A UK woman left brain-damaged after a stroke caused by a rare side effect of IVF treatment is set to receive 'very substantial' agreed damages. The 34-year-old patient, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, became pregnant but then developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Fertility doctor Paul Rainsbury, of the Bupa Roding Hospital in Ilford, Essex, agreed last week in the High Court to pay her an undisclosed amount of compensation.
OHSS is caused by the drugs used in IVF to make the ovaries produce more eggs than usual. Mild symptoms of the syndrome, such as swelling and breathlessness, apparently affect up to 20 per cent of women undergoing treatment. However, very rarely, the symptoms are more severe and potentially fatal. Only one death from OHSS has been reported by the UK media to date, that of 33-year-old Temilola Akinbolagbe earlier this year. The total number of fatalities in the 30 years that IVF has been available in the UK is unknown, but it is believed to be less than five.
In the latest case, the woman became pregnant after receiving IVF treatment in 2000. She then developed symptoms of OHSS, which Mr Rainsbury identified on 7 August 2000, but diagnosed as 'mild'. Crucially, on 11 August, she telephoned Mr Rainsbury to say she felt very unwell. She claimed he told her not to worry, but she then later miscarried, the court heard. The next day, she suffered a stroke, and now has great difficulty with her speech, mobility, reasoning and decision-making. But Rainsbury's QC, John Grace, told the judge that if the case had gone to trial, the woman's evidence would have been contradicted by her medical notes - which show that many of her symptoms were still mild when she was admitted to hospital on 12 August.
Mr Rainsbury did not admit liability, but the woman is now set to receive a 'seven-figure' sum, according to the Daily Mail. Her barrister, James Badenoch, said the award meant that she could retain care of her only son and have some freedom from the constraints upon her. The judge, Mr Justice Nelson, approved the settlement.