Wednesday 13 December 2017

Mum claims doctor put her life at risk

Kevin Keane

A WOMAN whose ectopic pregnancy is alleged to have gone undiagnosed by her consultant has said her "life was put at risk" because action was not taken earlier.

Michelle Howe has also revealed that she brought a complaint against consultant obstetrician, Dr Patrick 'Gerry' Rafferty, so the same thing never happens to another woman.

In 2008, the then 35-year-old mother of one was rushed to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery, just days after she was allegedly told her pregnancy was not ectopic.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo develops outside of the womb and can be fatal if left untreated.

Dr Rafferty, who has a private practice at Mount Carmel Hospital and the nearby Landscape clinic in Churchtown, Dublin, appeared before a Medical Council fitness to practise inquiry yesterday, facing six allegations of professional misconduct in relation to his treatment of Mrs Howe between June 4 and 6, 2008. He also faces a further four allegations of professional misconduct in relation to his treatment of another patient, Cathy Coyle. Dr Rafferty is contesting all but one of the allegations in both cases.

Yesterday Mrs Howe gave evidence to the inquiry that she was seen by Dr Rafferty on June 4, 2008.

Upon examining ultrasound results, Dr Rafferty told her he was concerned she was having an uncompleted pregnancy and recommended she undergo two hormone tests two days apart to determine whether her pregnancy was normal, non-continuing (miscarriage) or ectopic.

Mrs Howe said she returned to the Landscape Clinic as scheduled on Friday, June 6 for her second test, which was carried out by a locum consultant.

At 7.20pm that evening Mrs Howe received a phone call from Dr Rafferty, who told her that the test results showed an increase in her hormone levels.

"So unfortunately I was having a non-continuing pregnancy and he extended his apologies. He said I would need to attend Mount Carmel on Monday. He said (to) wait for a call from my secretary, Wendy, on Monday but expect to go in at 11am.


"I said: 'You had explained to me that if the hormone levels came back raised there was a risk of an ectopic'. He said: 'No I don't think so, it's a non-continuing pregnancy, Michelle'," Mrs Howe stated.

"I am not medically qualified so I put my trust in him," she continued.

The following evening Mrs Howe became extremely unwell and was rushed to Mount Carmel hospital by her husband. At 7.20am on Sunday June 8, she underwent an emergency salpingectomy to remove a section of her fallopian tube.

Mrs Howe said that on the Monday morning, Dr Rafferty "came in and sat down and said: 'So it was an ectopic pregnancy'." According to Mrs Howe, he then told her that "the outcome would have been the same".

"I told him I wouldn't have had to have emergency surgery and a blood transfusion. My life had been put at risk and a lot of stuff was avoidable," she told the hearing.

Simon Mills, for Dr Rafferty, told Mrs Howe that his client would say the clinical discussion she said happened on June 4 "never happened".

"My client was on vacation and was briefly in the clinic and exchanged pleasantries with Mrs Howe," Mr Mills said.

"Dr Rafferty will say that when he was made aware of the rising (hormone) levels, he was immediately alerted that this was an ectopic pregnancy and he told you that.

"He will say it required to be treated and he told you that."

Mrs Howe described Dr Rafferty's account of events as "untrue".

The case will hear evidence from Dr Rafferty when it resumes today.

Irish Independent

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