A coroner has criticised aftercare procedures at a leading chain of abortion clinics after a 15-year-old girl died from infection days after undergoing an abortion.
Huddersfield schoolgirl Alesha Thomas should have left the Marie Stopes International clinic in Leeds with a course of antibiotics to combat infection.
Instead she was discharged before her prescription was issued; something which an inquest was told happened “many times” at the clinic.
Alesha was described as a “healthy and fit adolescent” when she attended the Marie Stopes clinic to undergo an abortion in July 2007.
She was discharged from the clinic just 45 minutes after the abortion surgery.
35 minutes later Dr Peter Paku, who carried out the abortion, issued an electronic prescription for Alesha to take a course of antibiotics to prevent infection, unaware that she was no longer around to collect it.
Crucially, Marie Stopes International had no procedure in place for rechecking patients’ notes when they were being discharged to ensure all instructions had been followed and prescriptions issued.
Dr Paku told the inquest at Huddersfield Coroner’s Court: “It has happened many times. Prescriptions would be forgotten many times and we would have to make arrangements”.
Three days after the abortion, Alesha’s mother rang a Marie Stopes helpline to say that her daughter was suffering stomach cramps and heavy bleeding.
She was advised to give Alesha painkillers.
She subsequently contacted the Leeds clinic again and was told to ring her GP for antibiotics.
It does not appear that either nurse checked Alesha’s online notes, which would have revealed the earlier failure to take antibiotics.
Two days later Alesha could not move her legs, had glazed eyes and was unresponsive. She was rushed to hospital but suffered a fatal heart attack on the way, brought about by Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS).
West Yorkshire Coroner Roger Whittaker said he would write to Marie Stopes International and report the case to the Lord Chancellor’s department.
Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Whittaker said: “There was no system in place for the review after the visiting clinician had left. I believe there should have been.
“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.”
He also warned that the clinic could face legal action.
After the inquest Marie Stopes International issued a statement which said: “All the staff at Marie Stopes International were deeply saddened to learn of Alesha’s tragic death.
“Our first concern is always the support and care of our clients and we aim to ensure that they receive the highest possible standards of advice, treatment and aftercare.
“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.”
Last year UK abortion law became the subject of heated public debate because of the potential for changes implemented through the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
Pro-abortion MPs tabled amendments which would have made the process of obtaining an abortion even easier.
Campaigners opposed to abortion highlighted the risks associated with abortion procedures and sought a change in the law to ensure that women presenting for abortion are made fully aware of these risks, and the alternatives to abortion.
Many other European countries include this principle of “informed consent” within their abortion law.
The only abortion amendments discussed and voted on by MPs were reductions in the upper gestational age limit for abortion.
All these votes were lost so UK abortion law remains unchanged since 1990.