Many are linking to this story around the blogosphere and I encourage everyone to read it. In it, a Ob/Gyn describes her emergency care of a woman who arrived in her ED in hemorrhagic shock from a botched illegal abortion. Though clearly it was touch and go and there was some panicky action, our heroine thought fast and saved a life. My mother once worked in a labor and delivery ward to put herself through medschool in the days before Roe v Wade and this type of situation was common.
This is a great story because it illustrates two points. One, the war on abortion by the right wing is futile. We know abortion is more common where it is illegal and cases like these are more common. Banning abortion does not save lives. It results in more abortions, and more lives lost. Worse, in countries with strict bans even treatment of ectopic pregnancy is forbidden where there is still a beating heart detected by ultrasound. Doctors in these countries can literally go to jail for saving a woman’s life, all for the sake of a non-viable embryo that will kill the mother. The hypocrisy of calling this position pro-life is demonstrated by cold hard data. More women die. More fetuses are aborted.
Second, it shows how a well-trained doctor can save a life with some quick thinking. Hemorrhagic shock is something I’m pretty familiar with after my second year rotation in Shock Trauma, and in a few spectacular cases of bleeding on the wards. There are many times when as a doctor you think you’ve probably saved a life. Every case of appendicitis, dropped lung, or kid with a gastroschisis technically is a save but situations like those don’t have quite the same visceral terror and immediacy of someone who is bleeding to death right in front of you. It’s hard to keep a cool head when you’re elbow deep in a pool of blood. One case in particular that sticks out in my mind was during a nice calm Saturday in the fall. I had just finished assisting in an open appendectomy and was doing my usual neurotic repetitive rounds through the ICU I always did when I was on call. At this particular hospital, when on call I was responsible for all ED surgical consults, all the surgical floor patients, as well as the surgical ICU (I had to carry 4 pagers). So since I’d been in this case for the last hour or so I decided to check in with the ICU folks. It wasn’t the sickest ICU I’ve ever worked, nothing like the U Maryland Surgical ICU or Cardiac Surgery ICU, but, like the ocean, it’s never a good idea to turn your back on the ICU patients. So, I was passing by one patient’s room and I seen on the monitor a blood pressure of 60/40…
Continue reading “What Illegal Abortion Looks Like”