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IVF death was preventable, according to HSE report


Jacqui pictured in happier times at her sister's wedding.

Jacqui pictured in happier times at her sister's wedding.

Jacqui pictured in happier times at her sister's wedding.

THE family of a young woman who died following fertility treatment yesterday said they believe her death was preventable.

An independent review commissioned by the Health Service Executive (HSE), released four years after Jacqueline Rushton (32) died following treatment, found there appeared to have been "problems in the management" of her care when she was transferred to the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin.

The hard-hitting report highlighted evidence of a "lack of senior control" and accountability for her care.

Health Minister Mary Harney, who arranged the review, said all the recommendations would be fully implemented by the HSE.


Angela Hickey (69), Jacqui's mother, said her daughter's death was senseless and preventable.

"It is clearly the view of the report that had Jacqui been better managed and the appropriate medical procedures and protocols had been adopted, the likelihood is that she would be with us today," she said.

The family said they have instructed their solicitors to stop legal proceedings as they are satisfied by the report.

In 2006, the HSE commissioned an independent inquiry by two UK professionals, including Professor Alison Murdoch, of the Newcastle Fertility Centre.

Mrs Rushton died in hospital on January 14, 2003 from acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) following IVF treatment at the HARI Unit, Rotunda Hospital.

OHSS is a complication associated with IVF, where fluid from the bloodstream leaks into the abdominal cavity, causing it to swell.

Dr Michael Geary, Master of the Rotunda Hospital, said the HARI unit and the hospital have implemented measures to reduce the risk of OHSS developing.

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Dr Geary said Mrs Rushton was seen on a daily basis by at least one of a number of experienced medical staff including consultants, a sub-specialist in reproductive medicine and specialist registrars.


The hospital said it followed existing Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidelines for fluid management. New guidelines issued in September 2006, advocating a more rigorous approach to fluid restriction, were since implemented at the hospital.

The family said the treatment Jacqui received exacerbated the build-up of fluid in her abdomen and that paracentesis, a procedure used to drain fluid, was never performed.

The report said it was "probable that appropriate and early management of the fluid balance changes related to OHSS would have prevented the subsequent development of severe respiratory problems".

It found there was an exacerbation of fluid collection due to Mrs Rushton receiving large doses of IV saline infusions for five days in the early part of her care in the Rotunda.

Jacqui's sister, Colette Vincent, said: "Jacqui died from respiratory problems, so if the paracentesis was done, if the fluid balance was managed properly, the fluid would not have pushed up into her lungs and destroyed them and she would be here today. And we know she would be here today."

The family said they hoped that the report's recommendations would be implemented and would lead to more regulation being introduced to the fertility treatment sector.

The recommendations include reviewing in-house protocols for the management of OHSS in light of updated guidelines issued by the RCOG. This should also include detailed responsibility and accountability arrangements for identified staff, and should require senior input for all cases at high risk.

It also recommended the HSE carry out regular audits of the implementation of protocols to ensure actions are taken promptly to rectify deficiencies.

Labour's Liz McManus urged the Government to regulate fertility treatment following the inquiry's findings and recommendations made by the Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction.

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