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Woman dies after rare complication following IVF

29 October 2012
Appeared in BioNews 679

A man is suing Barts and the London NHS Trust after his wife died from a rare complication after undergoing IVF treatment, reports the Mirror.

The 26-year-old woman, who had a genetic blood condition called anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS), was admitted to hospital with chest pains just four days after being told she was pregnant. She later died from a rare blood clotting disorder, a risk which her husband says doctors had failed to warn about before they underwent treatment.

Mrs Emma Draper, who had conceived only two weeks after receiving her first embryo transfer, had started undergoing fertility treatment on the advice of her GP, the Mirror said. She was being treated with the anticoagulant warfarin for APS after developing a blood clot in 2001. However, since warfarin can affect the development of the fetus, the drug was switched to heparin when Mrs Draper became pregnant.

APS, also known as sticky blood syndrome, is an auto-immune disease which is more common in women than in men. It causes an increased risk of blood clotting in veins and arteries, which can lead to stroke or heart attack. In very rare cases, it can develop into catastrophic anti-phospholipid syndrome (CAPS), fatal in about 50 percent of people.

An inquest into the death heard that Mrs Draper died after her condition progressed from APS to catastrophic APS. '[It] found that Emma had died from natural causes, which presented as a rare complication of pre-existing disease and fertility treatment', a spokesman from Barts hospital said. 'This is a tragic case and our thoughts are with the Draper family at this difficult time'.

The consultant involved in Mrs Draper's treatment told the inquest that he had not warned of the risk of CAPS, as such cases were rare and the number linked to pregnancy was small. Mrs Draper's husband, Peter, told the Mirror: 'Blood specialists warned us there was a risk of blood clotting from changing Emma's medication, but nobody told us that IVF could be life threatening'.

'Emma was sensible - she'd never have had IVF if she'd known that there was a chance she might die. We would have adopted', he said.

In the light of this case, the hospital consultant stated that he now points out the risk of developing CAPS to women undergoing IVF, the Mirror reports.

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