Family alleges 'negligence' over death of mother during birth of twins

The death of 37-year-old Hebrew University sociology lecturer Galit Sa'ada-Ophir was a tragic cases.

Moshe Ophir baby 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Moshe Ophir baby 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
An average of eight to 10 Israeli women per year die during pregnancy or within six weeks after delivery - a sad but very small number compared to most countries in the world. But 37-year-old Hebrew University sociology lecturer Galit Sa'ada-Ophir - described by colleagues as having an original mind and courageous spirit - was one of the tragic cases. The morning after giving birth to twin boys by cesarean section last Wednesday night at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, she was found dead in her bed, apparently of a hemorrhage. Her husband Moshe Ophir, left to take care of their 19-month-old first son and the twins, and the family accuse Hadassah of "negligence," insisting that Galit would have been alive today and beaming over her new sons if she had been cared for adequately by what has long been described as an excellent hospital and obstetrics department. The Hadassah Medical Organization has remained tight lipped since the tragedy, with management saying only that it "shares in the sorrow of the family and is in contact with the family. The woman was operated on by an experienced team of doctors, and the monitoring after her surgery was ongoing and as accepted after this kind of [cesarean] surgery. The hospital management is looking into the circumstances of the case and is updating the ministry with the surgical report and details." While anonymous hospital sources have claimed that the hospital staff were negligent in the case and that deaths hours after cesarean sections usually result from bleeding (unlike amniotic fluid reaching vital organs during or immediately after delivery), no one is speaking to the press for attribution by order of management. But the obstetrics staff have been described as "walking around the wards with their faces towards the floor" out of distress from the rare death of a patient. Hadassah expects to issue in a week or so a "full report" regarding the circumstances of Sa'ada-Ophir after studying the autopsy report from the L. Greenberg Institute of Forensic Medicine and talking to all the doctors, nurses and other professionals involved. While the Ophir family apparently intend to sue for alleged medical negligence, Hadassah has already suffered a severe blow in the court of public opinion. The Health Ministry will appoint its own committee of experts to investigate the death, but such an external investigation takes months and sometimes even years. Members of the Ophir family have claimed that Galit felt unwell after surgery but was given only a pain reliever by a recently graduated nurse, who allegedly called for a doctor when her condition did not improve. The doctor, either too busy with other cases or unaware of an emergency, did not go to examine her, the family charge. The facts are likely to emerge soon, but, if negligence or malpractice is found, it could take months for the quality assurance experts at Hadassah to devise ways to minimize the risk of a recurrence. Prof. Gad Yair, head of the HU department of sociology and anthropology, told The Jerusalem Post that Galit spent years studying "goodness" and "social charity," both in her doctoral studies in the department and for her two post-doctorate periods in Toronto and at Tel Aviv University. "She studied Israeli culture, its development of intellectual activity and the contribution of students to do good in the world," said Yair, who said all his colleagues are in "absolute shock" at her sudden death. "She met her husband Moshe here; he did his master's degree in sociology, and now he works in the Jerusalem Municipality for the advancement of troubled youth." Galit, who was born in Ashkelon and whose parents still live there, discussed her pregnancy with twins. "She spoke in recent weeks how she was very afraid of the cesarean operation, which was scheduled at Hadassah. Her first baby was born by cesarean, but I don't know the reasons why she was advised to have another one." She had been lecturing to sociology/anthropology students for some time but was not yet a tenured staff member, said the department head, "but we discussed her candidacy. Only recently we told her we would wait a year or two before the final decision, and she was happy." All the department members "knew her academic work in detail. "Her death is a loss of talent to the field of sociology and, of course, to her family and friends. "Her wave of thinking was very original and bold. She could take the ideas of a French philosopher that none of us understood and translate them into practical language in a very creative way. This is not very common," Yair said. "Her writing was very clear, and she purposely avoided using abstruse terminology that would exclude others from understanding what she meant. She was very independent and not afraid to say what she thought. She criticized the fact that weaker elements in society were marginalized, but she nevertheless loved all sides." The department will organize an academic event and a cultural musical event in her memory during the coming year, he said. Eli Ophir, Moshe's brother, said that the healthy twins will be discharged from the hospital soon, and that the family will somehow have to "raise three boys as best as we can. Nobody will replace Galit."