A report on the circumstances surrounding the 2003 death of Irish IVF patient Jacqueline Rushton has been published. The report was commissioned by the Republic of Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE), and written by Alison Murdoch of the Newcastle Fertility Centre and independent healthcare consultant Stuart Emslie.
Rushton, a 32-year-old nurse, was treated at the Human Assisted Reproduction Ireland unit of Dublin's Rotunda Hospital. She was admitted to this same hospital on 8 December 2002, after she was found to be overreacting to her IVF treatment, and was subsequently transferred to Dublin's Mater Private Hospital. Despite initially appearing to make a recovery, she collapsed and was placed on a ventilator, which was switched off on 14 January 2003. The cause of Rushton's death was found to be acute respiratory distress syndrome, a rare complication of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome - itself a complication associated with IVF, where fluid from the bloodstream leaks into the abdominal cavity and causes it to swell.
The report concludes that there were problems with the management of Rushton's care, compounded by a lack of senior control and inconsistent compliance with official guidelines for treating her condition. The report recommends regular care audits, in which it is incumbent upon hospitals to prove standards rather than merely claiming to have them, together with and a review of in-house protocol in all general hospitals and IVF clinics.
Rushton's family have declared themselves satisfied with the outcome of the report, and they have instructed their solicitors to drop legal proceedings against the health authorities. They have also expressed their hope that the report's recommendations will prevent another family from going through the same ordeal. The Irish Patient Association has said that the episode raises significant questions about patient care. Irish health minister Mary Harney has announced that immediate steps are being taken to implement these recommendations across HSE hospitals.
Sources and References
HSE admits problems with IVF death woman
Inquiry into death after IVF treatment