Doctor performs abortion on the wrong woman in identity confusion

A doctor in South Korea performed an abortion on the wrong woman after they confused her with someone else. The unidentified woman was six weeks pregnant when she went to the clinic to receive what is believed to be nutritional supplements.

But both the doctor and a nurse – neither of whom have been identified – failed to check who she was, giving her anaesthetic before carrying out the abortion.

Police announced yesterday they have launched an investigation into the blunder, which happened on August 7. The clinic, which hasn’t been named, is based in Gangseo, a district in the country’s capital Seoul.

According to Yonhap News Agency, the Vietnamese woman had been told she was pregnant the day of the incident. She was then prescribed a nutritional injection which she was told to receive in the delivery room of the clinic.

But after an apparent mix-up of patient records, the nurse then allegedly injected the woman with anaesthesia without confirming her identity.

The doctor then performed the abortion, while the patient remained unaware. It is not clear what the method of abortion was, but it is thought it was surgical because the woman was given anaesthetic.

The next day, the woman reportedly returned to the hospital after experiencing bloody discharge, at which point it was revealed her unborn child had been aborted.

The Gangseo Police Station said Monday the doctor and a nurse are under investigation on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in injury.  They said: ‘The doctor and nurse have acknowledged their fault.’

Abortion is illegal in South Korea under current laws which are due to change by December 31, 2020.

Women who have abortions can be fined and imprisoned and doctors who perform the procedure can also face jail – with exceptions for pregnancies due to rape or incest, or if the pregnancy is threatening the mother’s life.

An estimated 50,000 abortions were carried out in South Korea last year, according to the country’s Health Ministry, but it is likely much higher, as many as one million.

The court’s ruling to scrap the ban reflects the trend toward decriminalising abortion, as the number of actual cases where abortion was criminally punished has been falling.   It’s not the first time an abortion blunder has been reported, however, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said an identity mix-up is presumably ‘rare’.

A Chinese doctor was disciplined in 2013 for wrongly telling a woman she was not pregnant – leading her to have an abortion when she found out weeks later. The 46-year-old woman was seen by Dr Chow Kwan-lung in 2009 at Tsuen Wan Adventist Hospital, Hong Kong, The South China Morning Post reported.

Dr Chow Kwan-lung read blood tests wrong and discharged the woman who later went on to have an x-ray and take medication for an unknown reason.  In January 2010, the woman learned she was 12 weeks pregnant, but decided to terminate the pregnancy due to the possible effects on the foetus caused by the x-ray and the medication she had taken.

In another blunder, it was revealed an investigation was being carried out in a hospital in Ireland after an abortion mix-up in March this year. A perfectly healthy child was aborted at The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin for having a misdiagnosed ‘fatal foetal abnormality’.

Reports said the parents were told at a scan over 15 weeks that their baby had Edwards Syndrome, a serious genetic condition which means the child is unlikely to live beyond the first few months of life.

The family’s solicitor, Caoimhe Haughey said to RTE: ‘[The parents] did not go into this clinic or into this hospital with a view to having a termination.

‘They never brought up the word termination.’

Allegedly the parents were put under pressure to have the abortion, and were later ‘utterly mentally and physically devastated’ to find out from tests afterwards that their baby was in fact, healthy.

Professor Fergal Malone, from The Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, said the case should undermine the public’s confidence in such tests which are ‘robust’.

In Ireland, abortion is permitted during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, and only later if the woman’s health is at risk, or in the cases of a fatal foetal abnormality.

Abortions in England, Wales and Scotland are carried out by the end of the 24th week of pregnancy except if there are special circumstances.

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