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Failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy can be a potentially life-threatening error

Posted: 10/08/2016

A gynaecologist working as a locum at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital was struck off after he made a potentially life-threatening error by failing to diagnose a patient’s ectopic pregnancy and advising her to go home to try for another baby.

An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes. If an ectopic pregnancy is left to develop, there is a risk that the fertilised egg could continue to grow and cause the fallopian tube to rupture. It is for this reason that early diagnosis and treatment is important.

The gynaecologist was also found to have made several other serious errors which included attempting to rotate a baby’s head using forceps which left the baby with a brain injury and a depressed skull fracture.

Although he consistently denied any misconduct, a tribunal found 54 disciplinary charges against him proved - including dishonesty for failing to reveal that he was under investigation. He was struck off the medical register in February 2016 and lost his appeal in the High Court in July 2016 after the judge concluded that he could see no error in the tribunal’s conclusions.

The patient concerned visited the gynaecologist twice in April and May 2010 and both times he advised her that she had suffered a miscarriage without looking into the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. This was despite her challenging him directly after another doctor had advised her that it could be an ectopic pregnancy. This case highlights the importance of diagnosing and appropriately treating an ectopic pregnancy.

In January 2016, the Penningtons Manches obstetric and gynaecological team settled a similar case where the client’s ectopic pregnancy was not diagnosed and she suffered a life-threatening haemorrhage after her fallopian tube ruptured requiring emergency surgery.

For further information on the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, please see our guide to ectopic pregnancies. If you, a friend or family member have any concerns regarding a failure to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, please contact our obstetric and gynaecological team on 0800 328 9545.

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