Coroner hits out at abortion clinic after 15-year-old dies following termination

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A 15-year-old girl died five days after having an abortion because of a blunder which meant she never received antibiotics prescribed to her, an inquest has heard.

Schoolgirl Alesha Thomas probably would have survived had she taken the medication to combat infection, but tragically she was struck down by toxic shock syndrome.

A coroner slammed the sexual health organisation Marie Stopes International for procedural failings behind the tragedy and it could face legal action.

Due to inefficient practices at the clinic in Leeds it was not uncommon for patients to leave without being given the medication prescribed to them by the doctor, the inquest heard.

When Alesha was taken ill after the termination, nurses at the clinic failed to check her computer file that would have shown the antibiotics had never been handed out.

The harrowing story of the teenage schoolgirl's sudden death in July 2007 was detailed at Huddersfield Coroner's Court.

Alesha was a 'healthy and fit adolescent' from Huddersfield who confided in her mother Rose Bent that she was pregnant in June 2007.

After discussing her options, they chose an abortion at the Marie Stopes International clinic in Leeds.

Two weeks later, when Alesha was just over 15 weeks into the pregnancy, the 25-minute procedure was performed successfully by gynaecologist Dr Peter Paku.

One hour and 20 minutes after the operation the doctor issued an electronic prescription for Alesha to be given a course of the antibiotic Doxycycline, to prevent infection.

The doctor did not realise that Alesha had been discharged 45 minutes after the operation and was no longer at the clinic.

The inquest heard that Marie Stopes had no system in place which meant nurses would re-check a patient's notes after being discharged to make sure all instructions had been followed.

Dr Paku said patients leaving without their medication was a regular problem at the family planning clinic.

'It has happened many times. Prescriptions would be forgotten many times and we would have to make arrangements,' he said.

It was the first case he had heard in the UK of someone had contracting the infection after an abortion.

Three days after the operation, Alesha's concerned mother called the clinic's helpline, a call centre based in Manchester, and told a nurse that her daughter was suffering stomach cramps and heavy bleeding.

The nurse advised she give her daughter Ibuprofen.

She spoke to a nurse at the clinic again, after she was told her daughter's tests for the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia had come back positive and was advised to ring her GP for antibiotics.

It does not appear that any of the nurses ever referred to Alesha's online notes - which would have highlighted the earlier failure to take antibiotics.

Just five days after the operation Alesha became extremely ill. 

She couldn't move her legs, had glazed eyes and was unresponsive. She was rushed to hospital but suffered a heart attack on the way to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on July 11.

The rare bacterial infection toxic shock syndrome was responsible for the heart attack, the inquest was told. 

Recording a narrative verdict Coroner Roger Whittaker said if she had taken the drugs prescribed 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.'

The coroner told the court he would be writing to Marie Stopes International in the hope that they might develop better systems to prevent patients leaving without their medication.

He said: 'There was no system in place for the review after the visiting clinician had left and I believe there should have been.'

The case will also be reported to the Lord Chancellor's Department.

A spokesman for Marie Stopes International said all its staff were 'deeply saddened' by 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.'

More than 100,000 people go to the organisation's network of clinics every year for advice and care. Under current advertised prices the abortion procedure would have cost around £700.  continues here

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