Last year, an inquest found that a woman in the United Kingdom died after taking the abortion pill in March 2020, which led to sepsis and, eventually, death. Now the cause of 31-year-old Sarah Dunn’s death has been confirmed by the assistant coroner.
Louise Rae, Assistant Coroner for Blackpool & Fylde, confirmed that Sarah Dunn would have survived had she been given medical attention earlier, in a report that has been sent to Maria Caulfield, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Parliamentary Under Secretary. “Group A streptococcus sepsis following termination of pregnancy” was found to be the cause of death. Dr. Alison Armor told the Daily Mail last year that this is a rare but known complication of taking abortion pills; the bacteria had caused inflammation in Dunn’s vaginal tract and uterus.
Rae said Dunn’s symptoms were missed on three separate occasions by a general practitioner, a pharmacist, and hospital staff; additionally, Dunn was not given antibiotics for hours after she was finally admitted to the hospital.
In an investigation by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, Dunn was found to have had problems from the start. The chemical abortion was not “adequately supervised” when it took place while Dunn was seven weeks pregnant. She experienced heavy bleeding, nausea, sweating, and pain, yet Dunn’s general practitioner, Sanjeev Maharaj, said she “looked well” and did not refer her to the hospital.
The day before she died, Dunn spoke with pharmacist Anthony Lynn, still complaining of abdominal pain, sweating, and nausea. Lynn assumed these were withdrawal symptoms from painkillers following a broken wrist and took no action. Dunn then called the NHS 111 service and told Dr. Nishan Karunasekara she hadn’t been able to eat in five days, that she had never felt so sick, and was having severe limb pain. Karunasekara merely told her to take painkillers. At the hospital, Dunn began having seizures before going into multiple organ failure.
Rae pointed out that, had Dunn been admitted to the hospital at 3 am after calling 111, she likely would have survived; yet instead, she did not receive any antibiotics until 5 pm. “I found these to be gross failures to provide basic care to Sarah,” she said. “Sarah wasn’t reviewed by a senior clinician soon enough upon arrival. Sarah warranted early Sepsis 6 treatment particularly in relation to consideration of the infective source, IV fluids, antibiotics and hourly monitoring of urine output. She also should have had her observations taken regularly on the sepsis 6 pathway and no observations were taken between 13.15 and 18.15. Had Sarah’s observations been taken it is likely that the staff would have seen a deterioration in her NEWS score during this time.”
Additionally, Rae said more medical workers need to know the risk of sepsis that the abortion pill.
“I am concerned that there remains a lack of awareness of sepsis in particular following Early Medical Abortion given how many opportunities there were to think sepsis in this case,” she said. “Whilst those giving evidence to me in court are now aware of sepsis and the risks post abortion having reflected on Sarah’s death, I am concerned that there is a lack of awareness of the risk of sepsis following Early Medical Abortions. This lack of awareness in my view risks avoidable future deaths.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK decided to allow the distribution of the abortion pill without the abortionist first examining the woman requesting the chemical abortion. This led to the deaths of at least two women, however, the UK decided to permanently instate the rule allowing for at-home use of the abortion pill.
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