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Suit: Langley base ended healthy pregnancy

Feb. 17, 2013 at 7:53 PM

CHESAPEAKE, Va., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A $1.7 million malpractice suit alleges Langley Air Force Base Hospital in Virginia terminated a healthy pregnancy after misdiagnosing it as possible cancer.

Heather Fergurson, 32, of Chesapeake, Va., filed the suit against the federal government this month, alleging hospital personnel performed a dilation and curettage procedure April 18, 2011, after medical staff misinterpreted ultrasound and other tests to conclude Fergurson had a molar pregnancy -- a rare mass inside the uterus that can change into a rapidly spreading cancer -- The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Sunday.

Fergurson and her husband, Army Sgt. Maj. Charles Fergurson, 56, have been unable to conceive again, the newspaper said.

"I've been deployed four times in combat zones. We die in combat, we know that can happen. We accept that," Charles Fergurson said -- adding he can't accept that the couple's healthy fetus was destroyed during the course of what was to have been a routine hospital visit.

The medical error is an example of what is termed a "never event," mistakes such as operating on the wrong patient or body part, leaving foreign objects in a patient's body or performing the wrong procedure, the newspaper said.

An examination of a federal database of malpractice claims published in October in the journal, Surgery, found 9,744 paid medical malpractice settlements and court judgments for surgical "never events" between 1990 and 2010. Payments amounted to $1.3 billion, the Virginian-Pilot reported.

The researchers estimated a rate of 4,082 never events each year in the United States, the newspaper said.

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