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Legally Speaking: Postpartum atony results in hysterectomy

An Illinois woman delivered her first child in 1999 by cesarean delivery and minutes thereafter experienced uterine atony with severe blood loss.

The defense claimed that the patient's uterus did not contract in spite of uterine massage, uterine compression, and administration of medications, including carboprost tromethamine, oxytocin, and methylergonovine. They argued that there was not sufficient time to perform uterine artery ligation, given the profuse life-threatening bleeding and the patient's unstable condition.

A defense verdict was returned in 2005, but a new trial was granted and resulted in a $5 million verdict. The matter ultimately was settled posttrial for $2 million.