Irena (2007) – Spain

Woman was refused tests and information on the serious conditions of her fetus

Irena (not her real name), a Brazilian citizen living in Spain, became pregnant in 2007 but suffered numerous bleeding episodes. She was followed at the Hospital de Burela, but doctors did not investigate the cause or take any action beyond recommending rest. At her consultation at week 20 and again at week 30: “I asked my doctor what the bleeding meant, and she assumed I was a prostitute, and that what happened to me was a result of ‘my job’, without asking me if I was a prostitute. I told her that I did not work as a prostitute, but in the domestic service and that I had a stable relationship … without ever having relations that could give rise, as she insinuated, to this bleeding.”
The doctor’s treatment of her was always disrespectful, and the doctor refused to do the test to listen to the fetal heartbeat, or give her any information on the condition of the fetus. When questioned, the doctor would say, “Don’t teach me my job, I know it very well,” or tell her to be quiet so she could do her work. When Irena asked the doctor whether she had done the analysis for fetal anomalies, the doctor answered yes, but claimed to have found nothing, and advised Irena to fly back to Brazil.

Irena’s son was born at 8 months’ gestation with heart disease and he needed an immediate operation. He was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot and Goldenhar Syndrome (respectively, a congenital heart defect; and a rare congenital defect characterized by incomplete development of the ear, nose, soft palate, lip, and mandible). The doctors asked Irena if anyone had told her during the pregnancy that her fetus had heart disease, and if they had done all the tests. She was told that both heart disease and Tetralogy of Fallot were detectable through prenatal tests, including the test of the fetal heart, which she had requested in vain from her doctor. Irena’s son also has a mental capacity of 40%, needs another operation on his heart when he’s older, and will need surgical corrections for life. His life is and will be full of limitations due to heart and bone problems, among many others.

Source: Irena’s Claim to the Galician Health Service, 2013 (translated, summarized, paraphrased from Spanish)