Abortion clinic criticised over death of teenager

AFTER-CARE procedures at Marie Stopes abortion clinics have been criticised by a West Yorkshire coroner who heard a 15-year-old schoolgirl died from toxic shock syndrome just days after having a termination.

Coroner Roger Whittaker said he would be writing to the sexual health organisation after it was revealed Alesha Thomas was never given a prescribed course of antibiotics, which would have saved her life.

An inquest into her death heard 'healthy and fit adolescent' Alesha had confided in her mum, Rose Bent, that she was pregnant in June 2007.

After discussing her options the pair opted for an abortion at a Marie Stopes International clinic in Leeds.

Two weeks later, on July 6 2007, when Alesha was just over 15 weeks into the pregnancy, the procedure was performed, successfully.

An hour and 20 minutes after the operation the doctor issued an electronic prescription for the teenager to be given a course of prophylactic antibiotic, Doxycyline, to prevent infection. But unbeknown to him, Alesha, from Huddersfield, had already been discharged from recovery - 45 minutes after the operation.

The hearing at Huddersfield Coroner's Court was told the organisation had no system in place for nurses to re-check a patient's notes after they had been discharged to make sure all instructions had been followed.

Three days after the procedure her concerned mother rung the Marie Stopes helpline, a call centre based in Manchester, because the teenager was suffering stomach cramps and heavy bleeding. A nurse told Ms Bent to give her daughter ibuprofen. She spoke to a nurse at the clinic again after being told her daughter's chlamydia tests had come back positive and was told to ring her GP for antibiotics.

The inquest heard it did not appear any of the nurses referred to Alesha's online notes or they would have noticed the antibiotics prescribed by the doctor who performed the termination had not been dispensed.

Alesha was rushed to hospital but suffered a fatal heart attack just five days after the 24-minute procedure, as a result of the rare bacterial infection toxic shock syndrome (TSS).

Dr Peter Paku, the doctor who performed the operation told the court it was the first case he had heard of in the UK of someone contracting the infection after an abortion.

But he also told the hearing it was not uncommon for patients to leave the clinic without their prescribed medication as there was no system in place to check notes put on file by the doctor.

'It has happened many times. Prescriptions would be forgotten many times and we would have to make arrangements."

Recording a narrative verdict Mr Whittaker said: 'If she had had the drugs administered to her the balance of probability suggests she would have been more able to survive than die, which makes it all the more hard for her family in these circumstances."

The coroner told the court he would be writing to Marie Stopes International in the hope that they might develop better procedures and the case will also be reported to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

In a statement after the hearing, Marie Stopes International said it would look closely at the coroner's concerns.

"All the staff at Marie Stopes International were deeply saddened to learn of Alesha's tragic death," it said in a statement.

"We will look closely at the coroner's comments and take further steps, as appropriate, to address any areas of concern that have been identified."