Medical professor Isabel Stabile testified that Prudente’s pregnancy was doomed to fail and that there was no reason to wait when the medical prognosis was “close to zero.”
The patient’s medical notes between June 16 and 19 last year, while Prudente was being kept under observation at Mater Dei Hospital, indicated that she had no fever and her white blood cell count was in the upper limit of normal.
However, she was still leaking fluid from the vagina together with a brownish discharge possibly indicating placental bleeding.
She was testifying as the case filed over doctors’ refusal to terminate her unviable pregnancy at Mater Dei Hospital during her stay in Malta, continued before Madam Justice Miriam Hayman.
She said that although an ultrasound test showed that the foetus was right sized for 15 weeks, the foetal heart rate was slow and that was “not a good sign,” said Stabile, when asked to explain the entries in those medical records that were produced in evidence.
There was also no amniotic fluid.
Both the patient and her partner had asked doctors a set of questions, particularly about the prognosis of the pregnancy.
Although poor, the pregnancy was still viable but there was the risk of infection and Prudente was to remain under observation.
Asked directly by the court about the procedure which was to be adopted at Mater Dei within the framework of Maltese law, Stabile replied that international guidelines would have directed Prudente’s consultants to give her a very clear idea and to take into account her views.
With such a prognosis, there was no reason for doctors to wait.
Under cross examination, Stabile said that as an academic she had moved to the Faculty of Dental Surgery at University, but still worked as gynaecologist and obstetrician in private practice.
The Faculty of Medicine appeared to be “unhappy with [her] approach as a doctor for choice” and after being “ostracized,” she had moved away from the Medical Faculty, Stabile explained.
Asked about a research paper from Israel, cited by another medical professional who testified previously in the proceedings, with statistics indicating a 79.2% survival rate when waters ruptured before 20 weeks, Stabile explained that that study had focused on three groups of pregnancies.
And the 79.2% figure applied only to one group.
Faced with a particular paragraph from the abstract to that paper, Stabile said that the abstract was “misleading” and that the data was in the text.
Tables in that study showed that there were no survivors in the 17 or 18 week gestational group.
Asked by Fenech Vella whether she had contacted Prudente, Stabile firmly denied, explaining that Prudente’s partner had contacted the Family Planning Advisory Support services who, in turn, put him in touch with Stabile.
But that phone call she got from Weeldreyer concerned the patient’s medical records.
In light of the poor prognosis, the couple had decided to leave Malta.
When Weeldreyer approached customer services at Mater Dei and asked for those records, he encountered difficulties and had turned to Stabile for help.
“Why was he directed to you?” asked Fenech Vella.
“I am one of the few openly pro-choice doctors at the Family Planning Advisory Support services,” replied Stabile.
“Did you tell him that she [Prudente] was in danger of dying?”
“I don’t recall that but the medical records themselves show that the prognosis was poor.”
Stabile confirmed that she had called Prudente’s consultant to seek his assistance after Weeldreyer turned to her for help when he was given “the run around” for the medical records by customer services at Mater Dei.
The case continues in April.
Lawyer Rachel Aquilina also represented the respondents.