Thousands of legal abortions are performed in this country every year, and although most are completed without complications, there are certain risks connected with the procedure, some of which can be life threatening. A physician must adequately warn the patient of the risks inherent in the procedure. Medical malpractice cases arise when a patient claims that she was not informed about the risks of the procedure or that it was the negligence of her physician that caused or contributed to complications from an abortion. Women who have negligently performed procedures may suffer perforation of the uterus, infection, and endotoxic shock. Some complications resulting from an improperly performed abortion may be long-term, such as an increased risk of certain cancers and future ectopic pregnancies.
Complications from a negligently performed abortion can occur during the preparation for the procedure, during the procedure itself, or during post-operative care. During the preparation stage, the physician has a duty to carefully screen the woman by taking a thorough history to eliminate the chances of certain complications. This screening should include testing for common sexually transmitted disease. In addition, the physician should verify the existence and stage of the pregnancy to ensure that the correct procedure will be used. In addition, the physician should ascertain that the pregnancy is normal and not ectopic.
The procedure itself carries certain risks. A surgical abortion can result in the same complications as any other operation, including infection, while other problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical lacerations, and uterine perforation, are specific to the procedure. In some cases, patients have filed malpractice actions against physicians who failed to remove all the products of conception during an abortion. Even non-surgical abortions through the use of pills can give rise to serious complications.
After an abortion, the physician is required to take steps to ensure that the patient receives proper follow-up care. The use of antibiotics and follow-up examinations may be required. An improperly diagnosed or treated infection may lead to sterility.