Legal: Ovarian hyperstimulation during fertility treatment

March 1, 2009

After receiving fertility treatment, a 28-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital.

A 28-YEAR-OLD ILLINOIS WOMAN WAS SEEING a fertility specialist for over a year. Over the course of treatment, it was noted that she responded poorly to some courses and overresponded to others. In 1999 she underwent stimulation for an in vitro fertilization cycle with a plan for frozen embryo transfer at a later date. After the egg retrieval, the patient began to show symptoms of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) and was admitted to the hospital. After several days, she seemed to be improving, but suddenly deteriorated and was transferred to another hospital, where she remained on a ventilator in the ICU for several weeks. After the hospital staff also discovered that the woman had a perforated duodenal ulcer with peritonitis, she underwent surgery to repair the perforated ulcer. She also had several paracentesis procedures and was placed in a drug-induced coma for several weeks. While she was eventually weaned off the ventilator after 6 weeks, she had to relearn to walk and perform activities of daily living due to the extended period of muscle atrophy. She also has scarring on her throat from the tracheostomy and additional scarring from the paracentesis procedures.

She sued the fertility physician and clinic and claimed she was not adequately informed of the risks of fertility treatment.

The defense maintained that the patient was informed of the risks, including OHSS and that she signed several consent forms specifically listing and explaining the risk of OHSS. They further argued that there were no documented cases in which a patient with OHSS developed a ruptured duodenal ulcer. A defense verdict was returned.