Court: Doctor not negligent over IVF babies’ deaths

All risks were explained before 3 babies were born prematurely, doctor provided proper treatment, judge says.

September 7, 2011 04:50
3 minute read.
a hospital in Jerusalem

hospital 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The Central District Court published on Tuesday a ruling to overturn a lawsuit by a couple who accused a doctor of negligence regarding the death of three babies born prematurely after a course of IVF treatment.

Iris Slutzker became pregnant with triplets in 2000 after a course of IVF, but went into labor prematurely in January 2001, after just 23 weeks of pregnancy. The infants did not survive.

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Six years later Slutzker and her husband Oren decided to sue Dr. Arik Kahane, the specialist who gave her the IVF treatment – after the couple had undergone several other rounds of IVF with Kahane and Slutzker having successfully given birth to a healthy child.

The Slutzkers claimed Kahane had been negligent in his decision to transfer all five of the embryos in 2000, and that the multiple pregnancy that resulted led to the preterm birth and the death of the triplets.

Kahane had acted contrary to the accepted medical practice at the time and the guidelines of the National Council of Obstetrics and the Ministry of Health, the Slutzkers argued.

Slutzker, who suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a medical condition that causes fertility problems, and has had several gynecological operations, was unable to conceive naturally, the court learned.

After several unsuccessful rounds of IVF treatment with a different doctor, including a twin pregnancy that was miscarried at 21 weeks, Slutzker and her husband turned to Kahane’s clinic for further fertility treatments.

At first, additional IVF treatments were also unsuccessful, and the Slutzkers adopted a child abroad.

In 2000, the couple returned to Kahane for a further course of IVF.

On this occasion, Kahane managed to culture five embryos, all of which were transferred into Slutzker’s uterus.

Despite warnings that implanting multiple embryos could result in a dangerous multiple pregnancy and preterm births, the Slutzkers refused to discard one or two of the embryos as Kahane advised.

Of the five embryos, three implanted successfully and developed into fetuses, but Slutzker went into preterm labor and delivered the triplets at 23 weeks. The three babies died that same day.

For six years afterwards, the Slutzkers continued IVF treatments with Kahane, and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Yuval.

However, the couple recently decided to sue the doctor, saying he failed to explain to them the risks of transferring all five of the embryos to Slutzker’s uterus in 2000.

However, Kahane told the court he had explained to the couple the risks of a multiple pregnancy, which include miscarriage and preterm birth, and had advised them to reduce the number of embryos transferred.

Kahane described the Slutzkers’ case as “exceptional” and said that was why he remembered every detail of the treatment he gave the couple.

“I have treated hundreds of couples,” Kahane said. “But I don’t remember a single case as unusual as this one, in which a 25-year-old woman who had undergone three gynecological surgeries, had hormonal problems and multiple IVF treatments. The case was superunusual.”

Judge Dr. Achikam Stoler rejected the Slutzkers’ claims that Kahane had been negligent, and said the IVF expert had provided professional and competent care to the couple, and had transferred the embryos with their full informed consent.

“[Kahane] was correct in transferring the five embryos in the light of [Slutzker’s] severe fertility problems and the failure of four previous IVF treatments,” said Stoler.

The judge said he was convinced Kahane had transferred all five of the embryos because he considered it would increase the chances of pregnancy, and in doing so had acted in accordance with acceptable Israeli and international medical standards.

Stoler also noted the Slutzkers had not ceased treatment with Kahane after the preterm births in 2001, which he said indicated the couple did not feel the doctor had deceived them.

In rejecting the lawsuit, the judge ordered the Slutzkers to pay Kahane NIS 25,000 in court fees, but also recommended that Kahane not actually collect the money.

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