant.

According to the article, a woman “exhibiting signs of pregnancy” walked into Cape Fear Valley Medical Center asking for a cesarean section.

A resident diagnosed her as pregnant. After a “failed attempt at inducing labor,” a doctor tried to section her.

One of the two doctors that was issued a public letter of concern by the North Carolina Medical Board commented on the resident in her charge.

Geszler said it is not uncommon to see women with false pregnancies but she was surprised the resident was not able to make a correct determination after examining the patient.

“It wasn’t something I thought I’d have to check behind somebody on,” Geszler said. “The bottom line is the woman convinced everybody she was pregnant.”

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Reader Comments (72)

Just to clarify, when I say "at that medical center", I'm not talking about the one in question, I mean the one I showed up at when my water broke.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

i read the newspaper artical & it says she came in with her husband. if you can convince the man you live with that your pregnant, than it's not that crazy that someone you don't know would believe you. also, the dr's had no past problems on record, so i would take it they are good dr's who just got lazy & had a laps of judgement.

bottom line, you as the patient have a lot of control in what happens to you! get proper medical care & know the information for yourself. ask questions & be informed. (i also wouldn't advise requesting major surgury without talking it through with a dr. lol!)

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Sabi, you summed up what I was thinking in posting this here. It's an uncomfortable story for all involved. Had it just been about the medical error, I wouldn't have blogged it and probably wouldn't have even facebooked it. In reading some of the other comments elsewhere, I see that there's a "Doctors are stooopid" theme, which I don't agree with at all. Having been through two medical error disclosures with family members in the past year and a half, my heart goes out to everyone that has to go through this disclosure ritual and I'm impressed with the strength that it takes to own ones mistakes.

What I found intriguing about this story was that the Pit her-baby yet? no?-more Pit-baby yet? no?-section her routine is so culturally ingrained that it's used for anyone that walks in the door, even if they don't have a fetus. It clearly has nothing to do with an actual medical need for these procedures.

March 31, 2010 | Registered CommenterJill

That Facebook comment was interesting, I wonder if that was the case?

But wait...they induced first, no? So why would they induce if there was no heartbeat? Don't you have to use a fetal monitor with inductions?

Here's what I want to hear from those who seem to know something about standard practices in this situation; when a woman presents at a hospital in labor, but has no record there, what is the standard procedure? How do the doctors/nurses determine her and the baby's status, or what stage of labor she is in, if ultrasound is not used? Do they just guess, go by her appearance, or what?

It's possible that this case illustrates a strange inconsistency in medical treatment of birth, in that these doctors insisted on high-tech interventions but rely on low-tech diagnostic procedures (like a woman's appearance of being pregnant and acting like she's in labor) to decide whether to use them.

And I'd like to reiterate to Dr. F; you can't blame someone for their own mental illness. It is not the woman's "fault" for being mentally ill. She needs care and treatment.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

I am really really trying to understand how this happened! Yet, I come up with NOTHING! If she was so obese like a PP had said, then why no sono?
Just wow..

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

what about using leopold's maneuvers to assess fetal lie? very low tech, yet yields good information. do physicians even learn to do those anymore? i mean, even if there were no ultrasound available, leopold's maneuvers can help determine presentation, and all that requires is the physician's two hands. also, why would they not do an internal to assess dilation? at that point they would also be able to feel the baby's presenting part when doing it (ie- can feel the top of the baby's head through the vaginal wall before you even reach the cervix).

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

Anisa- This is obviously not a UBAC/HBAC rupture. At least I hope not since they induced first.

I am a homebirther who doesn't use an OB for prenatal care, so if I had to go to the hospital for an emergency, then yes, I'd like for them to take me at my word and just do the c-section. But I think it would be pretty obvious that I was in labor and we would communicate what was going on.

The fact that they tried to induce first tells me that it wasn't an emergency. It says the surgery was performed after the induction failed. It doesn't say it was performed because they couldn't find a heartbeat. This was NOT an emergency, and a ultrasound should have been done to determine the age of the baby before inducing.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Both times I have delivered, an ultrasound machine has been handy in L&D. It would have taken two seconds to check her abdomen, much less time than it took to prep her for surgery. I think the home birth transfer for emergency C-section argument is moot, because even then, there would be time for a quick ultrasound while getting anesthesia equipment ready. She still needs an IV and/or to be masked down even in a dire emergency. Having a quick scan wouldn't delay that.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKK

Oops, my comment should have been to Cath, not Anisa!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

My comments were based on a fetal death in the UBAC community a few years ago. The woman transferred to a hospital, requesting a cesarean because she had ruptured at home. The doctors checked for hearttones and tried to assess the situation themselves, totally confused by this woman off the streets screaming for a cesarean. By the time they realized the direness of the situation and got her back to the OR the baby was dead. The UBAC community then entirely faulted the hospital for the baby's death since the hospital didn't take the mother at her word and give her an immediate cesarean like she requested the minute she arrived. So again, it cuts both ways. We are ridiculing the hospital in this case (rightly) for not getting an accurate assessment on the issue. In the other case, the same folks ridiculed the hospital who took the time to actually assess the situation themselves. Unfortunately, that was a most dire emergency when seconds mattered. It is time to accept responsibility for the decisions we make, good or bad.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCath1982
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