Two Childbirth-Related Deaths at Mass. Hospital Spark State Investigation

PHOTO: Christie Fazio died on Dec. 14 shortly after giving birth.
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After two women died shortly after childbirth, state officials have launched an investigation into the hospital where the two women were treated.

Colleen Celia, 32, died on Jan. 15 shortly after giving birth to her fourth child at the South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., authorities said, and Christie Lee Fazio died on Dec. 14 after giving birth to a baby boy at the hospital.

The deaths have prompted an automatic investigation into the hospital by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In a statement, the agency said the investigation was “standard protocol” due to the rarity of childbirth-related deaths and the fact that they happened within weeks of one another. The hospital has launched its own review of the two cases, officials said.

The South Shore Hospital handles an average of 3,600 births a year and is designated by the Massachusetts Department of Health as a level III program that can provide advanced care to women with high-risk pregnancies and in neonatal intensive care.

In a statement, hospital officials said they did “everything possible” for the new mothers.

“It is too early to know the exact nature of the factors that led to these tragic outcomes,” the statement said. “All signs suggest that the two situations were unrelated, unanticipated and unpreventable.”

According to a report by the Boston Herald, Celia died from an amniotic fluid embolism, where amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream, and Fazio, 30, from complications from a cesarean section. Calls to their families to confirm the report were not immediately returned. The hospital could not confirm the cause of death, citing patient privacy laws.

Dangers of Childbirth

Celia’s husband Paul Celia told the Boston Herald that the team at South Short Hospital did “everything they could” for his wife.

“I’m not angry,” he said. “I just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Celia’s daughter Mya was her fourth child and her first with her new husband. According to family members both women were able to see their children before they died.

Fazio’s cousin Jennifer Billodeau, who put up a fundraising page for Fazio’s family, said the newborn was Fazio’s first child.

“She was only able to look into her son’s beautiful face very briefly before she was rushed into emergency surgery,” Billodeau said on her fundraising page for the family.

Maternal death -- a death right before or soon after pregnancy -- is very rare but not unheard of in the U.S., experts said. There were just three maternal deaths in Massachusetts in 2012, according to the state's Board of Registration in Medicine.

According to Dr. Maurice Druzin, an obstetrician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and vice-chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, an expecting mother can appear perfectly healthy and then suffer a devastating complication relatively quickly. An amniotic fluid embolism has a mortality rate of up to 80 percent, he noted.

Druzin, who did not treat either Celia or Fazio, said amniotic fluid embolism, along with hemorrhage, preeclampsia and cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle is weakened, are all common causes for maternal death.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, maternal deaths in the U.S. rose from 14 for every 100,000 patients in 2000 to 24 per every 100,000 patients in 2008.

“There’s a lot of theories and most of them are not proven by evidence-based studies,” said Druzin, who said there is a lot of speculation about the cause for the increase. “There’s also people who are older, people with chronic medical disease are now getting pregnant, people born with congenital heart defects are now adults and want to have children.”

Druzin said it’s important for women to receive prenatal care and have access to proper medical care while delivering a baby, so that there is a full medical support team.

“We in the ob/gyn world, we’re here for the 10 to 15 percent of patients” at risk, Druzin said.

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