Woman, 26, died after fertility drug treatment: Pregnancy test showed positive hours before death

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN died from fertility treatment just a few hours after being told that she was pregnant with twins, an inquest was told yesterday.

The coroner at Bromborough, Wirral, recorded a verdict of misadventure on Jo Ann Harris, 26, of Bidston, who died last October after developing a severe case of ovarian hyperstimulation, a rare syndrome triggered by the fertility drugs she was given at the BUPA Murrayfield Hospital in Barnston, Wirral.

Mild cases of the condition, which causes swelling of the ovaries and produces fluid on the stomach and abdomen, are fairly common among women receiving fertility treatment but Ms Harris's death is thought to be the first recorded fatality of its kind in Britain.

Only four similar deaths have been recorded worldwide. The odds against her death from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome were less than one in 250,000, the inquest was told yesterday.

Ms Harris and Billy Sinnett, 32, had been trying for a baby for a number of years before beginning in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment. Three fertilised embryos were successfully transferred into Ms Harris's womb, but within 12 days she developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and suffered from back pain, stomach cramps and nausea.

She was admitted to the Arrowe Park NHS Trust Hospital in Birkenhead but failed to respond to treatment for the syndrome, which involved severe leakage of vital fluids from the blood vessels into the body cavities.

Her condition deteriorated and just hours after a test showed that she was pregnant with twins she died.

Consultant obstetrician Mr Adrian Murray told the inquest that she had been given all of the proper treatment and injections after she developed the syndrome.

He said that the pregnancy had exacerbated the syndrome: 'In reality Jo Anne would still be with us today if she had not become pregnant. There is no question about it.'

He admitted that when he counselled the couple before they started the treatment he did not warn them of the danger of death from the syndrome. But said he would warn couples of the risk from now.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, the coroner said the rare syndrome had been diagnosed immediately she was admitted to hospital three days before her death.

'But for some reason that is not known, and I am told will never be known, Jo Ann failed to respond,' he said. 'I am satisfied Jo Ann received every care and attention from those who were looking after her.'

After the inquest Ms Harris's father, Sid, said that if other women were made aware of the risks she might not have died in vain. 'I still think my daughter would have tried for a baby if she had known the outcome,' he said.

'She wasn't warned of the dangers but I can't say how she would have felt if she had known. When a woman wants a baby she will do more or less anything.'