A Lao woman has died in childbirth at a hospital in western Laos’s Savannakhet province after her doctor ignored her pleas for an emergency C-section, insisting that she would be able to deliver her child normally, the woman’s sister said.
Khounkham Souliyvong, 41, died on her way to the hospital’s operating room at around 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 9 after laboring in pain for hours, Douangchanh Souliyavong told RFA’s Lao Service this week.
“My older sister began to have contractions at around 9:00 p.m. the night before, and by 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 9 she was in severe pain,” she said.
“She asked her doctor for a C-section, saying she would die if one was not performed, but the doctor checked her condition and said her womb had opened to 6 centimeters and that her baby’s heartbeat was normal.”
“He told her she would be able to deliver safely,” she said.
After Khounkham had labored for hours in agony, doctors finally agreed to perform a C-section, but she and her baby both died on the way to the operating room, Douangchanh said.
“At 8:00 a.m., they prepared paperwork to be signed by the doctors, and my brother-in-law then signed to give his permission, and 20 minutes later they took her to the operating room.”
“But she died before she got there,” she said.
Also speaking to RFA, a midwife with long experience in maternal health and work in a children’s hospital in the capital Vientiane angrily criticized the failure of hospital authorities to provide Khounkham with decent care.
“[This woman’s] death was entirely preventable,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“This happened in a provincial hospital with good equipment, and not in some hospital out in a rural district.”
“Her doctor should never have let her get to such a critical state that she couldn’t even speak, and only then take her to surgery,” she said. “This is completely unacceptable.”
Speaking later to local media, hospital director Kongsy Bangsitthideth outlined several possible factors leading to death in childbirth.
“Causes could include pregnancy at an older age, a high-risk pregnancy, weakness, complications due to ruptured amniotic fluid, and anxiety due to hunger,” Kongsy, a medical doctor, said.
Called on Nov. 16 by RFA, Kongsy refused to discuss details of the case, however, calling it “inappropriate” for a news story.
Asked why no action had been taken by the hospital against Khounkham’s doctor after her death, Kongsy said that information surrounding the case was still “unclear.”
“We can’t say anything about this yet. That’s all.”
Reported and translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.