Medical Malpractice in the News: Mother Wakes Up From C-Section With Both Legs Amputated

Recent News Story Demonstrates the Risk of Undetected Placenta Previa and Placenta Accreta

In the U.K., a mother expecting her eighth child developed unexpected complications when physicians failed to monitor her for blood clotting.

Ella Clarke, 31, had a condition called placenta previa (where the placenta lies low near the cervical opening), requiring a C-Section delivery due to a high risk of maternal hemorrhaging. Clarke had underwent six previous C-sections without incident.

This time, however, physicians made mistakes which cost Clarke her legs, which were both amputated at the knee. They failed to detect a complication known as placenta accreta (where the placenta embeds too deeply into the uterine wall), which caused massive blood loss. As a result, Clarke needed an emergency hysterectomy, five blood transfusions and was placed in an induced coma.

While in a coma, it was the responsibility of medical staff to monitor Clarke each hour for blood clotting; six hours allegedly passed without monitoring, during which time blood in her legs clotted. This stopped circulation in her legs, and, to save her life, surgeons had to amputate both legs below the knee.

The hospital has apologized for its mistake and is undergoing investigation for the incident, but Clarke is now confined to a wheelchair and has prosthetic legs due to a highly preventable medical mistake.

According to Clarke, “I knew the risks of blood loss, but I never expected to wake up three days later without my legs…Going into hospital to have a baby should have been the best moment of my life. Instead my world has been shattered.”

Placenta Previa and Placenta Accreta Are Serious Health Risks

Placenta previa and placenta accreta are conditions that can be diagnosed during pregnancy using grayscale ultrasonography or MRI; in this case, the placenta previa was diagnosed but the placenta accreta was not. According to ACOG, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “The authors of one study found that in the presence of a placenta previa, the risk of placenta accreta was 3%, 11%, 40%, 61%, and 67% for the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth or greater repeat cesarean deliveries, respectively (8).”

As Clarke had had six prior C-sections, her risk of placenta accreta was significantly higher, but physicians failed to diagnose this in a timely manner, resulting in her massive hemorrhaging and a need for blood transfusion.

While, in this case, Clarke’s daughter was delivered safely with no resulting birth injuries, massive maternal hemorrhaging can often result in oxygen deprivation to the baby, which can cause hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), brain damage, cognitive and developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and other impairments. If a medical staffer doesn’t diagnose placental issues in a timely fashion, and it causes injury, the incident is medical malpractice, and physicians must be held responsible.

Trusted Legal Help for Mothers with Undetected Placenta Accreta or Placenta Previa

If your medical staff did not detect placental abnormalities during your pregnancy, resulting in injury to you or your loved one, please reach out to the birth injury attorneys at ABC Law Centers. We focus exclusively and specifically on birth injuries, making us one of the few firms in the U.S. with this singular focus. We can help ensure that you have the resources to take care of your child throughout your child’s life. We are available 24/7 to speak with you, and would be happy to provide you with information about your legal options.

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