$2m lawsuit after mum dies delivering IVF twins
The family of a 49-year-old Queensland mother who bled to death after giving birth to twins in hospital has launched a landmark lawsuit alleging the tragedy was caused by a litany of failures, including that two embryos were planted instead of one during IVF treatment.
Fiona Hayne's family also alleges she was initially turned away from hospital due to a lack of beds in the explosive claim, lodged in the Supreme Court, for $1.84 million.
At the centre of the claim is the Gold Coast University Hospital, where Ms Hayne died, and fertility specialist Andrew Cary, who the family says should only have implanted one embryo because the risk of death is much higher for older mothers carrying two babies.
Ms Hayne was pronounced dead at the hospital on June 2, 2018, after her heart stopped when her organs shut down due to massive blood loss after the birth of her twins.
She lost an estimated three litres of blood after the placenta abruption, which is more than half the body's blood, according to the legal claim - but her twins, Austin and Oakley, survived.
Her de facto partner Blake Ind, 31, is now suing for negligence in a claim that could have wide-ranging implications for older mothers using IVF, if fertility specialists refuse women over 40 the option of having two embryos implanted to increase their chances of falling pregnant.
Mothers could be forced to undergo increased numbers of IVF cycles to fall pregnant, which is both expensive and gruelling.
Mr Ind is also suing on behalf of the twins, now aged two, and Gage Maslin, Ms Hayne's 20- year-old son from an earlier relationship.
He is claiming damages for the cost of raising the twins without their mother, who was the family's breadwinner, and for nervous shock.
The lawsuit alleges Dr Cary "caused and/or contributed to Ms Hayne's death by breaching his duty of care to Ms Hayne when he inserted two frozen embryos using IVF donor eggs on September 22, 2017, instead of one embryo".
According to the claim, Dr Cary failed to consider and advise Ms Hayne of the risks of death for a 49-year-old woman undergoing an IVF pregnancy, and the risks of her suffering placenta previa from the implantation of two embryos.
One month before the birth, an ultrasound showed Ms Hayne had major placenta previa, a condition for which ceasarean sections are recommended because the placenta is covering the cervix.
The claim alleges Dr Cary failed to consider and advise Ms Hayne that implanting a single embryo would be more appropriate and safer during the 16 times he saw her for management of her IVF pregnancy
Leading lawyer and past president of the Queensland Law Society Bill Potts said the landmark case could send shockwaves through the medical fraternity.
"There will be a lot of people watching this very closely," he said.
"Not just doctors and prospective mothers, but medical insurers as well.
"These procedures, which are higher risk as people get older, need to meet the criteria as an insurable risk, not just for the patient, but for the doctor as well.
"(Depending on the outcome of the case) you could see doctors stop performing IVF procedures on older mothers almost immediately."
He said the case could come down to the issue of informed consent and whether the Supreme Court was satisfied Ms Hayne had been properly informed of the risks.
After the babies were born via C-section, doctors had to rush Ms Hayne back into op theatre to perform a hysterectomy due to placenta abruption, the claim states.
Mr Ind's claim alleges the hospital breached its duty of care by causing and/or contributing to Ms Hayne's death through multiple alleged failures including by deferring or delaying the elective cesarean section scheduled on May 31, 2018, "due to the unavailability of beds".
It is alleged the hospital instead sent Ms Hayne home until she returned the next day by ambulance, having suffered a haemorrhage.
The claim states the hospital should have performed a classical C-section instead of the less-invasive lower-segment C-section, should have given Ms Hayne a general anaesthetic and performed an emergency C-section when "major bleeding" occurred during the lower-segment procedure.
Among the 12 failures alleged against the hospital, it is claimed they failed to appropriately insert a catheter when they were trying to resuscitate Ms Hayne.
At the time of Ms Hayne's death, she had been in a de facto relationship with Mr Ind for six years and he and her son Gage Maslin were dependent on her for financial support, the claim states.
Ms Hayne was in good health before the birth, the claim states.
Mr Ind and Mr Maslin are claiming damages for psychiatric injury and nervous shock, as well as loss of dependency and funeral expenses.
According to the claim, Mr Ind is seeking $1.1 million for himself, Mr Maslin and the twins for the loss of Ms Hayne's care and support in the home as well as the loss of her income to the family.
Mr Maslin is also seeking $358,000 for pain and suffering, economic loss and future medical costs.
Lawyers for Dr Cary did not return calls seeking comment.
Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service media manager Susan Sullivan said the service was unable to comment while the case was before the courts.
Dr Cary and GCHHS have not filed a defence to the claims.
Fertility specialists told The Sunday Mail single embryo transfers were used in a majority of cases because of the risks to both mothers and babies of multiple birth pregnancies, particularly in older women.
They expressed serious concerns about the claim of the caesarean section being delayed due to the unavailability of beds.
The Fertility Society of Australia's accreditation body regularly monitors the rates of single and double embryo transfers of IVF units because of the high risks associated with multiple pregnancies.
Units run the risk of losing their accreditation if multiple pregnancy rates are deemed to be too high.