On Nov. 24, 2014, a German pregnant woman was hospitalized for delivery at an obstetrics-gynecology clinic at around 10 p.m. The following day, she had an event. For three hours from 6:15 a.m., the heartbeats of the fetus drastically fell five times. Later on, the fetus’ heartbeats went back to normal, and the mother started labor contractions at around 2:30 p.m.
The clinic’s head, identified as “A,” administered an epidural to the mother at 4:25 p.m. and tested the heartbeats of the fetus five minutes later at 4:30 p.m. The mother was complaining of pains again at 6 p.m. While checking the status of the mother, the ob-gyn doctor discovered that the fetus was dead. The detector of the fetus’ heartbeats was removed from the mother at the moment, due to her complaints of pains.
Indicted for an accidental homicide, the ob-gyn doctor was sentenced to eight months in prison on April 7 for a breach of a duty of care. As the doctor had a settlement with the victim, the court did not put the doctor in custody.
However, the case sparked complaints by other ob-gyn doctors, as they have had grudges over low reimbursement rates amid high incidence of medical accidents. In fact, the number of ob-gyn doctors is declining, and it is hard to find an ob-gyn clinic that provides delivery care. According to the government’s healthcare and health insurance statistics, the number of hospitals with childbirth history shrank by 136 to 607 in 2016 from 743 in 2012.
The court’s decision on the doctor “A” prompted ob-gyn doctors to stage a street rally. About 1,000 doctors participated in the April 29 rally in front of Seoul Station, held by the Korean Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (KAOG). The doctors said the incident was unavoidable. The Korean Medical Association (KMA) and the KAOG gathered petitions from 5,025 physicians and submitted them to the court in June. The doctor “A” appealed the court’s decision and a higher court is to give a ruling on Jan. 10 next year.
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