Pregnant woman died weeks after UK surgeon 'removed ovary instead of appendix'

A pregnant woman suffering from appendicitis died on the operating table weeks after a surgeon mistakenly removed her ovary instead of her appendix, British medical watchdogs heard today.

Mother-of-three Maria De Jesus, 32, was 20 weeks pregnant with her fourth child when she was admitted to Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, a Fitness to Practise Panel of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) heard.

The “complicated” operation was carried out at the weekend by a junior surgeon who removed her ovary in error, while the more senior consultant had gone home.

Less than three weeks later she was readmitted again suffering abdominal pains and the mistake was discovered.

But two days after that Ms De Jesus, from Dagenham, miscarried her baby boy and died on the operating table after having the appendix removed.

Dr Yahya Al Abed today admitted removing Ms De Jesus’ right ovary in error at the panel hearing sitting in Manchester. He denies misconduct.

Peter Horgan, lawyer for the MPTS told the panel the patient, referred to as Patient A, was first admitted suffering abdominal pains on October 21, 2011, to Queen’s Hospital run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospital NHS Trust.

She was seen by a surgical registrar, Dr Christopher Liao and the consultant general and surgical lead Dr Babatunde Coker and an appendectomy recommended.

Ms De Jesus was put on the emergency surgery list but waited to give consent for the operation before speaking to her husband.

Dr Coker went to the coffee room while waiting for Ms De Jesus to give consent, the panel heard.

But having heard nothing back, he went home after agreeing Dr Al Abed would carry out the procedure.

Dr Al Abed was told Dr Coker would “be around” and available if they needed him, the hearing was told.

Dr Al Abed had been working at the hospital just under three weeks and failed to inform more senior colleagues he only had limited experience of carrying out such operations on pregnant women.

He has also admitted failing to ensure he was supervised during the procedure or calling for the duty consultant when the operation started to go wrong.

During the operation the patient began to bleed heavily.

Mr Horgan told the panel: “In the midst of this Mr Al Abed removed what he clearly believed to be the appendix. He clearly thought he had found it, removed it and gave it to a nurse.

“In fact this turned out to be Patient A’s right ovary.”

He said Dr Liao advised Dr Al Abed to get Dr Coker to help and, though he agreed, did not instruct anyone to get him – having assumed somebody else was trying to contact the senior surgeon.

Ms De Jesus was discharged from the hospital eight days later on October 31, 2011 then re-admitted on November 7, again suffering abdominal pain.

Two days later, on November 9, it was discovered by another doctor that her ovary rather than appendix had been removed. On November 11, she gave birth to a stillborn baby boy and had her appendix removed.

Mr Horgan added: “Sadly Patient A died whilst on the operating table later that morning.”

A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as multiple organ failure due to septicaemia.

Mr Horgan said Dr Al Abed acted “outside the limits of his competency” and failed to call on Dr Coker when problems began.

Dr Coker has admitted failing to carry out the surgery himself or at least being present to supervise more junior colleagues. He denies misconduct.

The hearing, expected to last up to a month, continues tomorrow.

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